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Ritalin is generally used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, some doctors use Ritalin and other amphetamines, originally meant for ADHD, to treat depression. This is considered to be an off-label use. In order to work, the correct dose needs to be administered. In many cases, Ritalin appears to decrease depression in place of other antidepressants.

Common Prescriptions for Depression

Medications used for depression are usually antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibotors (MAOIs), or selective serotonin inhibitors (SSIs). These medications work by adjusting the amount of neural transmitters (serotonin or norepinephrine) in the brain. Wellbutrin is one of the few depression medications that works on dopamine.

Off-Label Ritalin for Depression

Ritalin or other amphetamines can be used to treat depression. As Ritalin is generally used to treat ADHD, using it for depression is on off-label use. Prescribing a medication for off-label uses is acceptable; it merely means research studies have not been conducted for the off-label use. Considering that teenagers have few antidepressant options, Ritalin is often used to treat their depression.

How Ritalin Treats Depression

Ritalin works differently than most prescribed antidepressants. Most antidepressants affect serotonin or norepinephrine levels. Ritalin increases dopamine in the brain, a naturally occurring chemical which is directly linked to pleasure and happiness.

Usual Dosage

Ritalin doses are the same for depression as they are for ADHD. The usual dose starts at 5 to 10 mg prescribed to be taken one to three times per day. It is suggested that a daily total dose of Ritalin should not exceed 60 mg.

Side Effects

The side effects of using Ritalin include dizziness, loss of appetite, headaches, and sometimes insomnia. Although dependence is not a side effect, long term use of Ritalin can lead to dependence in some people.