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Determining Ritalin Dosage

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: My six-year-old was seen by two different psychiatrists and the Ritalin dosage they prescribed him differed by about 20 mg. How do they determine the proper dosage? I noticed that 10 mg a day had little effect on my son. The second doctor prescribed 30 mg a day, and I believe that's too much! Where do I start my research so I can feel comfortable with my son's prescription?

A: Appropriate dosage of Ritalin for children is a very confusing issue. At one time, dosage was linked to body weight, but now we know that the dose needed to reach clinical benefits is related to how rapidly each individual metabolizes the medication. Clinical observations are used to establish the proper dosage. Most doctors start the patient off on the lowest possible dosage (5 mg per dose, or even 2.5 mg per dose). If no benefits are noted, then the dose is gradually increased. Monitoring the effectiveness of the dose is critical. Feedback from both parents and school is most helpful.

For more information about medication and ADHD, have a look at Dr. Larry Silver's book, Advice to Parents on ADHD. Look in particular at the chapter on "Treatment with Medications." You can also look at the website for CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders) or call them toll-free at 1-800-233-4050.

More on: Expert Advice

For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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