From Clinical Application to Cognitive Enhancement: The Example of Methylphenidate

Curr Neuropharmacol. 2016;14(1):17-27. doi: 10.2174/1570159x13666150407225902.


Methylphenidate (MPD) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, which belongs to the phenethylamine group and is mainly used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). However, a growing number of young individuals misuse or abuse MPD to sustain attention, enhance intellectual capacity and increase memory. Recently, the use of MPD as a cognitive enhancement substance has received much attention and raised concerns in the literature and academic circles worldwide. The prescribing frequency of the drug has increased sharply as consequence of the more accurate diagnosis of the ADHD and the popularity of the drug itself due to its beneficial short-term effect. However, careful monitoring is required, because of possible abuse. In this review different aspects concerning the use of MPD have been approached. Data showing its abuse among college students are given, when the drug is prescribed short term beneficial effects and side effects are provided; moreover studies on animal-models suggesting long lasting negative effects on healthy brains are discussed. Finally, emphasis is given to the available formulations and pharmacology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / therapeutic use*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Headache / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Methylphenidate / adverse effects
  • Methylphenidate / therapeutic use*
  • Nootropic Agents / adverse effects
  • Nootropic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / chemically induced
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / etiology


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Methylphenidate