Is methylphenidate like cocaine? Studies on their
pharmacokinetics and distribution in the human brain

Volkow ND, Ding YS, Fowler JS,
Wang GJ, Logan J, Gatley JS,
Dewey S, Ashby C, Liebermann J, Hitzemann R, et al
Medical Department,
State University of New York,
Stony Brook, USA
Arch Gen Psychiatry 1995 Jun; 52(6):456-63


BACKGROUND: The purposes of this study were to investigate the pharmacokinetics of methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin) in the human brain, to compare them with those of cocaine, and to evaluate whether cocaine and methylphenidate compete for the same binding sites. METHODS: We used positron emission tomography to measure the temporal and spatial distribution of carbon 11 (11C)-labeled methylphenidate. These results were compared with those obtained previously for [11C]cocaine. Eight healthy male subjects, 20 to 51 years of age, were scanned with [11C]methylphenidate. Three were tested twice to assess test-retest variability, four were tested at baseline and after administration of methylphenidate, and one was tested with [11C]methylphenidate and [11C]cocaine. Two baboons were scanned to evaluate whether there was competition between cocaine and methylphenidate for the same binding sites in the brain. RESULTS: The uptake of [11C]methylphenidate in the brain was high (mean +/- SD, 7.5% +/- 1.5%), and the maximal concentration occurred in striatum. Pretreatment with methylphenidate decreased binding only in striatum (40%). Although the regional distribution of [11C]methylphenidate, was identical to that of [11C]cocaine and they competed with each other for the same binding sites, these two drugs differed markedly in their pharmacokinetics. Clearance of [11C]methylphenidate from striatum (90 minutes) was significantly slower than that of [11C]cocaine (20 minutes). For both drugs, their fast uptake in striatum paralleled the experience of the "high." For methylphenidate, the high decreased very rapidly despite significant binding of the drug in the brain. In contrast, for cocaine, the decline in the high paralleled its fast rate of clearance from the brain. CONCLUSION: We speculate that because the experience of the high is associated with the fast uptake of cocaine and methylphenidate in the brain, the slow clearance of methylphenidate from the brain may serve as a limiting factor in promoting its frequent self-administration.
The Ritalin Kid
Growth suppression
Genetics and AD/HD
Appetite suppressants
Preschoolers on Ritalin
Methylphenidate: structure
Ritalin and heart arrythmias
Ritalin, dopamine and the rat
Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin)
Big Pharma meets Madison Avenue
Amphetamine and Ritalin overprescription?
Methylphenidate (Ritalin): long term effects
Cross-sensitization of methylphenidate and amphetamine
'The "now" psychostimulant that starts to relieve mild depression in minutes'

and further reading
Future Opioids
BLTC Research
Utopian Surgery?
The Good Drug Guide
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
The Reproductive Revolution
Critique of Huxley's Brave New World