Methylphenidate and Autism Ranking: Mildly Hazardous Strong positive evidence

Future Research

Summary of Existing Research

There is a limited amount of research evidence (10 group studies and eight case design studies with three or more participants) into the use of methylphenidate as an intervention for people on the autism spectrum.

This research suggests that methylphenidate may be beneficial for the treatment of hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention in some children and young people on the autism spectrum.

There is almost no research evidence to suggest that methylphenidate may be useful for the treatment of adults on the autism spectrum.

There is evidence of significant side effects of methylphenidate in some individuals. Those side effects may include insomnia, nervousness, headache, decreased appetite, abdominal pain and other gastrointestinal symptoms, and cardiovascular effects such as tachycardia, palpitations and minor increases in blood pressure.

Recommendations for Future Research

Further, large scale, double blind, randomised controlled trials of the effects of methylphenidate should be carried out on individuals on the autism spectrum to determine their effectiveness and safety.  These studies should

  • Investigate the optimal dosage and length of treatment for different individuals on the autism spectrum.
  • Compare the efficacy, tolerability and safety of extended-release versus immediate-release formulations over the short, medium and long-term.
  • Compare methylphenidate with other central nervous system stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine, and with non-stimulants, such as atomoxetine and guanfacine.
  • Use a range of well-established outcome measures, ensuring that data from all of the measures is reported and compared to the baseline measures.
  • Be independent of the manufacturers or suppliers of methylphenidate.
  • Involve people on the autism spectrum (and parents and carers) in the design, development and evaluation of those studies.


24 Dec 2018
Last Review
01 Dec 2018
Next Review
01 Dec 2021