Ritalin is the brand name for a prescription stimulant medication called methylphenidate. Methylphenidate is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a daytime sleeping disorder. As a Schedule II controlled substance, Ritalin carries a potential for abuse and addiction.
Ritalin is available in both long-acting and short-acting formulations. Long-acting Ritalin (Ritalin LA) will stay in your system longer than short-acting Ritalin (Ritalin SR). How long Ritalin can be detected on a drug test depends heavily on the type of Ritalin taken, the duration and severity of your Ritalin use, and other factors.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 150,000 people over the age of 12 abused Ritalin in 2016.
If you have been abusing Ritalin and have difficulty controlling how much and how often you take it, you may be struggling with addiction and in need of professional help. Speak with our trusted admissions counselors at Moving Mountains Recovery today to learn about your Ritalin addiction treatment options.
How Long Do the Effects of Ritalin Last?
Ritalin is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the body, resulting in an elevated heart rate, body temperature, energy levels, and blood pressure. The effects appear shortly after taking it and last 4-6 hours for the immediate-release versions and 10-14 hours for an extended-release version. When abused and taken in higher doses than prescribed, the effects may last longer.
Ritalin is metabolized in the liver. After the effects wear off, Ritalin can still be detected in your system for several days.
What is the Half-Life of Ritalin?
If you’re trying to understand how long a drug stays in the body, you have to consider its half-life. Half-life is a measure of the amount of time it takes for half of a single dose of a substance to leave your system. It takes about 4-5 half-lives for a substance to leave your body completely. Some trace metabolites that are detectable by drug tests may linger in the body even after the drug, in this case, methylphenidate, leaves the body.
Ritalin has a short half-life compared to other central nervous system depressants. The half-life of methylphenidate ranges from 1-4 hours with an average of 3.5 hours. As a result, it can stay in the body anywhere between 4-20 hours with an average of 12 hours, and it can be detected by drug tests because of the metabolites it leaves behind for even longer.
Factors that Influence How Long Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Stays in Your System
Despite Ritalin’s half-life, how long it stays in the body varies from one person to the next as a result of a handful of factors, including:
- Age and weight – Older people typically eliminate drugs at a slower rate than younger adults. Weight and body mass can also affect this, and people with a higher body mass tend to eliminate methylphenidate more quickly.
- Metabolism – Personal differences in metabolism and liver function can impact how long Ritalin stays in the body.
- Dose – Larger doses will stay in the body longer than lower doses or a single dose.
- Frequency and duration of use – The more regularly you take Ritalin and the longer you’ve taken it consistently, the longer it will take to clear your system.
- Mixing Ritalin with alcohol – Drinking while taking methylphenidate will cause the drug to be eliminated more slowly. This happens because the liver is focused on processing alcohol before anything else, allowing methylphenidate to remain in the body.
Staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet may also speed up the metabolism of the drug.
How Long Does Ritalin Show Up on a Drug Test?
Unlike other substances, like marijuana, that accumulate in the body’s cells and stay in the body for a long time, Ritalin is water-soluble and leaves the body fairly quickly. There are three types of drug screens that may be used to screen for Ritalin, each of which has a different detection window. Unlike other central nervous system stimulants, blood tests are rarely used to detect Ritalin.
Urine tests (also known as standard 5-panel drug tests) are the most widely used type of drug test because they are easy to administer, accurate, and affordable. Ritalin can be detected in urine for up to three days after the last dose.
Saliva tests can also detect Ritalin for up to three days after the last dose.
Hair follicle tests have an exceptionally long detection window and can detect Ritalin and other drugs for up to 90 days after the last dose.
What Happens if You Take Too Much Ritalin?
Taking too much Ritalin will allow dangerous levels of methylphenidate to accumulate in your body, potentially leading to a life-threatening overdose. Symptoms of Ritalin overdose include:
- Dilated pupils
- Fast, pounding heartbeat
- Muscle twitching
- Flushed skin
- Loss of consciousness
If you or someone may be experiencing an overdose, you must get medical help by calling 911 immediately. There is no way to get Ritalin out of your system faster–the drug must run its course, but the hospital can provide monitoring, fluids, and symptom-specific medication that can prevent death.
Find Help for Ritalin Abuse and Addiction Today
If you’re concerned about passing a drug test because you can’t stop taking Ritalin, you may be struggling with addiction. Treatment for Ritalin addiction can vary depending on your situation, but it usually involves detox, rehab, and aftercare support.
At Moving Mountains Recovery, our team of dedicated admissions counselors can assess your situation, educate you about your treatment options, and verify your insurance so you can find the help that is right for you. Get started today by giving us a phone call. Our admissions line is available 24 hours a day to help.
- Corinne Verghese; Sara Abdijadid (2022), National Library of Medicine: Methylphenidate, Retrieved Jan 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482451/
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- (2017) According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Results From The 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables, Retrieved Jan 2023 from https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016/NSDUH-DetTabs-2016.pdf
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