How Long Ritalin Stays in Your System

Ritalin is a prescription stimulant drug commonly used to treat ADHD. However, some people abuse it for the energetic and euphoric ‘high’ it delivers.
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What is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a central nervous system (CNS) prescription stimulant that treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.) It is the brand name for a type of drug called methylphenidate. Adderall is another popular prescription stimulant used to treat ADHD.

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Stimulant drugs like methylphenidate help people with ADHD who have difficulty focusing, controlling actions, and remaining still or quiet. The drug works by adjusting the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain. Ritalin treats both adults and children with ADHD.

Ritalin also treats narcolepsy. This condition is a sleep disorder that leads to excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. 

Some side effects of Ritalin include:

  • Weight loss
  • Nervousness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased blood pressure

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Your System?

Like with any drug, there are specific factors that influence how long Ritalin remains in your system. The dose you take and how you use Ritalin influences how long it will linger.

If you regularly take Ritalin, it may take longer for it to leave your system. Young and healthy people are more likely to eliminate stimulant drugs like Ritalin more quickly. If an individual is older or has pre-existing health conditions or organ impairment, it may take their body longer to process Ritalin.

Likewise, people with quicker metabolisms and people with a larger body mass tend to eliminate methylphenidate faster. Physically active and well-hydrated individuals also tend to have a speedier rate of elimination of Ritalin.

Detection times of Ritalin will differ depending on the drug test used:

Urine Test 

During urine drug testing, Ritalin is likely to show up from approximately one to three days after use.

Hair Test 

In a hair follicle test, the window of detection is the most extended. Ritalin can show up in a hair test for up to 90 days.

Blood Test

Blood tests aren’t used as often for Ritalian detection as urine and hair tests. This is because the window of detection is significantly shorter. Ritalin shows up in a blood test for up to 12 hours after use.

Saliva Test

Ritalin can show up in your saliva for 1 to 3 days.

What is the Half-Life of Ritalin?

The half-life of a drug is the length of time necessary for the concentration of a particular substance to decrease to half of its initial dose in the body.

Ritalin’s half-life is, on average, 3.5 hours. The average half-range of Ritalin in adults is anywhere from 1.3 to 7.7 hours. In children, the average half-life of methylphenidate is approximately 2.5 hours. However, it can vary anywhere from 1.5 to five hours.

Based on these average half-lives, Ritalin can remain in the body for anywhere from one to two days. This is a relatively short period. The drug is usually metabolized quickly, whether you take an extended or immediate-release dose.

Ritalin Use/Misuse & Treatment  

Many people use Ritalin for ADHD to feel calm and focused. However, some people, with and without ADHD, abuse the drug. As a result, they may experience a different feeling than what the drug is intended for.

For people without ADHD, the drug works as a stimulant. Each dose may make users feel more energetic, awake, and alive. Users may be able to perform tedious tasks efficiently due to the increased energy Ritalin brings.

Ritalin can also affect the pleasure pathway in people without ADHD. High doses may make Ritalin users feel euphoric and blissful. The brain recognizes and remembers these signals of bliss. In time, the brain may call out for repeat feelings of pleasure.

Altered brain cells may become unable to respond to signals of pleasure and happiness found in the environment. After some time, only Ritalin may make users feel good, and they may develop a drug addiction.

People with drug use issues should seek medical advice and addiction treatment from their healthcare providers. There are several different treatment options for people suffering from Ritalin drug addiction.

Tapering

People addicted to Ritalin have brain cells that work best when the drug is available for consumption. However, there are no medicines available to undo the damage of substance use addiction that forces the brain to work correctly.

Fortunately, tapering programs are effective in treating people with Ritalin addiction. During a tapering plan, medical teams determine how much methylphenidate the person is accustomed to taking daily. Then they reduce the amount slowly over an extended period, giving patients a controlled substance.

For some people, the treatment is complete within days. For others, it takes weeks. The speed of the treatment is determined by how the patient feels during the process.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy treatment can be an effective solution for people with Ritalin addiction. Psychotherapy techniques help users ‘unlearn’ the habits they’ve developed during their addiction. This helps them move forward in their life without turning back to drugs.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people understand the thoughts and feelings that lead them to crave Ritalin. Instead of feeling overpowered by and giving in to cravings that seem to arise from nowhere, users with addictions can learn about the early warning signs that spark a craving.

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Resources

Methylphenidate, MedlinePlus, September 2020, https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682188.html 

Morton, W Alexander, and Gwendolyn G. Stockton., Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects., Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry vol. 2,5 (2000): 159-164, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181133/ 

Ritalin, United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2013/021284s020lbl.pdf 

Hallare J, Gerriets V. Half Life. [Updated 2020 Apr 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554498 

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Updated on: October 22, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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