How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Your System?

Ritalin pills on green counter

Ritalin is the brand name of the drug methylphenidate, which is used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. How long Ritalin or methylphenidate stays in your system depends on a variety of factors including amount taken, age and frequency of use.

Duration of Effects of Ritalin Effects

Ritalin is a psycho-stimulant, meaning that it activates the central nervous system to increase energy, alertness and ability to concentrate. The duration of Ritalin action depends on a number of factors, including how much is prescribed. Ritalin is generally taken 2–3 times a day and the duration of effects is about 8 hours.

Ritalin Half-Life

A half-life is the amount of time it takes for the concentration of the Ritalin in your system to be cut in half. The half-life of Ritalin or methylphenidate depends largely on a person’s age. The average half-life is 3.5 hours with a range of 1.3–7.7 hours. In children, the half-life tends to be less, at an average of 2.5 hours with a range of 1.5–5.0 hours.

Ritalin Drug Test Detection Time

How long Ritalin is detectable by a drug test depends on what is being tested. A Ritalin drug test may be done to look for compliance with prescription instructions or if misuse is suspected. The general Ritalin and methylphenidate detection times are:

  • Urine: Ritalin or methylphenidate stays in your urine for 1–2 days.
  • Blood: How long Ritalin stays in your blood depends largely on the half-life of Ritalin, as the half-life is measured by the concentration of drug in the plasma of blood. Due to the short half-life, Ritalin is generally only detected in blood for 12 hours after use. Because of its fast metabolism, blood tests for Ritalin are usually not done.
  • Saliva: Saliva drug tests are often used to test for abused drugs since the drug levels are usually similar or higher than those found in blood and it is much easier to collect. A Ritalin saliva drug test would be positive for methylphenidate for 1–3 days after use.
  • Hair: A Ritalin hair test could be used if an individual needed to be tested for long-term use. Ritalin shows up in a hair drug test for 90 days after use.

Factors Affecting How Long Ritalin Stays in Your System

How long Ritalin stays in your system depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • Age: Drug metabolism tends to decrease as we age. This means that drugs will stick around longer in people who are older. For example, the Ritalin half-life in adults is longer than that of children.
  • Metabolism: A person’s basal metabolic rate will also determine how fast they eliminate drugs from their system. A person with a higher basal metabolic rate will tend to eliminate drugs from their system more quickly.
  • Amount taken: The amount of Ritalin that is consumed can also have an influence on how long it stays in your system. The more Ritalin you take, the longer it will take to get rid of it.
  • Frequency of use: When a drug is used more frequently, it tends to build up in a person’s system if it is not fully metabolized between doses. Increased frequency causes an increased time to completely eliminate Ritalin from a person’s system.
  • Presence of other substances: Many times the presence of other drugs can determine how fast a medication is eliminated from a person’s system. Ritalin is affected by monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and they should not be taken within 14 days of each other.

How Is Ritalin Metabolized in the Body?

Ritalin metabolism occurs throughout the body by an enzyme that breaks methylphenidate down into its major metabolite, ritalinic acid. Ritalinic acid does not work the same as the parent drug, methylphenidate, and in fact, has no physiologic effect. It is simply secreted in urine.

Ritalin is an addictive substance that can be dangerous if misused. If you or a loved one are affected by a substance use disorder, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. To learn more about comprehensive treatment plans, call The Recovery Village Ridgefield today to speak with a representative.

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Kinirons, M.T.; O’Mahony, M.S. “Drug metabolism and ageing.” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, May 2004. Accessed August 5, 2019.

Food and Drug Administration. “Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride).” 2013. Accessed August 5, 2019.

Breindahl, Torben; Hindersson, Peter. “Methylphenidate is Distinguished from Amphetamine in Drug-of-Abuse Testing.” Journal of Analytical Toxicology, July 15, 2012. Accessed August 5, 2019.

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