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How Long Does Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Stay in Your System?

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Methylphenidate is a generic prescription stimulant drug that is prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is also sold under the brand name Ritalin.[1] While it is intended illegal for nonmedical use, Ritalin abuse and addiction occur in many people.

Whether you have been abusing Ritalin and need to pass a drug test or are wondering about the safe use of this medication, you may wonder how long Ritalin (methylphenidate) stays in your system. And, if you are concerned that you won’t be able to pass a drug test because you are addicted to Ritalin, we can help you find the care you need.

Ritalin (Methylphenidate) Use and Misuse

The DEA has classified methylphenidate-containing drugs as Schedule II controlled substances. This means that although they have a medical use, they are still believed to carry a significant risk for abuse and dependence.[2] It also means it is illegal to carry Ritalin or any other form of methylphenidate without a prescription. Still, many people manage to get their hands on Ritalin for non-medicinal use.

Prescription stimulant drugs like Ritalin may give you more energy, attention, and focus, however, they do so by exerting excess dopamine in the brain. Over time, the brain gets attached to having so much dopamine that it struggles to produce feel-good neurotransmitters naturally. As a result, when the drug begins to wear off, people will crave more of it. And, as methylphenidate leaves the body, an addicted individual may go into drug withdrawal.[3]

ritalin withdrawal symptoms

How long Ritalin withdrawal lasts and how severe the symptoms become depend heavily on how long methylphenidate stays in your system.

How The Body Processes Methylphenidate

In order to understand how long Ritalin stays in your system, you must understand how the body processes methylphenidate. While the rate at which this happens depends on several different factors, methylphenidate is primarily excreted from the body through urine.

There are two forms of methylphenidate: instant-release and extended-release. The instant-release ones will leave the body faster, while extended-release Ritalin will stay in the system longer.

Overall, methylphenidate has a fairly short half-life of between 1-4 hours. It also doesn’t attach and stick to fat cells in the same way other longer-lasting drugs, like marijuana, tend to. It takes 4-5 half-lives for a drug to be eliminated from the body. As a result, it can be said that methylphenidate only stays in your system for less than 24 hours.[4] However, rates of methylphenidate elimination from the body can vary widely from one person to the next – and this doesn’t mean you can take Ritalin on a Monday and pass a drug test on Wednesday!

Factors That Affect How Long Methylphenidate Stays in Your System

There are many different factors that dictate how long Ritalin stays in your system. And, they are all unique from one person to the next. Some of the primary factors include:

  • Body mass, age, and weight – Younger people, as well as those who weigh less and have a lower BMI, will be able to eliminate drugs from their system at a faster rate than those who are obese or elderly.
  • Metabolic rate – How fast or slow a person’s metabolism operates influences how long substances stay in the system.
  • How long Ritalin has been abused – People who abuse Ritalin regularly and for long periods of time will have higher concentrations of methylphenidate built up in their system, requiring them more time to fully excrete the drug’s metabolites.
  • Dose of Ritalin last taken – Higher doses of drugs will require more time to be processed and excreted from the body.
  • Kidney function and other underlying health issues – The kidney helps process and metabolize toxins in the body, and if it isn’t functioning properly, it can slow down the drug elimination process. The same can be said for other underlying health issues.

Due to all of these unique circumstances, it can be impossible to predict exactly how long it takes to eliminate methylphenidate from the body.

How Long Ritalin Stays in Your Urine, Hair, Blood, and Saliva

If you are an illicit drug user, a drug test may be one of your worst enemies. Even though Ritalin has a short half-life and leaves the system fairly quickly, the metabolites of methylphenidate may linger in your system for longer. And, even though Ritalin may not show up on your standard 5-panel drug screen, methylphenidate metabolites will – especially if you get tested within the given detection window.

Different types of drug tests have different detection windows. For example, substances tend to stay in the hair and urine for far longer than they do in blood and saliva.

Broken down by the type of drug screening, this provides an estimate of how long Ritalin will show up on urine, hair, blood, and saliva tests.

  • Urine tests may detect Ritalin for 1-3 days after use.
  • Hair follicle tests may detect Ritalin for up to 90 days after use.
  • Blood tests are rarely used for drug screenings because substances leave the blood quickly. Ritalin may only show up in blood tests for several hours.
  • Saliva tests may detect Ritalin for 1-3 days after use.

There are many good reasons for drug testing, but if you are worried about passing a drug test because you’ve been abusing Ritalin, it may be time to consider seeking help.

Help for Ritalin Abuse and Addiction

Ritalin abuse is no joke. Methylphenidate is a powerful, addictive, and mind-altering substance that can change your life forever if you get hooked. Fortunately, there are treatment programs available to help you learn how to accomplish your goals and function flawlessly without abusing stimulant drugs.

To learn more about our treatment programs in North Carolina, or to find help for yourself or a loved one, pick up the phone and contact us today.