How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Your System?

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Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a medication that's most often used as part of a treatment plan for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It works by stimulating your central nervous system, keeping the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain longer. Ritalin is also sometimes used to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and sudden bouts of sleep.

Signs of Ritalin Overdose

If you take Ritalin for any reason, knowing how long the medication can stay active in your body may be helpful in preventing an accidental overdose of the stimulant, which can have serious consequences. An overdose of Ritalin can cause a host of unpleasant problems, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Agitation, shaking, seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Confusion, hallucinations
  • Sweating, flushing
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Dilated pupils
  • Muscle twitching
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Dry mouth or nose

Any of these symptoms are a sign to get medical help by calling 911 or heading to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Ritalin Abuse

Ritalin is a medication that teenagers and young adults sometimes use in order to get high. If they don't have a prescription, they may ask other people for Ritalin pills, crush or snort it, or even steal or lie in order to get the drug. Parents who are worried their child is abusing Ritalin may want to look out for these signs of abuse:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Irritability
  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dehydration
  • Suspiciousness or paranoia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Acting secretive or isolating him or herself
  • Hyperactivity
  • Dilated pupils
  • Mood swings
  • Aggressiveness

What's more, Ritalin can be habit-forming. After a period of time, anyone taking Ritalin can develop a tolerance for the drug, making it less effective than when you first started taking it. As a result, you may be tempted to take larger dosages to achieve the same effect that you once got, but doing that can increase the risk of becoming addicted.

Drug Tests for Ritalin

There are many variables that can play a role in how long Ritalin, or any drug, for that matter, continue to be active in the body after it's taken. An obvious one is that everyone's body is different. The rate at which medications and other substances are used up in the body depends on things like your personal rate of metabolism, age, weight, and percentage of body fat. How physically active you are, how often you take the substance, or even how hydrated you are, can also impact how long it takes medication to clear. Some health conditions can play a role in the rate at which drugs are metabolized by the body.

The type of drug test used to detect Ritalin is also a consideration. Here are an estimated range of times, or detection windows, during which Ritalin can be detected by various methods:

  • Urine Test: One to two days
  • Blood Test: Around 12 hours
  • Saliva Test: One to two days
  • Hair Follicle Test: Up to 90 days
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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Sibbald C, Sterling WJ, Bennett M, McNally O, Rogers KM. The Pharmacotherapeutics of Methylphenidate and Atomoxetine for the Treatment of Childhood and Adolescent Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder. J Healthcare. 2017;1(1):1-6. doi:10.36959/569/451

  2. MedlinePlus. Methylphenidate.

  3. Weyandt LL, Oster DR, Marraccini ME, et al. Prescription stimulant medication misuse: Where are we and where do we go from hereExp Clin Psychopharmacol. 2016;24(5):400-414. doi:10.1037/pha0000093

  4. American Addiction Centers. How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Your System?

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