Monday May 1st 2017

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How long does Ritalin last?

Ritalin (methylphenidate) lasts for about 3-4 hours, while the extended release version of Ritalin works for 8 hours. But how does Ritalin affect the brain and body? And is the duration of action the same for therapeutic use vs. abuse (getting high on Ritalin). More here, with a section for your questions about how Ritalin works at the end.

Ritalin effects on the body and brain

Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant, used to ADHD. Only, for people diagnosed with ADHD, instead of having stimulant effects, Ritalin helps them focus and remain calm. In general, Ritalin works by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Therefore, as a stimulant, Ritalin can cause the following symptoms in the body:

  • agitation
  • nervousness
  • restlessness

Ritalin duration of action

The peak levels and half life of Ritalin depend on the formulation being taken. Immediate release Ritalin reaches peak levels in the blood in about 2 hours and the half-life of this form of Ritalin is between 1-3 hours. The extended release version of Ritalin (Ritalin SR) is meant to work throughout the day, but lasts for about 8 hours. The half-life of Ritalin SR is an average of 3.5 hours.

Ritalin time in the body

Ritalin does take some time to leave the body completely. Will Ritalin show on drug tests? After two days, it’s unlikely to show up on a urine drug test, but it may still show up in hair or saliva tests.

How long do Ritalin effects last

Ritalin’s effects only last about 3-4 hours, so it must be taken throughout the day. However, Ritalin SR, the extended-release version of methylphenidate, needs to only be taken once a day.

How long does a Ritalin high last

A Ritalin high only lasts a few hours, not more than 4 hours. This is achieved by taking snorting Ritalin LA, ER, SR, or XR tablet forms of Ritalin, or crushing any of the the extended release forms and breaking the controlled release mechanism of the tablet. However, taking Ritalin to get high can be extremely dangerous due to the effect Ritalin can have on a person’s heart rate.

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Ritalin high effects

A Ritalin high can cause stimulant effects which may include:

  • increased alertness
  • excitement
  • fast/pounding heartbeat
  • mood or behavior changes

But keep in mind that Ritalin is addictive, so abusing Ritalin to get high carries risks. A Ritalin addiction can result in powerful withdrawal symptoms, uncontrollable cravings for the drug, and compulsive use of the drug despite negative consequences.

When addiction develops, you need professional help to quit Ritalin safely and successfully. If you need help to find the best addiction treatment program for your needs, learn more about available rehabilitation options, what does the process look like, and what to do after rehab to maintain sobriety in our comprehensive guide on Ritalin (methylphenidate) Addiction Treatment.

How long Ritalin lasts questions

Please leave us your questions about Ritalin below. We are happy to try to answer your questions with a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources: FDA: Medication guide for Ritalin XR
Ritalin medication guide
ToxNet: Methylphenidate
DEA: Methylphenidate (Ritalin)

PubMed Health: Methylphenidate

Photo credit: *MarS

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24 Responses to “How long does Ritalin last?
8:53 am January 29th, 2013

i have take genric and real ritalin and they are not the same
the genric effects me

6:49 am February 25th, 2013

umm well thats beacause generic is just another company makin it differenent im pretty sure .ps:i could be wrong just my thought bc i get real ones they are different filler
……loves em
dont snorter them ur nose will get bad
#% f#<r

11:39 am July 16th, 2013

why do i achieve better results an concentration when using ritalin imediate release rather than extended releas which does not help me concentrate and makes me feel more depressed

12:34 pm July 16th, 2013

Hello Jacques. Immediate release ADHD medications may contain lower doses of amphetamine or methylphenidate. Check with your prescribing doctor and report these symptoms and see if you need to adjust dosage or medication type.

12:46 pm October 6th, 2014

How Long Does It Take for RitalinSr 20 3xDay, to Start Withdrawal? I Cannot See my Doctor For 2 days. I Have enough To Do Me For One of Those Days. I Depend on a drive To see my doctor Who Is 2 Hours Away. My Drive Has Car troubles.

A Tad Worried

Juanita age 45

1:40 pm October 6th, 2014

Hello Juanita. The effects of Ritalin withdrawal vary by person, but can generally be expected to begin 12 to 24 hours after use stops.

3:56 pm October 6th, 2014

ty Kindly. I Can Make it to the appointment-tomorrow @ 5:40 pm. I have 3 RitalinSR-20mg Meds Left. whew!..I tend to get worried due to a bad experience with Oxycontin 4 years ago. I no longer take them.(OxyContin) Yikes x10. Ty for being kind


10:30 am October 15th, 2014

My son (16 years old) and 108 pounds, is taking 1 Sr 20 at 7H00AM et another one at noon.
Is that a good prescription from his doctor or its too much?


3:25 pm October 17th, 2014

Hi Doris. On the medication it says Ritalin should be initiated in small doses, with gradual weekly increments. Daily dosage above 60 mg is not recommended. Ritalin-SR tablets have a duration of action of approximately 8 hours. So, talk to the doctor is maybe your son is taking it too frequently.

2:07 am November 14th, 2014

How long does 20mg ritallin stay in your system.

2:40 pm January 8th, 2015

I take 20 mg La…it works ok for 8 hrsbut I have to work another job after that and I’m extremly tired. How do I adjust to help me get focus for 4-6more hrs? My Dr upped me to 30mg La …not sure if thats the way to go..

8:04 am April 9th, 2015

My 14 old son having Ritalin 10mg at morning and 5 mg at the evening since 2 year, beside he is taking also nortin cap 10mg and risdon 0.50mg at night.
How may I stop using all this medicines.

2:17 pm June 30th, 2015

I am taking Ritalin 40mg SR, before this dosage I was taking 30mg and took two because it wasn’t enough .Today by accidental I took two of my 40mg because I was used to taking two from my other dosage and I’m only 14 and female. When will the feeling wear off??

pc bro
2:02 pm December 11th, 2015

my little brother was taking his medication as dirrected by his doctor-he was on probation and had to do daily drug test-his ritlin came up as methanphtamine.

7:20 am February 22nd, 2016

Good day

I recently started using Ritalin 30mg La and have been taking it once daily in the morning. However its not as effective as I have hoped it to be, is it recommended that I take 2 x ritalin 30mg la at once in the morning or would that be to dangerous?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
6:19 pm February 24th, 2016

Hi, Kim. First, your body needs to adapt on the presence of the medication, then it will give you the expected result. I suggest you to be patient for awhile, and if it still doesn’t have effect on you, seek advice from your doctor.

3:49 pm January 27th, 2017

So I was on the pill form from grade 2 to 11 I was on 4 pills a day 1 in the morning 2 at school 1 when I got home, now this is a drug that effects the brain, so why do we give it to kids? All the sideffecrs of the drug I feel are just burnt into my system from a young age. My main thing is why are we giving this drug to kids, if there are studies that say smoking pot is bad for your brain development before 25 why are we shoving cocaine ingredients into kids?

5:53 pm March 22nd, 2017

how can i boost ritalin effect or increase time of ritalin effect?
I really need to know this.

12:34 am March 24th, 2017

Good day I’m taking care of a 6 year boy, he is currently on 30 mg Ritalin and it seems his behaviour is getting worse.He constantly throws tantrums, crying all the time and you are not allowed to touch him at times. He is suppose to be calmer which he is at times, then suddenly everything changes and he is the child of Satan. The crying and the screaming is driving us all mad, seems the tablets is not working for him. He rarely make eye contact and if you speak to him he turns he’s head away and will answer.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
5:47 pm March 30th, 2017

Hi Sarah-Anne. I suggest that you speak with the doctor ASAP. Also, you may consider running some tests.

4:40 am March 31st, 2017

I’m 27 years old and was diagnosed with ADHD predominantly inattentive in May 2016. I wasn’t prescribed medication until January 2017. For one month, I took 10mg Ritalin SR twice a day and it works good. Because my primary doctor wants me to see a neurologist for Raynaud’s disease, my psychiatrist changed it to extended release In February 2017, and it was terrible. I took it when I woke up at 4:30AM for work, had a normal day at work, and then I had no energy to do anything when I got home 14 hours later. My fidgeting and concentration also slacked noticeably. I saw my psychiatrist again today(3/30/2017) and he changed it back. I can’t wait until tomorrow morning. ER Ritalin just feels too different. ):

10:42 pm April 17th, 2017

You got one thing wrong in the above article is the statement that Ritalin has a calming effect on persons with ADHD. That’s not true at all. People with ADHD have a frontal cortex which develops later than the motor cortex, which causes people with ADHD to “move first and think second”. Ritalin increases function in the frontal cortex which helps us even out. It doesn’t “calm” us down, it just makes it easier for us to think before taking action.

10:20 am April 26th, 2017

Will 38 mg of extended release methylphenidate show up on a urine test after 40 hours in an adult. I have only taken this twice and it was months apart. I see a pain doctor for chronic pain and they test for things like this. Thank you, and appreciate any feed back.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
10:52 am April 27th, 2017

Hi Karen. Usually, methylphenidate can be detected in the system up to 2 days. In urine tests for methylphenidate, a 1-2 day detection period can indicate use. For chronic users this timeframe is longer. I suggest that you download our free e-book ‘The Definitive Guide To Drug Testing’ to learn more about drug tests, and the detection periods for certain substances. See here:

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