Wednesday April 26th 2017

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Ritalin detox timeline: How long to detox from Ritalin?

Ritalin detox is usually mild

Ritalin (methylphenidate) detox is usually NOT life threatening. If you’ve been taking a prescribed dose of Ritalin, most withdrawal symptoms are mild and resolve within a week. But the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved medications (yet) for the treatment of Ritalin detox.

How can you find Ritalin detox help? How long does the detoxification period from Ritalin last? We answer here, and invite your questions about Ritalin detox in the comments section at the end of the page.

Ritalin detox duration and length

Ritalin detox usually lasts for 3-5 days. Sometimes it can take a little longer. But, most symptoms of Ritalin detox resolve within a couple of weeks after the last dose.

The intensity and severity of Ritalin detox symptoms depend on the amount, frequency and duration of Ritalin use or abuse. Chronic Ritalin use is characterized by symptoms that occur in the first few days after stopping Ritalin, such as:

  • agitation
  • anxiety
  • decreased interest in the surrounding environment
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • intense craving
  • loss of physical and mental energy

Ritalin detox usually completely resolves within 2-3 weeks after your last use, although prolonged drug cravings may persist for weeks to months after cessation.

Ritalin detox timeline and schedule

Ritalin affects people differently. In fact, symptoms of detox from Ritalin will vary from person to person. It is important to note that because Ritalin is a stimulant, detox symptoms can be delayed. It can take days to weeks to completely remove Ritalin from the system. Here is what you can expect during Ritalin detox:

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The first 24 – 72 hours of Ritalin detox – General onset of symptoms can manifest shortly after the drugs effects have worn off. During this initial phase of Ritalin detox you can expect to experience Ritalin withdrawal symptoms such as:

  • agitation
  • changes in heart rate
  • cravings for Ritalin
  • intense fatigue
  • nausea
  • nervousness
  • …and possibly uncontrollable shaking

Week 1 of Ritalin detox – In the first week after stopping Ritalin, symptoms tend to even out with an apparent return to “normalcy”, although drug craving may occur and disturbed sleeping patterns are common. In some cases, severe detox symptoms from Ritalin have been compared to those from cocaine, since both drugs affect the brain and body similarly. Normally, during this phase of withdrawal, symptoms can include:

  • depression
  • exhaustion
  • increased appetite
  • persistence of fatigue

Week 2 of Ritalin detox – Protracted detox symptoms manifest at Week Two. Anxiety, nervousness, and depression which shows up on the onset with reappear during Week Two. Waves of severe drug craving also arise during this period, as well as continued issues with sleep and fatigue.

Week 3-4 of Ritalin detox – During this phase of withdrawal, nervousness, and depression may still be present. Additionally, long periods or disturbances in sleep are still reported. You might also still crave Ritalin as the physical dependence to Ritalin starts to decrease the need to take it might still really affect you as stressors in your life present themselves.

Post-acute detox syndrome (PAWS) – The medical definition of PAWS is a set of symptoms that occur from the time you stop taking Ritalin and persist for months after last use. In this case, cravings for the drug can remain long after you have stopped taking Ritalin. Ritalin PAWS can linger for weeks to months after your last dose of Ritalin and include:

  • sleeping disturbance
  • irritability
  • mood swings

If you’re having trouble with Ritalin PAWS, we encourage you to speak with an addiction professional: a certified physician, a trained counselor, or a psychiatrist. There may be suggestions or treatment options available to you in order to manage the post-acute withdrawal symptoms. In sum, for those who abuse Ritalin and have developed a psychological dependency, it may take several weeks or months to no longer feel the effects of Ritalin withdrawal.

How long to detox from Ritalin?

Each detox period is unique to the person taking Ritalin. Age, general health, the presence of other drugs, and your personal metabolism are all variables which can affect detox length. Various health concerns also need to be taken into consideration when creating a plan for Ritalin detox. In general, if you are taking Ritalin for medical reasons in doses as prescribed, symptoms of detox tend to be less intense than someone abusing the medication or taking higher doses than prescribed.

Ritalin detox scheduling questions

Do you still have questions about managing Ritalin detox? Please post them in the comments section at the end of page. We try to answer all relevant inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to your question, we will gladly refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs: Treatment of Acute Intoxication and Withdrawal from Drugs of Abuse
NIDA: Diagnosis & Treatment of Drug Abuse in Family Practice
SAMHSA: Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment Chapter 4: Physical Detoxification Services for Withdrawal
SAMHSA Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 33: Treatment for Stimulant Use Disorders, Chapter 5-Medical Aspects of Stimulant Use Disorders
NIDA: Prescription drugs: What are the possible consequences of stimulant use and abuse?

Photo credit: Alan Cleaver

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