How long does Ritalin last?

Immediate release Ritalin lasts for about 3-4 hours, although extended release versions of Ritalin last all day long (8 hours). Learn more about Ritalin ‘s effects of the brain and body here.

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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.

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
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. My 8 year old son is on Ritalin. The problem is he is suffering from hayfever and sinus . He is not allowed to take allergex. What medicines is he not allowed to use and what medicine can you use. What can i use for his eyes when its itching.

    1. Hi Benita. I suggest that you consult a doctor so he/she can determine what is allowed/not allowed for your son.

    1. Hi Gene,
      When used in conjuction with two 25year old women, you will have absolutely no problem getting and maintainin your erection!!! UNLESSS your a PREMATURE EJACULATOR. In that case you might lose your erection before you even start.
      I would not worry with 10mg.

  2. Tara,
    Sounds very simple to me. Which is not to say ur a dummy or slow to understand things or anything like that, I do this for a living. It sounds like ur doc wants u to take:
    Day 1: half a tablet
    Day 2: half a tablet
    Day 3: half a tablet
    Day 4+: half a tablet BID (twice a day)

    This regimen will allow your body to get used to the new medication gradually before getting up to your stable dose. It’s very similar to the dosage instructions always given with Champix (or Chantix, depending on what country you’re in.), and many other medications. But of course, Like Lydia said, if this sounds at all like it might not be what ur doctor had in mind for you, always check with them (or your pharmacist, or both! Never can ask too many people the same question) before using a medication. Good luck! I hope it helps your condition 🙂

  3. Im taking the generic brand methylphenidate an it says for me to take a half a pill for three days then it says to increase to one half tab twice daily. Confused here. Thanx. Tara . Just started takn these fr adhd

  4. I have been on Ritalin for 1 month, taking it 3 times a day and I want to stop. How can I slowly get off of Ritalin?

    1. Hi Ingrid. I suggest that you consult with your doctor to help you plan an individualized tapering schedule.

  5. i take 40mg LA in morning and 20mg SR around 2pm. . adult 37 (been on them total of 6 months when i was 24 and now since sept last year)

  6. Let’s head ADHD since I’ve been little 54 years old and I’m having trouble getting my doctor to understand that I need to be put on the medication I’m still having the same symptoms trying to control them myself how do I talk to my doctor and get him to understand that I do need to be on this medication not for a dictionary reasons but because I need to be on the medication so my question is how can I get my doctor to understand that I need to be put on this medication?

  7. Good day I’m taking care of a 6 year boy, he’s currently on 30 mg Ritalin and it appears his behaviour is getting worse.He continuously throws tantrums, crying all the time and also you aren’t allowed to touch him at instances. He is assume to be calmer which he is at instances, then unexpectedly the whole lot changes and he’s the child of Satan. The crying and the screaming is driving us all mad, appears the drugs is not working for him. He rarely make eye touch and in case you communicate to him he turns he’s head away and will solution.

  8. @Chris ” which causes people with ADHD to “move first and think second””
    this is exactly how my doc described to me. “ready,fire,aim”

    as far as i know my doc is a leading doc in ADHD and assures me there is no such thing as hyperactive.
    only hypersensitive.

    what do you think?

  9. Hi Juanita – How did you manage to come off the oxycontin? I’m curious as I need to do this myself very shortly after taking it for 3 years for chronic pain….I had another surgery and my pain has decreased so it’s time and I’m very worried about how it is going to be!
    Thank you for your time – any info will be greatfully received

  10. Chris, according to actual researches, there are 03 types of ADHD, and can cause more than 900 +- possible symptoms officially registered,
    But, the most important lesson to be learned is:: each individual that has adhd carrie his OWN combination of those possible 900 +- symptons listed. So, fixed these informations in mind, its crucial to understand that SOME adhd people suffer from the -emotional desregulation symptom-, one of the 900 POSSIBLE symptoms that ADHD can cause, And THESE are known as the patients that ‘has horrible difficultie to trully start a process of relaxing the mind and the emotions, so, live this way for 20+ years without treatment starts to deteriorate the patient from the inside, and he gets “dominated by his emotions”. And the effect of stimulants reduces this symptom supressing the limbic system of the brain (the central of emotions). So, you’re lucky, because you dont suffer from this symptom, that i consider one of the worst symptoms, considerating the emotional pain it causes.
    As an analog., we can remeber that: not all adhd’ers have motor hyperactive.
    And that: some adhd really suffer to organize the basic of their lives, while others, despite the disorder, with the same effort, can mantain their things organized for a long period of time.

    So, each individual, different adhd,

  11. hi guys ,my 8 years old must start taking Ritalin 10 tomorrow half at 7:00 am and 11:00 am. i’m not sure if a good thing or not . i’m affraid of side effects and if later on as someone just said it’s affects the brain, i don’t want that . can someone tell me clearlly if it’s bad

  12. 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.

    1. 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:

  13. 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.

  14. 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. ):

  15. 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.

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

  16. 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?

  17. 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?

    1. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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??

  20. 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.

  21. 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..

  22. 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.

  23. 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?


  24. 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


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

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. 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

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