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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