How Long Does Ritalin Stay in The System?

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

For those taking Ritalin for ADHD treatment, one major question is “How long does the drug stay in the system?” Ritalin is a stimulant medication that contains methylphenidate, which functions as a catecholamine reuptake inhibitor. This ingredient facilitates the increase in extracellular dopamine and NET (Norepinephrine), thereby enhancing the neurophysiological arousal.
Because of its properties, the drug has a calming effect on the patient. However, it can also be addictive. Discontinuing the drug after a prolonged use can make users go through withdrawal symptoms.
Approximately 50% of Ritalin leaves the system within 2 to 3 hours on average. That means the drug will take 11 to 15.6 hours to completely exit the system. In other words, all active ingredients will excrete in less than 24 hours.

Factors That Influence How Long Ritalin Stays in the Body

Multiple factors decide how long Ritalin stays in the system. The major ones are:


Age mostly controls the excretion of Ritalin and its metabolites. In children, 50% of Ritalin can excrete within 1.5 to 5 hours. In adults, however, 50% of Ritalin excretes between 1.3 and 7.7 hours. The elderly may take longer due to slower metabolism, health problems like poor physiological functionality and indigestion, and even any other medication they’re on.

Individual Factors

Different factors can make the drug leave the body of some people faster than others, even when they take the same dosage. Let’s take a quick look at these factors.

  • Food Consumption: The type of food one consumes with the drug influences its absorption and release. If someone consumes a high-fat breakfast along with the drug, there is a delay in the uptake and release. On the other hand, taking a regular meal with the drug or taking it on an empty stomach will increase the absorption, which makes for a quick release.
  • Genetics: According to research, genetics could influence the clearance time of methylphenidate. Individuals whose genes have an increased level of carboxylesterase, an enzyme that quickens chemical reactions, will excrete the drug quicker than those who don’t.
  • Metabolic Rate: Ritalin enhances the MBR (Basal Metabolic Rate) of an individual. People who have a faster BMR excrete the drug faster than those who have lower BMR.

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Urine, Blood, Hair, And Saliva?

If one has a drug test coming up, it is wise to know how long Ritalin could stay in the blood, urine, and saliva. Here is what a patient should expect from the results:

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Blood?

Blood tests are seldom used to determine the presence of Ritalin in the body. As soon as one takes Ritalin, it will become a part of the bloodstream. Blood tests will detect it within a short amount of time after intake. After 24 hours, the ingested Ritalin will be completely out of the system.

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Urine?

A urine test can detect Ritalin within 1 to 2 days after taking the drug. In most individuals, 50% of the drug’s metabolites leave the system within 6 hours of consumption. So, a urine test for the detection of Ritalin presence is usually ineffective after 48 hours.

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Saliva?

Methylphenidate, the main chemical in Ritalin, can be easily detected through a saliva sample. After 24 hours of ingestion, it will not remain detectable because half of the drug usually goes out through urine within 6 hours of consumption. Scientists prefer such tests for research only.

How Long Does Ritalin Stay in Hair?

Hair samples can reveal the presence of Methylphenidate over a longer duration as compared to blood, urine and saliva samples. However, right after use, Methylphenidate is not detectable in the hair of a person as quickly as it is detectable in the urine. It can take about one week to become detectable in the hair.
Approximately 3 cm of hair can detect Methylphenidate for up to 1 month. If a person consumes the drug on a daily basis, the concentration of Methylphenidate in the individual’s hair would be high. This test is quite convenient, but it is not employed commonly for reasons other than scientific research.

Excreting Ritalin From The System Faster

So, if someone asks “How long does Ritalin stay in the system?” the answer is 48 hours. But in addition to the individual factors, there are some ways through which one can speed up the process.

Urinary Acidification

Acidic urinary pH prevents the reabsorption of Ritalin, and hence it speeds up the clearance rate too. If  users have an alkaline urine, they will be at the benefit as Ritalin clearance will happen quickly.


The Ritalin metabolites will be completely excreted through the system with adequate hydration. The more water is consumed, the more rapidly all metabolites will come out through urination. Be careful not to over hydrate though.

CES1A1 Enhancers

The substances that enhance CES1A1 can expedite the clearance of the metabolites.
The best of all tips would be to stop taking the drug altogether. Each time one ingests another dose ingested, the number of metabolites increase. Therefore, if a patient wants to make sure all of the remains of the drug go out of the system, it is recommended to stop taking it.
One important thing to keep in mind is that our bodies work differently. Hence, it is not possible for all human bodies to take the same amount of time for excreting the Ritalin metabolites.

Page Sources

  1. Maria D. Chermá, Martin Josefsson, Irene Rydberg, Per Woxler, Tomas Trygg, Olle Hollertz, Per A. Gustafsson. Methylphenidate for Treating ADHD: A Naturalistic Clinical Study of Methylphenidate Blood Concentrations in Children and Adults With Optimized Dosage. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2017; 295–307.
  2. Ann Childress, Shailly Mehrotra, Jogarao Gobburu, Angus McLean, Norberto J. DeSousa, Bev Incledon. Single-Dose Pharmacokinetics of HLD200, a Delayed-Release and Extended-Release Methylphenidate Formulation, in Healthy Adults and in Adolescents and Children with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. J Child Adolesc Psychopharmacol. 2018. 10–18.

Published on: June 8th, 2017

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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