Ritalin is a prescription drug used to treat symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant that affects neurotransmitters in the brain, including norepinephrine and dopamine. When someone uses Ritalin as prescribed, it’s intended to be part of a larger treatment plan that includes other non-medication therapies. Ritalin, despite its therapeutic uses, has a potential for abuse and addiction. Ritalin can be prescribed to children aged six years and older to treat ADHD. Along with immediate-release Ritalin, there are extended-release versions of the generic drug, methylphenidate. Ritalin can be used to treat narcolepsy as well.
The generic name for Ritalin is methylphenidate. Ritalin is classified as a Schedule II substance by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. This means that, based on guidelines from the DEA, Ritalin has a high potential for abuse. When abused, the effects of the drug can be similar to those of amphetamines or cocaine. As a controlled substance, when someone uses Ritalin without a valid prescription, it can lead to negative legal consequences. The DEA points out that there has been an increase in young people abusing Ritalin and similar prescription stimulants, largely because it is relatively easy for them to get these drugs since so many of their friends and classmates have prescriptions.
Stimulant abuse is common. Prescription stimulants like Ritalin, as well as drugs like Concerta, Vyvanse and Adderall, have an abuse potential because they can cause desirable effects. Some of the desirable effects of prescription stimulants include euphoria, weight loss, improved academic performance, inflated sense of motivation and self-confidence, and increased sociability. Prescription stimulant abuse occurs when someone takes these medicines in any way other than as prescribed, when someone takes someone else’s medicine, or takes the medicine in order to achieve the effects of getting high.
Ritalin is a central nervous system stimulant, so it speeds up certain processes. When someone uses high doses of Ritalin other serious symptoms are possible -aside from euphoria. For example, stimulant abuse can cause hostility, paranoia and irritability. Dry mouth, twitching, changes in mood, confusion, hallucinations and even seizures are also possible. Ritalin can cause digestive system effects such as reduced appetitive, stomach pain and nausea. Stimulants can cause changes in the heart rate and blood pressure -which is particularly dangerous for people with pre-existing cardiac or blood pressure issues.
According to the FDA, the half-life of Ritalin is around 3.5 hours, on average. The average half-life range is anywhere from 1.3 to 7.7 hours in adults. In children, the average half-life of Ritalin is around 2.5 hours, but it can range anywhere from 1.5 to 5.0 hours. Based on these half-lives, Ritalin can stay in the body for anywhere from one to two days, which is a relatively short time. Ritalin is metabolized quickly even when an extended-release version is taken.
As with any drug, there are individual factors that influence how long Ritalin stays in your system. The dose you use and how you use it can influence how long Ritalin stays in your system. If you regularly use Ritalin, it may take longer for it to be eliminated from your system. Younger people and healthier people tend to eliminate drugs more quickly. If someone is older or has pre-existing health conditions or organ function impairment, it may take their body longer to eliminate Ritalin. People with faster metabolisms and heavier or bigger people also tend to eliminate Ritalin faster. Physically active and well-hydrated people will also have a faster rate of elimination, in most cases.
Ritalin may or may not show up on a drug test. If a drug screening is looking for amphetamines, Ritalin is likely to show up. In a urine test, Ritalin would likely show up for anywhere from one to two days after someone used it. Blood tests aren’t used as often as urine tests because the window of detection is shorter. Ritalin would likely only show up in a blood test for up to 12 hours after it was used. In a hair follicle test, the detection window is the longest. The use of Ritalin could show up in a hair test for up to 90 days.
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.