The number of prescriptions for methylphenidate in the year 2017 was more than 16 million. Not all of those taking this drug are children. A good percentage of those taking it were adults.

According to a 2014 NBC News story based on a report from Express Scripts, there was an alarming rise in the number of adults diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed medication to treat it.

“ADHD drugs are mostly prescribed to children, and their use was up nearly 19 percent, but adult use rose even faster, up more than 53 percent,” the report said. As the adults are diagnosed, medication to treat ADHD is prescribed. Methylphenidate is one such drug. It is also widely known by its trade names Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, and others.

If someone is taking methylphenidate and is sent for a drug test, is it possible that the medicine will show up on drug test results?

What Is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a prescription stimulant medicine commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When it is used appropriately, it can provide someone with better attention for a short time and help control impulse movements. It is widely known to be not as addictive as Adderall, another prescription drug used to treat ADHD.

However, it can be habit-forming and can lead to drug tolerance, which is when the drug no longer works as it did when initially taken. This could lead to higher doses taken and possibly addiction.


How It Works In The Body

Methylphenidate is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that works by keeping two natural substances in your brain longer — dopamine and norepinephrine.

Those with ADHD could have unusually low levels of dopamine in their brains. Dopamine is associated with reward and motivation, which is a beneficial chemical to completing tasks. The purpose of methylphenidate is to increase the presence of dopamine, which will help boost focus and motivation.

When the medicine is abused, it produces a buildup of dopamine in the brain that generates excitement, elevated heart rate, euphoria, and other effects created by the stimulant.

The body works to get the drug out of its system, and it is eventually filtered out by the liver and passes out through urine.

Does Methylphenidate Show Up On A Drug Test?

Several factors affect how long methylphenidate stays in the body. The half-life for the drug is about 3.5 hours for adults and about 2.5 hours for children.

Also, other factors which could determine how long the drug stays in the body are:

  • Person’s height and weight
  • Level of activity
  • Metabolism
  • Body mass index (BMI)
  • Age
  • Health status
  • Kidney function
  • Genes
  • The formulation of the drug (immediate-release, extended-release, patch)

Several different types of drug tests are used to screen for substance use. Below is an estimate of how long methylphenidate is detected in them. A urine test is the most typically used drug test for methylphenidate.

  • Blood – not typically used for drug screening
  • Urine – 1 to 3 days
  • Saliva – 1 to 3 days
  • Hair – could be detected in hair follicles up to 90 days


What You Might Want To Know

There have been some reports from people who have had a drug screen for methylphenidate, where the drug did not show, but the test came back positive for amphetamines. In addition, a source noted in scientific testing that “it can also trigger a false positive when testing for amphetamine, methamphetamine and LSD.” This is called a “false positive.” It is important to note that if that happens to ask if the drug test was specifically for methylphenidate and not amphetamines.

Drug testing is fairly common today in many circumstances. The best thing to do is to list all the medications that are being taken on the screening form.

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