People that have started or gone through addiction treatment are likely familiar with the concept of drug testing. It’s a common part of treatment and recovery, but drug tests are also performed for other reasons. Many jobs require prospective employees to take the tests before employees start work. These tests are designed to check for current drug use, to make sure the test taker is not currently in active addiction. Law enforcement may also do drug testing as a part of active investigations.

Drug tests can find illicit drugs and alcohol, but can they detect prescription drugs like methylphenidate? Depending on the type of drug test and what they’re looking for, methylphenidate may show up and cause a positive result. For that reason, it may be necessary to inform testers that you’re taking a methylphenidate prescription. If you’re taking it illegally, you’ll need to stop before taking the test. But how does methylphenidate work in the body, and how long does it last?

What is Methylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a common medication that’s used to treat ADHD and insomnia. As an ADHD medication, it’s often the first option physicians explore with patients that have the disorder.

The drug may also be used illegally as a recreational drug. Users seek it’s stimulating properties to cause effects that are similar to cocaine. Though it’s not as potent as cocaine when it comes to euphoria, it can cause a euphoric high when it’s used in high doses. It may also be used as a cognitive or performance enhancer. Since methylphenidate can increase wakefulness, focus, and motivation, students and athletes use it without a prescription. It’s popular on college campuses to improve study sessions and test scores. Abusing the drug can increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder.

How Methylphenidate Works in the Body

When methylphenidate is taken by mouth, it’s absorbed into the blood through digestion.

Packets of pills on top of a paper that says "Drug Test Review"Once the drug makes its way to the brain and the central nervous system, it begins to cause its effects as a psychostimulant.

Methylphenidate is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor, which means that it stops the removal of dopamine and norepinephrine from your synapses. A synapse is the space between neurons in which one nerve cell releases chemical messengers to send a signal to the next nerve cell.

The more dopamine in the synapse, the more chances it has to bind to and activate its receptors. In other words, methylphenidate causes a buildup of these chemical messengers in the brain.

Over time your body will break down and filter out the methylphenidate. Your liver will filter your blood, and you’ll eliminate the drug through your urine.

How Long Methylphenidate Lasts

Methylphenidate is reduced to half of its initial concentration in your blood after three hours. However, it will be detectable in your blood for up to about 12 hours. Urine tests are the most common options for drug testing. Methylphenidate may be found in urine for up to two days. Hair follicle testing is less common, but it can detect drugs for up to 90 days.

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