Drug tests are administered for several purposes. People who have been involved with addiction treatment will be familiar with drug tests, but many employers use them as a part of the hiring process. Drug screenings can also be performed by police and law enforcement to aid in criminal investigations.
Most drug tests are designed to rule out current drug use, particularly drug use that’s not allowed by company policies or the law. However, tests may be positive when a person is using legal or prescription drugs like methylphenidate. Learn more about how methylphenidate works in the body and how long it lasts in your system.
What is Methylphenidate?
Methylphenidate is a medication that’s used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. In the United States, it’s sold under the brand name Ritalin. It’s an effective medication, and it’s often the first-line option for many doctors who treat ADHD. It’s sold in several different forms with different durations of action, and it’s usually taken by mouth. The drug is relatively safe and well-tolerated when it’s used as directed by a medical professional, but it can have some side effects, such as anxiety and insomnia.
The drug may also be used illicitly by people that are seeking its recreational and performance-enhancing qualities. In high doses, or when the drug is taken injected into a vein or inhaled through the nose, methylphenidate can cause euphoria, excitement, and a generally lifted mood. It works in the brain in a way that’s similar to cocaine, though it’s not as potent.
Methylphenidate also increases alertness, reward, and focus, which makes it useful in treating ADHD, but these effects also make it a popular cognitive-enhancing drug. There is very little evidence that it can increase cognitive ability in people who don’t have ADHD, but it can increase wakefulness and alertness. Students may use it to get them through all-night study sessions.
How Methylphenidate Works in the Body
Methylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant that blocks the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
That means it prevents these important chemical messengers from being removed and recycled through natural processes.
People with ADHD may have abnormally low levels of dopamine in their brains. Since dopamine is tied to reward and motivation, it’s an important chemical in the completion of tasks. Methylphenidate is intended to help increase the presence of dopamine to help improve motivation and focus.
Abusing the drug can also create a buildup of dopamine in the brain that causes excitement, euphoria, elevated heart rate, and other stimulating effects.
As your body works to process the drug out of your system, it will be filtered out by your liver and leave your body through urine.
How Long Methylphenidate Lasts
Methylphenidate has a half-life for up to three hours, which means it will take that much time for your body to reduce it to half of its original concentration in your blood. Half-life is often a good indicator of how long a drug will remain active, but it doesn’t mean it will no longer appear in drug tests.
Urine tests are the most common tests that are used to check for current drug use. Methylphenidate can remain in your urine for around two days. However, blood and hairy follicle tests may also be used. Methylphenidate may only stay in your blood for 12 hours. But it can be found in your hair for months after you stop using it.