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Does Ritalin show up on a drug test?

Yes. And no.

Use or abuse of this Schedule II drug, classified as methylphenidate, cannot be detected in a standard 5 panel drug screen. However, Ritalin in your system can be detected and will show a positive drug screen for amphetamines. More on Ritalin detection and drug tests for Ritalin here.

Ritalin abuse

Ritalin, a mild central nervous system stimulant is used in the treatment of attention deficit disorders in children and adults. However, Ritalin can also be used without a prescription to achieve stimulant effects, for weight loss and even to get high. Can Ritalin, Concerta or Adderall get you high? Yes.

As a Schedule II drug, Ritalin’s high potential for abuse has been recognized. Laws limit the availability of Ritalin to a degree (you must have a new written prescription with each refill, for example). However, the abundance of prescriptions that are written for children for the drug has made it available to family members and the public.

Ritalin can be chewed, crushed and snorted or dissolved in water and injected by some abusers. Complications from this method of abuse can arise because insoluble fillers in the tablets can block small blood vessels. As a stimulant drug (like amphetamine), Ritalin abuse can be recognized symptoms such as:

  • aggressiveness
  • delirium
  • erratic and impulsive behavior
  • hallucinations
  • irritability
  • loss of coordination
  • panic
  • paranoia
  • severe weight loss due to decreased appetite
  • tremors

Why order a drug test for Ritalin?

Drug tests are technical analysis of a biological specimen and are used to determine the presence or absence of specified drug or their metabolites.

Ritalin abuse puts people in danger. Random drug screens, workplace drug screens and clinical drug screen are necessary if any of the above behaviors or signs of Ritalin abuse are exhibited.

Ritalin detection

How does long Ritalin stay in your system so that it can be detected by drug screens?  About the same as other stimulants used to treat ADHD and how long amphetamines stay in your system: around 2 days.  In urine tests for methylphenidate, a 1-2 day detection period can indicate use. The detection cutoff is 25 ng/mL. Again, a false positive for amphetamine may occur, and confirmation would require a more complex assay.

More specific drug testing for Ritalin

In order for a test to be confirmed for Ritalin, the GC/MS (gas chromatography mass spectrometry) is the criterion standard. This type of drug test is the most accurate, sensitive and reliable method of testing, however, the test is time consuming, requires expertise to perform and is costly. But it can be used to confirm the Ritalin vs. amphetamine if necessary.

Ritalin use vs. abuse

There is definitely a division between use and abuse. The line of abuse is crossed when ADHD medications like Ritalin are used by individuals not suffering from ADHD. The increased dopamine levels give a “high”. The euphoric effects of stimulants usually occur when crushed, snorted or injected.

Do children become addicted to Ritalin?

In the field of child psychiatry a controversy exists as to whether the use of stimulant medications to treat ADHD increases the risk of substance abuse in adulthood. Research thus far suggests individuals with ADHD, when using the medication in the form and dosage prescribed, do not become addicted to the medication. Several studies report that stimulant use in childhood does not increase the risk for subsequent drug or alcohol abuse as an adult.

How do you become addicted to Ritalin?

If stimulants are used chronically, withdrawal symptoms (including fatigue, disturbed sleep, and depression) can occur when the drug is discontinued. However, withdrawal indicates physical dependence, not necessarily addiction to a drug. Addiction to Ritalin occurs when you use the medication to avoid psychological or emotional pain. Since addiction rarely occurs with individuals with ADHD using the drug as prescribed, those who use Ritalin for medical reasons do not usually become addicted.

Help for Ritalin problems

Are you struggling with Ritalin (methylphenidate) addiction? You can give an end to your addiction problem…learn more about what happens when you seek help in this Methylphenidate Addiction Treatment Program and Help GUIDE…and get rid of Ritalin once and for all.

You should always stop taking Ritalin under medical supervision, but your doctor can also refer you to psychological and addiction help.

Just remember that you are not alone. And please leave us your questions about Ritalin use or abuse here. We will be happy to respond to you in a personal and prompt reply.

Reference Sources:  NIDA information on Stimulant ADHD Medications – Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
Prescription Drug Abuse Chart
Urine Drug Screening: Practical Guide for Clinicians. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, January 2008 vol.83 no.1 66-76.
Mannuza, S. Klien RG, Troug, Nt., et al. Age of methylphenidate treatment in children with ADHD and later substance abuse: prospective follow-up into adulthood. Am J Psychiarty 165(5): 604-605, 2008

Photo credit: ADHD CENTER

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19 Responses to “Does Ritalin show up on a drug test?
Susan Key
3:07 am November 2nd, 2012

Interesting facts about Ritalin, I never ever gave my son that when he was diagnosie with ADHD. I search about it and wanted to make sure what was best for him when he was growing up. but when I had given him is fish oil, the best treatment for ADHD and it is healthy, better for skin, immuse system and concentration problems. He improved remarkly and his eating was better. he is now 15 and 16 next year and he is doing extremely well in school and a happy boy. I was told by his school counsellor that if i didn’t put him on ritalin that he will grow up with lots of problems, behave badly, jail, make trouble etc. for a counsellor to say such thing to me.. was unsupportive indeed. i hoped she will see a different in him without the use of the medication and doing it the hard way, life just got easier for both of us.

thank you.

8:09 am November 3rd, 2012

Thanks for sharing, Susan. Great information about alternatives to Ritalin for ADHD!

3:39 am December 8th, 2013

So the methylphenidate will not show on a 4 panel test ?

1:57 am October 27th, 2014

Does the patch drug test detect ritalin

Bryan B.
11:10 am March 29th, 2015

I just got off 5 years of probation, 60 urine tests and Ritalin was never detected. It’s a stimulant but not an amphetamine or a Narcotic.

5:17 am December 5th, 2015

I’ve have taken to drug test and both time Ritalin has not shown to be in my system . Because of this my doctor will no longer prescribe it to me . I don’t understand why it not showing up because I take it every day . I hate how the doctor made me feel like I wasn’t telling the truth . He was very short with me . I could care less about getting the Ratalin . I just would like answer of why it would NOT show up . I didn’t appreciate how I was treat or how the Doctor made me feel!

4:04 pm December 18th, 2015

Methylphenidate will not be detected by an amphetamine test. In other words, it does not cross-react with immunoassays for amphetamine. It must be tested for specifically. Typical five-panel screens do not test for methylphenidate. Methylphenidate, (Ritalin, Concerta, etc.), is quite safe to use, if used moderately. As with almost anything, excessive use, or overindulgence, can cause problems. That is the difference between use and abuse, not the purpose which you’ve decided to use it for.

9:52 pm January 12th, 2016

Just took a lab tested five panel drug test. Took 150 mg of ritalin within the week. I tested negative for everything. Dont believe everything u read. I couldnt find a diffenative answer. So here it is negative for amphetamines and everything else!

4:49 pm February 16th, 2016

Cya refuses to give me my daughter back cuz my prescription of Ritalin isn’t showing up on my drug tests. My Dr. Refuses to give me a different drug test. This reasons why icant get my daughter back. What can I do?

4:39 pm February 25th, 2016

Hi Sheri. Demand another type of drug test to prove you are regularly taking your Ritalin as prescribed. You can also speak to your lawyer and get a court order for a different drug test. Ask your lawyer what other options you have. I hope you get your daughter back soon!

Mary lee
5:52 am April 28th, 2016

My son tried to o.d by snorting several methylphenidate pills and Xanax. Test showed positive for Xanax and acetemenaph but no sign of hid prescription riddlin. Doctor is accusing my son of selling his meds. I watch him take his meds everyday n keep close count of them. I know he had at least his regular dose that day. Why did drug test come back negative for methylphenidate and positive for acetemenaph. He had not taken acetemenaph!

11:37 am May 29th, 2016

No. Methylphenidates do not belong to the class of amphetamines, and immunoassays for amphetamines do not detect them. Furthermore, the half-life of methylphenidates is very short (~ 2 hours). To monitor compliance for methylphenidates, a quantitative LC-MS/MS test and critical-frozen specimen are required. Urine should be collected within 8 hours of dosing, and blood (serum/plasma) within 4 hours of dosing.

5:48 pm October 28th, 2016

My boyfriend has been using Ritalin and has a history of drug abuse he was sober for over 2 years and has fallen in the past couple weeks . He already has a doctor for addiction help I have had him leave the house but love him and want to believe in him. He has lied so many times in our relationship and Idk what to do

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:09 pm November 3rd, 2016

Hi Courtney. I suggest that you read and comment on Amanda Andruzzi’s articles. She speaks from a personal experience and gives advises to people with similar problems. Read them here: https://addictionblog.org/author/amanda/

3:38 am November 28th, 2016

I am prescribed 20 mg ritalin 3x day. Why does it not appear in my urine drug screen?

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
12:42 pm December 6th, 2016

Hi Jennifer. It seem to me that something you consume may not allow Ritalin to store in your body. I suggest that you speak with your doctor about this, and ask him/her which other medications may interact with Ritalin.

1:01 am April 5th, 2017

I call BS on parents that say some new age medicine, vitamin or praying or whatever cured the kid of ADD or ADHD. Chances are they were misdiagnosed in the first place.

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was 12 and the child psychiatrist my parents took me to recommended methylphenidate. My mother refused because ” her son was not crazy” and she “didn’t want her son on drugs”. Needleless to say, I struggled through middle school and barely graduated high school after a suicide attempt and running away from home. I can’t tell you the number of times I was suspended in detention or beaten because of my behavior problems. No amount of discipline, stern lectures, high protein low sugar diets or Omega-3s, etc. resolved my issues or was going to. They tried them all.

It wasn’t until I was an adult and could see a doctor on my own that I was able to get treatment I needed. My doctor prescribed a low dosage (18mg) of extended release methylphenidate. I have been on the same dosage for a few years now. I am happy to say that I am now six months away from an MS in Computer Science at WSU and I haven’t see my parents for about 3 years. I guess the up side of their ignorance is that I wouldn’t have met my wife who is an RN that worked for my doctors medical group. For those of you who are unsure. Please seek a second opinion but for god sake don’t listen to new age healers and snake oil salesmen.

11:22 pm October 12th, 2017

I take 5 mg of ritalin a couple of times a week for narcolepsy, mostly because provigil prices soared and my pharmacist suggested ritalin instead, my question is I had to take a surprise drug test and they said I have methamphetamine and amphetamine in my urine. I was at work so I had not taken anything but usually taken meds, Prozac, aspirin, neurotin, and the night before flexaril, why did it show like that? Is there something I could’ve drank or eaten that caused this? I don’t want to lose my job and I passed 4 other drug tests this last year.

Lydia @ Addiction Blog
3:05 pm October 20th, 2017

Hi Lynda. Ritalin can stay in your system for few days after the intake, and it can be detected and will show a positive drug screen for amphetamines. Download our free e-book ‘The Definitive Guide To Drug Testing’ to learn more: https://addictionblog.org/ebooks/the-definitive-guide-to-drug-testing/

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