Methylphenidate (Ritalin®)

Test ID: 


CPT code:




Clinical Use:

Detect the presence of methylphenidate, a prescription stimulant drug.

Test Information:

Methylphenidate is an oral central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) in children and ADD in adults. Methylphenidate is a derivative of phenethylamine, and its CNS actions are similar to the amphetamines. The exact mechanism of action is not fully understood. The drug is rapidly and well absorbed from the GI tract, achieving peak blood levels in 60 to 120 minutes. Some preparations of methylphenidate will exhibit a bimodal plasma concentration-time profile with half-lives varying from 2.5 to 8.4 hours1 and about 80% of a dose is excreted in the urine in 24 hours. The major metabolite, ritalinic acid (pharmacologically inactive), is formed by hydrolysis of the methyl ester linkage. This takes place enzymatically and nonenzymatically in alkaline conditions during storage of serum or plasma. The use of EDTA as an anticoagulant reduces hydrolytic loss. After a 0.3 mg/kg oral dose of methylphenidate, peak plasma concentrations typically do not go much above 20 ng/mL, but they can reach as high as 70 ng/mL on a higher dose of 0.6 mg/kg. The common side effects of methylphenidate are due mainly to its adrenergic activity, including insomnia, anorexia, headache, and tachycardia.

Specimen Type:

Serum or plasma, frozen

Requested Volume: 

7 mL whole blood or 2 mL serum or plasma

Minimum Volume: 


Container Type: 

Gray-top (sodium fluoride) tube, red-top tube,or green-top (heparin) tube.


Separate serum or plasma and transfer to a plastic transport tube. Freeze and ship frozen. Collect specimen as a peak level one to two hours after dosing. To avoid delays in turnaround time when requesting multiple tests on frozen samples, please submit separate frozen specimens for each test requested.

Storage Instructions:


Stability Requirements:



Room temperature





6 months

Freeze/thaw cycles

Stable x1

Rejection Criteria:

Gel-barrier tube; thawed specimen.

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