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How Long Does Concerta Stays In Your System (Will It Show Up On a Drug Test?)

Concerta is a drug that can usually be expected to stay in the average person’s system for 72 hours.

On average, it takes 48 to 72 hours for a complete detox. The exact timeline depends on several factors.

Differences, such as body weight, history of drug use, dosage sizes, age, and general health, all play a role in the detox process.

Concerta will show up on most conventional drug tests, including those that test urine, saliva, hair, and blood.

What Is Concerta?

There is an entire class of drugs known as stimulants. Concerta belongs to the stimulant class, with methylphenidate as its primary active ingredient. It is primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Data gathered from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  found that 6.1 million children were estimated to have ADHD in 2016. ADHD medications like Concerta are widely used.

Concerta works by changing the amount of natural substances produced by the brain. It has been used to increase an individual’s ability to pay attention, help them remain focused on an activity, and mitigate and manage behavioral issues. It can improve organizational skills and listening abilities.

Chemically, Concerta is composed of methylphenidate HCI. This is a white, odorless crystalline powder. The substance is soluble in water, methanol, and alcohol.

There are also several other trace ingredients in Concerta which are below:

  • Butylated hydroxytoluene
  • Carnauba wax
  • Cellulose acetate
  • Hypromellose
  • Lactose
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Triacetin
  • Stearic acid
  • Succinic acid
  • Synthetic iron acids
  • Titanium dioxide

Concerta is taken orally once a day in the morning. It is not typically recommended to take it later in the day, as it can make it difficult to sleep.

The medication should only be taken as prescribed. Tablets should never be chewed or crushed, as this will activate them faster, increasing the chance of side effects. 

Dosages are typically based on the medical condition it is treating and the patient’s reaction to the medicine. In some instances, doctors may increase the dosage over time.

Concerta comes with the potential for side effects.

  • Decreased appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping

It was found that Concerta can have biochemical effects in some areas of the brain that are more severe than those experienced with cocaine.

There is a risk of addiction with this drug if it is abused.

How Concerta Is Released in the Body

According to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis on Concerta, how long the drug stays in your system is based on several factors.

Currently, there are four different available strengths of the drug that comes in tablet form. They contain 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, or 54 mg of methylphenidate. The effects of the drug are felt for 12 hours.

Concerta is released into the system via osmosis. The tablets are designed to release the active ingredient at a controlled rate. There are several membranes present in the tablet to control this process.

The tri-layer core contains two drug layers. The drug overcoat dissolves within the hour in the gastrointestinal tract.

Concentrations of Concerta increase rapidly within the first hour. Then, the concentration gradually increases over the next five to nine hours. After this peak, it will gradually start to fall. Peak plasma concentrations occur six to 10 hours after ingestion, on average.

Differences in Groups

In the FDA’s study, there were no significant differences in concentrations of the drug between healthy male and female adults. They found there were no significant differences in concentration levels between any ethnic groups, though the FDA acknowledges that the sample size they used may not have been adequate enough to detect variation.

When age was studied, it was found that oral clearance increased significantly with those who were older. Oral clearance saw a 58 percent increase in adolescents as opposed to children. This means that Concerta leaves the system at increasingly faster rates for older individuals.

Some of the differences here could be explained by differences in body weight. There is a relationship between how much an individual weighs and how quickly they can clear Concerta from their system.

Overall, it was found that Concerta could be expected to leave the system of an adult anywhere between 48 and 96 hours after taking it.


Concerta can be addictive and produce withdrawal symptoms if taken for a long period of time and then suddenly stopped. These may include the following:

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Nightmares
  • Panic attacks
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Depression
  • Severe headaches
  • Extreme hunger
  • Psychosis
  • Foggy thinking

According to Healthline, a crash can happen when someone who has been taking Concerta (usually for a long time in high doses) starts to feel negative effects after stopping use. The drug works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Dopamine helps with concentration, while norepinephrine increases alertness.

Your brain starts to become accustomed to the higher concentrations of dopamine and norepinephrine. When an individual stops taking the drug, the brain needs a period to readjust. As the crash occurs, keeping a focus on things will be challenging. You may feel irritable and tired as well.

Detoxing from Concerta can be difficult because it is such a powerful drug. It’s important to seek professional assistance with this process.

With medical detox, clients are treated in a supervised environment. The purpose is to create a safe and comfortable environment where withdrawal can be completed successfully without relapse or other complications. 

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Concerta Showing Up on Drug Tests

Concerta has a relatively short half-life, only one to four hours, so it doesn’t have a tendency to accumulate in cells as other drugs do.

It is possible to detect the drug with a variety of different drug tests. There are several variables that will determine if the drug will be detected in your system. For example, immediate-release tablets don’t stay in your system as long as extended-release ones.

Concerta is primarily cycled out of the body through urine. The rate at which an individual eliminates the drug from their system varies. Some people can excrete 97 percent of the drug in one to two days, while others only cycle out 78 percent in the same span of time.

The cause of this variation could involve a number of factors. People have different metabolic rates, body mass indexes, and levels of kidney function. Combined with overall health variations, these all play a role in determining a person’s detox timeline.

While the exact amount of time that Concerta will show up on a drug test can’t be definitively determined, there are rough estimates for what to expect with certain types of tests.

Hair-based analysis

While this form of testing is relatively rare, a hair-based drug test can detect the drug in the follicles for up to 90 days.

Saliva-based analysis

A saliva screening can detect trace amounts of Concerta anywhere from one to three days after use.

Urine-based analysis

The most common form of drug testing, a urine screen can detect the drug for one to three days after use.

Blood-based analysis

This particular testing form is not used commonly for recreational drug screening because saliva, urine, and hair tests are adequately accurate and less expensive. Blood-based screenings are typically used to see if a person who is prescribed a drug is getting the proper dose.


According to a 2016 article from Medpage Today, about a third of those prescribed ADHD medication tested negative for it when their urine was screened, suggesting a good portion of this population is not taking their medication as recommended.

In the study, 4,000 participants gave urine samples. About 28 percent of the participants tested negative for their prescribed ADHD medication. When tested for THC, 20 percent of the participants who tested negative for their prescription tested positive for THC. Cocaine or THC was found in 38 percent of the sample.

This study determined that a good portion of individuals were attempting to self-medicate with other means.

The Bottom Line

Most conventional drug tests will detect Concerta for up to three days after use.


Concerta. ADDitude Magazine. Retrieved February 2019 from

(2016) Concerta. WebMD. Retrieved February 2019 from

(2014) Concerta. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved February 2019 from

(March 2017) Concerta Crash: What Do I Need to Know? Healthline. Retrieved February 2019 from

(September 2018) Data and Statistics About ADHD. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. from

(November 2018) When is Methylphenidate Detectable by Drug Tests? Verywell Mind. Retrieved February 2019 from

(January 2016) Urine Screens Show Patients Don’t Take ADHD Medication. Medpage Today. from

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