Focalin is a central nervous system stimulant that is manufactured in three different strengths. Doctors prescribe Focalin for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some consumers may recognize the drug by its generic name: dexmethylphenidate ER. When taken as prescribed, Focalin isn’t likely to be habit-forming; however, by increasing the dose without a doctor’s recommendation, individuals run the risk for dependency. Abuse of stimulants like Focalin is not uncommon; therefore, anyone taking this drug should be aware of its risks.
Focalin: An Overview
In the world of pharmacology, healthcare providers view Focalin as a mild central nervous system stimulant. It’s typically prescribed to treat ADHD in both children and adults because it specifically targets the chemicals in the brain that are associated with impulse control and hyperactivity. Focalin is not prescribed as often as some other drugs used to treat ADHD, like Adderall. This may be because Adderall is available in a wider array of dosing options. Both of these drugs, however, have a risk of abuse and dependency. Because of its risk for abuse and addiction, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Focalin as a Schedule II substance.
Even so, Focalin is twice as strong as many other drugs used to treat ADD/ADHD (like Ritalin), so it is not usually the healthcare provider’s first treatment choice. Focalin is also associated with various side effects like paranoia and blurred vision, but we’ll explore these further on. Though Focalin is primarily prescribed to patients with ADHD (along with recommended behavioral therapy), it is sometimes prescribed to treat narcolepsy.
What Does Focalin Look Like?
Focalin is prescribed in both tablet and capsule form. The capsule (Focalin XR) is produced for extended release. The capsules come in different hues in associated with their dosing. For instance, the blue capsule is 5 mg while the white capsule is 20 mg. The pills are typically white in color. In most cases, doctors prescribe the pills to be taken twice per day. Extended-release Focalin capsules are taken just once daily. When obtaining Focalin from your pharmacy, you may note the presence of a black box on its packaging to indicate its potential for abuse.
How Does Focalin Treat ADHD?
Focalin helps to reduce periods of hyperactivity and improve impulse control in adults and children with ADHD. This may seem contrary to its categorization as a ‘stimulant.’ However, this drug ‘stimulates’ some neurotransmitters in the brain like dopamine and norepinephrine, which are associated with mental focus, alertness, and the ability to sustain motivation and thought. Many people who take Focalin notice its effects in about thirty minutes prior to taking. Some individuals prescribed this medication do not experience its benefits. Others may simply be unable to tell if the drug is doing anything. It’s important to discuss its effects—or lack of effects—with the prescribing physician. If Focalin doesn’t work for an individual, a different medication may.
How Long Does Focalin Remain in the Body?
Most standard drug screening tests do not test for Focalin; however, some types may be used to indicate if the drug is present in the individual’s system, urine, or hair. Focalin, on average, does not stay in the system very long. After three days, it isn’t likely to be noted in the urine. It might linger in hair follicles for up to 90 days, however.
What Are the Side Effects of Focalin?
Before taking Focalin, individuals should discuss its possible side effects with their doctor. Some patients may be at increased risk for certain side effects because of certain health conditions such as coronary-artery disease or bipolar disorder. Doctors may forgo prescribing this drug to individuals with a history of mental illness, a history of substance addiction, heart disease, or glaucoma.
Common side effects associated with Focalin are:
- Stomach upset
- Dry mouth
More serious side effects that can occur with Focalin use include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Blurred vision or other vision changes
- Extreme fatigue
- Weakness in limbs
Anyone experiencing serious side effects should consult with their healthcare provider right away. Emergency care may be required. Focalin should also not be taken with certain medications, so always let your doctor and pharmacist know what other medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) you take.
Abuse of stimulants like Focalin and similar drugs like Adderall and Ritalin is not uncommon. As mentioned, Focalin comes with a black-box warning because of its potential for dependence. A person who takes Focalin at a high dose may feel a rush of energy and a sense of euphoria. Although Focalin promotes increased focus and concentration, it can also leave the user feeling a greater sense of well-being and confidence. These positive and euphoric feelings can pave the way to dependency. People prescribed this drug should not increase its dose without the permission of their doctor or they may be at risk for dependency.
Keep in mind that taking Focalin that is prescribed for someone else, increasing the dose without a doctor’s permission, or crushing it to snort it are all common ways that people abuse this drug. Abusing Focalin can lead to full-blown addiction.
The ‘Smart’ Drugs
Euphoria isn’t the only reason why Focalin is associated with a high risk for abuse. Many people take stimulants like Focalin to help them study— even though they have not been diagnosed with a condition like ADHD. Focalin and similar drugs are sometimes known among high school and college students as “study drugs” and “smart drugs” because they appear to enhance cognitive function. Taking Focalin without a prescription for this purpose is a high-risk behavior that can lead to the development of addiction.
Someone who abuses Focalin can become addicted to it. That’s because drugs (like Focalin) that establish rewarding feelings like euphoria can be addictive. Because Focalin activates pleasure neurotransmitters in the brain, there is the risk of both physical and psychological dependency, leading to addiction. Substance addiction is a chronic disease that requires treatment— professional treatment that rehab centers like FHE Health provide.
Treatment for Focalin Addiction
A person who is addicted to Focalin is unlikely to manage the condition without professional help. Addiction involves multiple dependencies, so it requires multiple methods of treatment. Treatments such as medical detox and pharmacological therapies (designed to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that can trigger cravings to use) target the physical aspects of Focalin addiction. Therapies like individual and group counseling, as well as other evidence-based treatments, target the psychological and behavioral aspects of the addiction.
FHE Health features a full spectrum of behavioral health and addiction treatments for individuals who are addicted to stimulants like Focalin and Focalin XR. If you think you might have a problem with this drug, you can consult FHE Health. Our addiction specialists and mental health experts can assess your condition, helping you determine what types of treatments or therapies are ideal for your specific needs. Remember, no one is immune from addiction. If you have established a pattern of abuse of this drug, you are at risk. With professional help from FHE Health, you can learn to manage your addiction and prevent relapse. Without help, the risk for overdose and progressively worsening addiction symptoms will only increase.
To learn more about how FHE can help you or a loved one manage your abuse or addiction problem, contact FHE Health today.