Focalin is addictive. In fact, the nation’s leading drug enforcement authority likens it to cocaine, opium, and morphine in terms of addiction potential.

Focalin, Ritalin, and Adderall — prescription stimulants that treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — are designated as Schedule II controlled substances, meaning they carry a high potential for abuse that may lead to psychological or physical dependence.

Put another way, Focalin and those other ADHD medications are among the most addictive substances that have a medical use, along with prescription opioids like OxyContin, Percocet, and Dilaudid.

A Focalin addiction does not carry the same stigma as say a prescription opioid or cocaine dependency. That’s because people who abuse ADHD medications use them as study aids, or as a means of attaining high academic or professional achievement. In Western society, productivity and achievement are virtues.

Young people between the ages of 18-25 represent the largest contingent of recreational ADHD drug users. Use among high school-age students is also considerable.

Of the high-schoolers who abused these medications, one student told The New York Times, are “the A students, sometimes the B students, who are trying to get good grades…They’re the quote-unquote good kids, basically”.

“Sky high” prescription revenue sales of ADHD drugs is further confirmation of their social acceptability. In 2016 alone, the combined revenue of Adderall XR, Focalin, and Ritalin was nearly $646 million, according to Statista, a statistics and market research database. Many of those prescriptions are diverted for sale.

For people with ADHD, Focalin, Ritalin, and Adderall produce a calming effect. For those that do not have the disorder, the medications provide them the ‘kick’ needed to power through all-night study sessions and homework assignments. The medication affords them enough energy to remain awake in order to take their exams on the following day.

While the long-term outcome of ADHD drug abuse for young people is not known, the short-term effects can range from uncomfortable to life-threatening. Read on to find out more about the signs and symptoms of Focalin addiction and treatment options.

What is Focalin?

Focalin is the brand name for the manmade central nervous system (CNS) stimulant dexmethylphenidate. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Focalin in 2001; an extended-release version of the medication was approved in 2005. The original Focalin comes in doses of 2.5 mg (milligrams), 5 mg, and 10 mg.

The immediate release version of Focalin lasts between four to six hours while the extended release form can sustain its effect for up to 12 hours, according to

How it Differs From Ritalin and Adderall

Dexmethylphenidate is used to treat ADHD and is derived from methylphenidate, the medication that is marketed under the brand names of Ritalin and Concerta. Because dexmethylphenidate is the more active aspect of methylphenidate, Focalin is twice as strong as Ritalin and Concerta.

Like Adderall, Focalin treats ADHD. However, what differentiates it from Adderall is that it is not an amphetamine, and it has a separate mechanism of action. Adderall also treats narcolepsy. Still, both medications work by boosting the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain. Both also have a similar potency, and when abused, they produce a ‘high’ in users.

How a Focalin Addiction Starts

In fact, like Adderall, prolonged use of Focalin can spur someone to become psychologically dependent. A user could develop a tolerance to Focalin where they will require more of it in order to achieve a previous effect. The abrupt stoppage of the medication can lead to the development of painful and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, prompting someone to resume use.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Whenever a substance is officially sanctioned for having the same addiction potential as cocaine, the consequences of its use are serious. Like other stimulants, when Focalin is taken in excess or ingested in unintended ways (via injection or by snorting), it can produce incredibly dangerous effects.

Signs and Symptoms of Stimulant Addiction

Whenever a substance is officially sanctioned for having the same addiction potential as cocaine, the consequences of its use are serious. Like other stimulants, when Focalin is taken in excess or ingested in unintended ways (via injection or by snorting), it can produce incredibly dangerous effects.

The short-term signs of stimulant abuse include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Increased alertness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Dangerously high body temperatures
  • Seizures (although these are more rare)
  • Depression (as part of the post-high “crash”)

The sign of a growing addiction starts with an established tolerance followed by dependency. That’s when a user’s body adapts to the presence of Focalin. Without it, they will begin to experience withdrawal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, trembling, unusual tiredness, and depression.

When addiction takes hold, they will exhibit visible behavioral signs, which include:

  • Prioritizing Focalin over hobbies, responsibilities, and relationships
  • Inability to perform daily tasks
  • A significant decline in work or school performance
  • Missing money or valuables to pay for Focalin
  • Trying to rationalize or make excuses for using Focalin
  • Lying or being secretive about Focalin use
  • Noticeable lack of concern with personal hygiene and appearance
  • Legal problems resulting from abusing Focalin

If you suspect that you or a loved one has a Focalin addiction, it is imperative that you undergo a medically supervised detox along with therapy and counseling to reverse the course. These services are available in professional addiction treatment.

Focalin Addiction Treatment

Many people opt to stop using addictive substances on their own instead of seeking professional treatment. However, this is a path that often leads to relapse. The withdrawal symptoms, while not life-threatening, can produce enough discomfort to cause them to return to the drug. This is why professional addiction treatment is vital. It’s a medically supervised, clinically sound approach to treating substance addictions.

The first step of professional treatment is a medically supervised detox, where the specific harmful substance and toxins are removed from the body. The stimulant detox and withdrawal process usually aren’t severe. Thus, the procedure can be handled in an outpatient setting. However, you will be subject to medical supervision to ensure a safe and comfortable process.

You may also be administered medications to ease your withdrawal symptoms and ameliorate cravings. Common medications used in treatment include:

  • Antidepressants to minimize the feelings of depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Anticonvulsants in case of seizures that may occur during the initial withdrawal phase
  • Mild sedatives to combat the symptoms of insomnia, restlessness, and exhaustion
  • Anti-anxiety medication to keep stress levels low and lower the risk of panic attacks

After detox, the next step is recovery treatment. A typical recovery program will offer you the tools and skills needed to manage your Focalin addiction over the long haul while providing resources and support networks to help you achieve sustained recovery.

You will work with a therapist or counselor to tailor a treatment plan that will chart the most successful path toward your recovery. You will also be able to choose from a range of treatment options that include individual counseling, support groups, educational workshops, relapse prevention planning, and various individual therapies.

How Dangerous is Focalin?

Do not let the veneer of Focalin as a doctor-prescribed medication fool you. Misuse can be dangerous. While Focalin isn’t fatal in overdose, it can provoke uncomfortable effects.

The overdose symptoms from Focalin include:

  • Inappropriate happiness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Widening of pupils
  • Unconsciousness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Muscle twitching
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Fever

Focalin Statistics

  • According to the 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH),  4.9 million people (1.9% of the population), 12 years or older, used methylphenidate or Focalin for non-medical purposes in their lifetime.
  • In 2016, Focalin and Ritalin generated $282 million in sales revenue, according to Statista.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, emergency department visits involving the non-medical use of ADHD stimulants like Focalin increased from 5,212 to 15,585 visits; those involving adverse reactions increased from 5,085 to 9,181 visits.
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