Focalin (Dexmethylphenidate): Use, Abuse, And Addiction

Last Updated: June 10, 2020

Authored by Isaak Stotts, LP

Focalin or Dexmethylphenidate is a central nervous system stimulant medically used to treat ADHD. Due to its properties that interact with brain neurotransmitters like dopamine, it can be a highly addictive drug. For this reason, physicians are required to go over any substance abuse or addiction history of the patient before they prescribe Focalin pills.
In high doses, this drug can induce euphoria, increase focus, and give a quick rush of energy to the user known as Focalin high, which has led to widespread Focalin abuse and addiction. This article speaks about the addictive properties of Dexmethylphenidate drugs, their mechanism, statistics related to its abuse, the effects of this drug on the human body, and finally about the treatments for its addiction.

What Is Dexmethylphenidate?

Dexmethylphenidate is a medication that is commonly used to treat ADHD. It is classified as a CNS – Central Nervous System Stimulant – and was approved for medical use in the US in 2001.
Focalin is not identified as a narcotic in the US. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has given a Schedule II status to this drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and addiction. Does Focalin show up on drug test? Yes. While it may not show up during standard drug screening, it does show up in a urine test specifically tested for it.
Looking at the chemical structure of Dexmethylphenidate including Focalin XR generic, it is methylphenidate derivative that is a synthetic sympathomimetic amine. It has central nervous system stimulation properties and works as a Dopamine uptake inhibitor.

How Focalin Pill Looks Like

Dexmethylphenidate comes as capsules and are different in color according to their strength.

  • Focalin XR 5mg – color blue, pill imprint – NVR D5
  • Focalin XR 10mg – color brown, pill imprint – NVR D10
  • Focalin XR 15mg – color green, pill imprint – NVR D15
  • Focalin XR 20mg – color white, pill imprint – NVR D20
  • Focalin XR 30mg – color beige/white, pill imprint – NVR D30
  • Focalin XR 40mg – color green/white, pill imprint – NVR D40

Focalin Drug Use And Abuse Statistics

According to statistics provided by the ClinCalc DrugStats Database regarding ADHD medication Focalin, over 2 million prescriptions of this medication were issued in the US in the year 2016. The availability of this drug in the US keeps increasing, which is an integral part of the abuse potential of a drug.

It is also a relatively cheap medication, with a wholesale cost of a monthly supply being only around $8 within the US, even less with the use of a Focalin coupon.

Focalin Brand, Generic, And Street Names

Dexmethylphenidate is sold under the brand names Focalin and Focalin XR. Following are several manufacturers of Dexmethylphenidate Hydrochloride tablet, generic for Focalin.

  • Novartis (2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg)
  • Abhai Inc  (2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg)
  • Cediprof Inc (5mg, 10mg)
  • Lannett Co Inc (2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg)
  • Novel Labs Inc (2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg)

The common street name or the more informal term for this drug is “Speed.” It is generally used when referring to many different kinds of central nervous system stimulants similar to Focalin such as Amphetamine drug. It is also called “Uppers” or “Ups” due to the increased alertness and the elevation (“upping”) of blood pressure and the heart rate caused by this drug. Other street names for it include dexies, bennies, and crystal if it is mixed with an Amphetamine drug.
different Focalin versions in prescription pills bottles

Focalin ADHD Medication Mechanism of Action

Is Focalin a stimulant? Yes. The physiologic effect of Dexmethylphenidate is the stimulation of the Central Nervous system. The exact mechanism of action in this stimulant drug concerning the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is currently unknown. It appears to block the reuptake of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine and Norepinephrine. When it is consumed as a Dexmethylphenidate HCL ER compound, such as presented in commercial Focalin XR drugs, it leads to a definite increase in motor activity and puts to users into a temporary “euphoric” state.

What Is Focalin Used For?

FDA-approved usage

The primary FDA-approved usage of Dexmethylphenidate is to treat ADHD. To prescribe this medication, the symptoms of the patients must cause clinically significant impairment in their social, academic, and occupational functioning. The approved dosage of this drug varies according to the patient. Focalin XR dosage by weight is a commonly considered factor when prescribing this drug. Other factors include the age of the patient, and also whether they are currently on any Methylphenidate medication. Usually, it is administered twice a day as an oral treatment, at least 4 hours apart.

Off-label usage

Dexmethylphenidate is prescribed as an off label or unapproved treatment for narcolepsy – which is a chronic sleep disorder that causes constant drowsiness. Focalin for adults with narcolepsy supposedly provides positive results due to its brain stimulant properties. Adderall is another stimulant prescribed for narcolepsy. When comparing Focalin vs Adderall, the latter appears to be more effective as a narcolepsy treatment.
Following are a few other off-label uses of Dexmethylphenidate:

  • Treating autism and psychomotor activity of patients in the 6-18 year age group
  • Depression
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Instability

Recreational usage

The high rush of energy or the instant euphoric feeling given by Dexmethylphenidate has led to widespread recreational use of this drug.
Due to the many ways that this drug is being abused and cause addiction, Dexmethylphenidate has become a tightly controlled substance.

Focalin Medicine Use In Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

It is a Category C medication when it comes to pregnancy and breastfeeding. Which means that the substance has shown adverse effects on studies conducted on animal reproduction, yet there are no adequate studies on humans. Pregnant and nursing mothers are advised to use this drug only if its benefits outweigh any potential risks to the baby.

Is Focalin Addictive?

Being a central nervous system stimulant, Focalin XR and other Dexmethylphenidate drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially for those who do not have ADHD.

Physical addiction

The physical addiction or dependence occurs when someone is used to taking Focalin generic pills daily or regularly, and their body becomes dependent on it. Addiction or dependence means that the cells in their central nervous system cannot function the same way without the Focalin generic or other branded drugs in the similar capacity that they have become accustomed to. Following are some of the most common Focalin side effects caused by a physical addiction to the drug.

  • Depression
  • High anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Increase of blood pressure
  • Insomnia

Psychological addiction

This addiction includes emotional or motivational withdrawal symptoms that one may experience after ceasing the use of the drug. Following are some of the signs and symptoms that show one might be having a psychological addiction to Dexmethylphenidate Hydrochloride.

  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Appetite loss
  • Romanticizing the use of the drug
  • Cognitive issues

woman with no appetite

Effects Of Focalin Abuse And Addiction

The effects caused by the regular consumption Dexmethylphenidate differ according to the user, the frequency of consumption, and the dosage.

Physical effects

Prolonged usage of this drug can also lead to adverse cardiovascular effects. Starting from an abnormally increased heart rate can lead to a cardiovascular attack as well. It also leads to causing severe physical Focalin withdrawal symptoms.

Mental effects

The chronic use of a central nervous system stimulant drug leads to both short term and long term changes in the brain of a user. Following are some of the adverse mental effects associated with this drug.

  • Hallucinations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Schizophrenia-like symptoms
  • Depression

Social effects

Following are a few other adverse social effects that addiction to central nervous stimulants may cause.

  • Losing confidence
  • Losing the ability to concentrate
  • Aggression
  • Irritability

Treating And Regulating Focalin Addiction

The recommended treatment to Dexmethylphenidate addiction consists of supportive measures such as protecting the patient against any self-harm or similar behavior. Those who suffer from addiction are advised to go through behavioral therapies in rehabs and to avoid any external stimuli that may aggravate their need to consume the drug. The treatments for addiction also include detoxifying their body and going through an intensive process of therapy, medication, and counseling.

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Published on: June 12th, 2019

Updated on: June 10th, 2020

About Author

Isaak Stotts, LP

Isaak Stotts is an in-house medical writer in AddictionResource. Isaak learned addiction psychology at Aspen University and got a Master's Degree in Arts in Psychology and Addiction Counseling. After graduation, he became a substance abuse counselor, providing individual, group, and family counseling for those who strive to achieve and maintain sobriety and recovery goals.


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