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What is Focalin and Is This ADHD Medicine Right for You? - Keep Bizzy

So what is Focalin? Focalin is an ADHD medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults. Deciding on a medication for ADHD for you or your child isn’t an easy choice.

Many options are available, though sometimes the drugs aren’t safe for you or your child. For instance, a pre-existing condition could interfere with its safety or effectiveness.

Not to mention, some of the side effects of medications are serious. Thus, you should educate yourself about how Focalin works and any potential side effects or interactions.


What Is Focalin and How is it Used for ADHD?

Ball and Stick Atomic Model of Focalin XR Methylphenidate-enantiomers; what is focalin
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Image: Public Domain US, Ben Mills, via Wikimedia Commons

Focalin is an ADHD medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults. What is Focalin good for age group wise? Researchers have yet to study the effects of Focalin medication on children younger than six years of age.

This particular drug classifies as a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Thus, it alters the levels of certain chemicals in the central nervous system in order to change a person’s behaviors.

In particular, this medication changes a person’s ability to focus. It reduces the prevalence of hyperactivity and impulsivity. It’s beneficial to helping you with your organizational and listening skills as well.

Taking Focalin is similar to taking Ritalin or Daytrana. All of these drugs contain the same active ingredient, dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride.


Dosages of Focalin Available for ADHD

What is Focalin’s perfect dosage? Focalin is an extended-release medication, meaning small amounts of this drug release into you or your child’s system throughout the day. The dosages available are as follows:

  • 5 mg
  • 10 mg
  • 15 mg
  • 20 mg
  • 25 mg
  • 30 mg
  • 35 mg
  • 40 mg

When you or your child start taking the medication, the doctor prescribes a low dosage, to begin with, and gradually increases the dosage until you or your child are taking an amount that’s safe and effective.

Generally, a doctor starts a child on the lowest dosage possible, which is 5 mg once per day. Then, the physician increases this amount by 5 mg each week until you find the correct dosage.


What is Focalin’s Intake Suggestion?

Since researchers haven’t studied amounts over 30 mg per day in children, your kid won’t ever take more than 30 mg per day. If this isn’t effective for your child, the doctor changes the medication or combine it with another drug.

For adults, a doctor begins you with a 10 mg dosage as the lowest amount. If that does isn’t effective, the physician increases the dosage by 10 mg each week until it works for you.  The maximum dosage for adults is 40 mg per day.

Researchers have yet to study dosages higher than 40 mg per day in adults. So, if this amount doesn’t work, a physician prescribes this medication with another drug or switch you to another medication completely.


How to Take Focalin for ADHD

woman taking focalin capsule
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Image: Health image created by Freepik

Focalin is an extended-release medication that comes in a capsule. Inside the capsule are small concentrations of the drug that break down slowly in your body. What is Focalin’s best mode of consumption? When you or your child take this medication, you must either take it whole or sprinkle the contents of the capsule on top of applesauce or pudding.

You can’t chew or crush the contents of the capsule because it can cause an unsafe amount of the medication to enter into your system at one time. Since the drug is a stimulant take it in the morning. It has the potential to cause restlessness if you take it at night.

Sometimes, a physician prescribes two doses daily. You must take them at least four hours from one another.
Generally, the physician discusses a schedule that should work well. He or she then adjust this schedule accordingly based on you or your child’s response to the drug.


What is Focalin’s Side Effects?

Man Sitting in the Sofa with hands on his head Experiecing Side Effects of Taking Focalin for ADHD  
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Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, StockSnap, via Pixabay


Like any medication, Focalin has the potential to cause side effects. However, a majority of people who take this, including children, don’t have any negative effects from the drug.


What is Focalin’s Minor Side Effects?

It’s possible you or your child might have difficulty sleeping when taking this. It’s also possible to experience nausea, headaches, nervousness, dizziness, or anxiety. You might notice a decrease or even a complete loss in your appetite. Weight loss may occur as well. It’s important to tell your physician immediately if you or your child experience any of these side effects.

Taking a stimulant can cause an increase in you or your child’s blood pressure. It’s important to visit the physician regularly to monitor you or your child’s blood pressure. The doctor may recommend purchasing a blood pressure cuff. They do this to monitor blood pressure levels more frequently.


What is Focalin‘s Major Side Effects?

Male Student Sleeping on his bag experiencing Focalin Major Side Effects
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Image: CC 0 by Public Domain, lasobox0, via Pixabay

Although serious side effects are rare, they’re a possibility. For instance, you or your child may develop an issue with your blood flow. Indications of a circulation problem from Focalin include numbness, pain, or coldness in the fingers and toes. You might notice a skin color change as well.

It’s possible to have unusual wounds and an irregular heartbeat. Some people have mental or mood changes like agitation, mood swings, aggression, abnormal thoughts, or even thoughts of suicide. In some cases, you might experience uncontrolled muscle movements like shaking or twitching. You might have sudden outbursts of sounds or words. It’s possible to have a change in your vision.

Heart attack, stroke, fainting, and seizures are possibilities as well. Always seek immediate medical attention if you or your child experience any serious side effects from it.


What is Focalin’s Possibility of Addiction?

Focalin classifies as a federally controlled substance. It’s a Schedule II controlled substance since it has addictive properties but does have a medicinal purpose. Although it’s addictive when you take it as prescribed, it’s more addictive when someone chooses to abuse it. Abuse of Focalin could include taking more than the recommended dosage.

One also does it by tampering with the extended-release system and either ingesting, snorting, or injecting the contents. Generally, your child takes Focalin as prescribed. Then, the physician gradually weans your or him or her off of the drug to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Keep in mind, since Focalin is an addictive substance, you or your child could develop a tolerance to the substance.

Therefore, a physician may need to increase the dosage over time. Additionally, if you or your child has a history of substance abuse or addiction, a physician usually won’t prescribe this medication. A physician also takes into consideration if you or your child have a family history of substance abuse.


What are Focalin’s Main Medical Concerns?

Focalin isn’t safe for everyone. People with certain health concerns shouldn’t take Focalin. For instance, those who have any of the following, you shouldn’t take this medication or another one similar to it:

    • Severe anxiety, agitation, or tension
    • Tics or Tourette’s syndrome
    • Allergy to other stimulants
    • Taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)
    • Glaucoma

This particular medication could harm a developing baby. It’s important if you’re pregnant or nursing, you tell your doctor immediately. The physician may change you to another medication while you’re nursing or pregnant.

On the other hand, the physician may advise you not to breastfeed while you take this medication if the benefits of taking it outweigh the benefits of nursing. Other possible medical conditions that affect the safety and effectiveness of Focalin include:

    • Previous heart attack or stroke
    • Heart or other cardiovascular issues

Behavioral health patients may experience adverse effect when taking Focalin. For instance, this causes aggression or worsen in behavior or thoughts in patients who have bipolar disorder. It could lead to new symptoms in mental health patients as well. For instance, it’s possible to hear voices or become paranoid while taking this.


Possible Drug Interactions with Focalin

Man Talking to his Physician on a Clinic regarding Possible Drug Interactions from Focalin
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Image: CC by 2.0, U.S. Department of Agriculture, via Flickr

Ultimately, Focalin interacts negatively with other medications. It’s important to discuss with your doctor the medications you take while you’re on Focalin.

A physician may decide to switch your medication or alter your dosage or other medications. If you take a medication for depression or anxiety, Focalin could make your depression or anxiety worse.

Do this to avoid the effects of the anxiety or depression medication. In addition, you could experience an adverse reaction when taking an anxiety or depression medication with Focalin.

 For instance, Focalin increases the levels and effects of Lexapro or other depression and anxiety medications. It’s even possible to experience a condition known as serotonin syndrome.

This causes symptoms like seizures, extreme changes in blood pressure, an increased heart rate, blurred vision, incoordination, hallucinations, confusion, or seizures.

You could also experience a drug interaction if you take other stimulants or medications that affect the central nervous system. You might have a negative reaction if you take diphenhydramine or another antihistamine.

It’s possible for Focalin to interact with ibuprofen or medications that contain ibuprofen. Although Focalin has its share of risks, for some people, it manages the symptoms of ADHD well, so the benefits outweigh the risks.

Tips for Getting Kids to Take Medicine

Few childhood memories are worse than the ones where we as children were forced to down those terrible chalky pills for various illnesses, usually the simple cold or flu. So when it comes to a daily pill that a child has to take, they will likely put up a fight, at least at the beginning. This can be a dreaded part of the day for both parents and children, but it shouldn’t have to be. Now that we have answered your question about the drug, what is Focalin’s best way to be taken?

Here are some tips for helping kids take their medicine:

  • When a child is struggling with ADHD, their life now becomes about how adults will control it, and they lose their ability to control so much of what they do. A great way to make taking medicine a more pleasant experience for them is by allowing them to make some choices around this. Things like when they will take their pill, even if it’s something as simple as before or after getting dressed in the morning. Another great way to give them options is by allowing them to choose where they will take it. In the car, at the table, or on the couch. Maybe they want to do it all by themselves instead of having help. Make sure you always supervise but allow them to put it in their mouths and drink it down. These few suggestions, though they seem simple, will give them back some power and make them less prone to fight you every step of the way.
  • Is the pill too large for them to swallow? Having issues swallowing will be a game changer. Just a few bad experiences with this can make the child put up a fight daily. Ask them questions about swallowing if they are giving you trouble, and then adjust to them. Dividing the pill up into smaller parts will allow this process to be smoother, both for you and your child and as it goes down their throat. To avoid choking, allow them to swallow each piece fully before moving on with the rest, and make sure they are always seated upright and never laying down when taking their medicine.
  • Sometimes making your children do things that don’t make any sense to them is necessary. This is part of the hard job of parenting. But if they can understand the purpose of taking this medicine, consider explaining it to them. Tell them the ways it will help them to concentrate, be more alert and focused, and help them on this journey through ADHD. This will make them feel as if they are on a team with you, not like you are a tyrant forcing something on them. They will begin to see that this is for their good, and they may even notice how Focalin is helping them in their daily life, which will help reinforce the importance of taking their medicine. They don’t understand that this is a small task that will help them so much in the long run until you explain it to them.
  • Positivity is key here! Being positive may be the game changer for your child. If you are willing to look at this as a good thing and not a drudgery, your child will follow suit. Remain positive by praising them when they take their medicine without putting up a fight, and remind them that this is not a punishment, but a blessing for their lives. Instead of using threats, give rewards. Positive reinforcement is always the best way to go.
  • As we mentioned before, rewarding your child is a great motivator. Incentives are wonderful things, especially with so much at stake. Star or sticker charts are great tools, as well as some type of points system that will turn into something they have wanted for a long time. If your child wants some more immediate gratification, a treasure chest will small toys, stickers, and candies that they can pick from each day if they take their medicine with no problem is a great motivator as well.
  • Creativity is key! Make this daily task fun. Roleplay with your child, or allow them to use a tea set or their small kitchen things to play make-believe. Maybe get them used to taking medicine and show them it is harmless by allowing them to feed it to a doll or stuffed bear first.
  • Last but not least, see if you can somehow mix this pill up with their food. Check with their doctor to find out if crushing it up and adding it to pudding, applesauce, or yogurt is a good idea. You don’t even need to mix it in, just take a spoon and cover the crushed up medicine (if advisable by your doctor) with one of these foods or another of choice. This is the worst case scenario that will give the child an exciting first taste.

Some medicines cannot be taken during meals or with certain foods, so it is ultra important to ask your child’s physician what the specific restrictions are.

  • If all is cleared with the doctor, a great idea is to follow the medicine with a chaser like juice or chocolate milk. Another good trick is to alternate between the medicine and a food of choice. So if you are breaking the pill into smaller pieces, give them a piece of the pill to swallow and then a piece of fruit or chocolate, then repeat this process until the pill is fully down.
  • So what if your child spits out or throws up their medicine? This will likely happen at least once. If it does, be sure to call their doctor before giving them another dose of it. Some medicines can’t be repeated without it causing harm; others can have a little extra without it being a problem.
  • As a rule of thumb, call the doctor whenever in doubt about medicine. This is nothing to take lightly, so calling will always keep you on the safe side.

Taking medicine can be a daunting task, but it does not have to be if you can get a bit creative with it and look at it from a different perspective!

Final Thoughts on Foclin

Now that we have answered the questions “What is Foclin”, you can decide if it’s right for you. Not everyone experiences the side effects or negatives of Focalin. Only you and your physician can decide if this medication is the right course of action for your ADHD.

Featured Image: Public Domain US, Takaian, via Wikimedia Commons

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