Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects of Focalin (Dexmethylphenidate) Abuse

Focalin is a brand-name prescription drug, also available in the generic from dexmethylphenidate. Focalin is available both as an immediate-release drug and as an extended-release medication. Focalin is primarily prescribed to treat ADHD, but it’s occasionally used off-label to treat narcolepsy as well. Focalin is a central nervous system stimulant that speeds-up body processes and causes patients to feel more alert and focused. However, there is a potential for abuse with Focalin that patients should be aware of. This is especially true if a person has a history of substance abuse.

People abuse Focalin primarily because of its effects on the brain. When someone uses Focalin, especially at high recreational doses they may feel a rush of euphoria. Focalin can also create a sense of self-confidence, energy, sociability, and concentration. Focalin and other similar stimulant drugs are often abused by younger people and college students as a way to stay awake for long hours and study or work.

Focalin affects neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine, which is how it creates the effects some people find to be desirable. Symptoms of Focalin abuse can include:

  • Staying awake for long hours
  • Excitability, nervousness, or jitteriness
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
  • Seeming very talkative or more outgoing than usual
  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain or vomiting

If someone is abusing Focalin, the side effects can be severe or deadly. People who abuse large amounts of Focalin may experience paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions. They may become irritable or aggressive, and they may have changes in mood or behavior. Heart attack, seizures or stroke are also possible. The likelihood of severe cardiac effects is higher for someone with a history of heart problems, but they can occur in anyone who is abusing Focalin. Other side effects of Focalin abuse can include damage to the cardiovascular system, dangerous weight loss, high blood pressure, and cerebral hemorrhage.

Focalin abuse isn’t the same as addiction. Focalin abuse occurs whenever a person is using this drug outside of how it’s prescribed. For example, taking a higher dose than prescribed or using Focalin without a prescription is considered to be indicative of abuse. Abuse doesn’t necessarily mean someone has a Focalin addiction, although abuse does often turn into addiction. Focalin addiction occurs with repeated exposure to the drug, which changes the brain’s functionality and pathways. As a result, the use of Focalin becomes compulsive and out-of-control. Signs of Focalin addiction can include preoccupation with the drug and continuing to use it even when there are negative effects. Other signs of Focalin addiction can include doing dangerous things either while on Focalin or while trying to get Focalin, and not meeting responsibilities because of Focalin use. Many people who are addicted to Focalin are also dependent upon it. If someone is dependent upon the drug, they will go through Focalin withdrawal if they suddenly stop using it.

Long-term abuse of Focalin and other stimulants can cause serious mental and physical problems. Cardiovascular problems are common, as are changes in the structure of the brain. People who have abused Focalin over a long period of time may experience organ damage and brain damage. There is an increased chance of seizures and hallucinations. People who chronically abuse Focalin may also experience psychological side effects, such as depression or anxiety. There is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviors with long-term use of Focalin and other stimulants. Over time, with the continual use of Focalin, it becomes difficult for the brain to regulate emotions and experience pleasure on its own. The brain becomes so used to Focalin artificially increasing the levels of certain brain neurotransmitters that it stops producing normal amounts of these chemicals on its own. Without the drug, a person who has regularly been abusing it is likely to feel depressed and have trouble feeling positive emotions. There have even been schizophrenia-like symptoms triggered with the ongoing use of Focalin and other prescription stimulants.

Addiction treatment is accessible at The Recovery Village. We can help you determine the best next step for you or your loved one, including covering the costs of rehab and what to expect in a treatment program. Contact us to learn more.

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