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Focalin Review – 11 Things You Didn’t Know

By Michelle Giordano

Reviewed by Rebecca Williams, MD, MA, MB, BChir

Last Updated:

Evidence Based | Overview | Ingredients | Health Benefits | Adverse Effects | Precautions | Price | Directions | Does it Work

Focalin XR is a central nervous system stimulant that is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children as young as 6 years old. ADHD affects 6.1 million children [1] in the United States and 4.4% of the adult population [2].

The inability to focus can hinder our performance at work and impact our obligations at home. Children diagnosed with ADHD suffer from behavioral issues and have very short attention spans which affect their ability to learn material and sustain relationships with other children.

If you or your child are diagnosed with this disorder, your physician may decide to prescribe this medication, but it is important to understand how this medicine works, warnings associated with this drug, and if it might be the right medication for you or your child.


1) Quick Overview

The main ingredient found in Focalin is called dexmethylphenidate, which may decrease hyperactive behavior and impulsivity, and improve a short attention span, which are the hallmark symptoms associated with this condition.

It is important to point out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified Focalin XR as a CII, meaning it is a federally controlled substance that has a high potential for dependence and abuse. Because of this, there are restrictions in place with regard to how many pills a patient may receive and how often the drug may be refilled.

2) How Did Focalin Start?

Focalin XR, which is an extended-release formulation of the drug was approved in May 2005 [3]. It is produced by Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland. They state that their mission is to find ways to improve and prolong people’s lives.


3) Focalin Ingredients

The active ingredient in Focalin XR is dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride. It is available in capsule form. Inactive ingredients that comprise this medication are:

  • Ammonio methacrylate copolymer
  • FD&C Blue #2
  • Gelatin
  • Ink Tan SW – 8010
  • Methacrylic acid copolymer
  • Polyethylene glycol
  • Sugar spheres
  • Talc
  • Titanium dioxide
  • Triethyl citrate

4) Does Focalin Work?

Stimulants, including dexmethylphenidate, help improve symptoms of ADHD by making it easier for a person to control their behavior, avoid distractions and concentrate on tasks. A 2009 placebo-controlled study demonstrated that once-daily dexmethylphenidate XR is effective in improving these types of symptoms and is generally well tolerated.[4]

Successful treatment for ADHD is best achieved when combining medications like Focalin XR with behavioral talk therapy. The National Institutes of Health confirms that the most impactful treatment plans utilize a combination of stimulant medication and therapy.[5]

Treatment with stimulant drugs like Focalin eases ADHD symptoms in about 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children.[6]

Health Benefits

5) Focalin Health Benefits

There are a myriad of benefits that can improve a child or adult’s quality of life when treating ADHD with Focalin. Benefits may include:

  • Ability to focus on a specific task
  • Better academic scores
  • Avoidance of disruptive behaviors
  • Healthy self-image
  • Improved work performance
  • Enhanced social relationships
  • Enriched family life
Adverse Effects

6) Potential Focalin Adverse Effects

The most common side-effects experienced when taking Focalin XR include:

  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability

Although more serious side effects are rare, they are possible. These may include seizures, fainting, hallucinations, blistering or peeling of the skin, and allergic reactions.


7) Precautions of Focalin Use

One of the biggest issues with Focalin is that it can be habit-forming. This is why it is imperative that this medication only be taken when prescribed by a physician. This drug should be avoided in those who have a history of drug abuse, and a patient should be closely monitored if they are taking other controlled substances.

Because Focalin is a stimulant medication, it increases heart rate and can cause the heart to beat with greater force. This can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack or stroke. The use of Focalin should be avoided or carefully monitored in adults or children with hypertension or other cardiac conditions.

Focalin interacts with many medications including certain antidepressants, blood thinners, blood pressure medicines and some seizure medications. It will also interact with decongestants that can be found in many over-the-counter cough and cold products, like Sudafed.


8) Focalin Price

Focalin XR requires a prescription, so the price will depend on your copay with your insurance company. If it is not covered and the doctor feels this is the best therapy to treat an individual’s ADHD symptoms, the prescriber can request authorization from the insurance company so that it will be covered. There are also discounts and coupons available to assist with payment that can be obtained through the pharmacy.


9) Directions For Taking Focalin

One of the advantages of Focalin XR is that it only needs to be taken once daily because of the way the capsule is released in the body. It generally lasts 12 hours and is given in the morning. Because it can suppress appetite, it is important that this medication be taken after the first meal of the day, especially for children so that their nutritional intake is not compromised.

10) What Customers Say About Focalin

"I was on Focalin X.R. when I was age 5. I think it is a good medication learning wise. Still, at the same time, it drains you. It takes your happiness and joy away. It's like you are entirely numb to joy when I'm off it I can't focus. " [Read full review]


"I've had ADHD for a very long time and didn't start taking Focalin until (11th grade) I tried other stimulants in middle school but gave up because disliked the way they made me feel." [Read full review]


"Focalin does the trick in getting you less scatter-brained, and it helps with focus, but be sure you only have ADHD and aren't also autistic and/or have motor tics/nervous tics because it is an amphetamine stimulant drug." [Read full review]


Does it Work

11) Bottom Line – Does It Really Work?

Although Focalin XR has some drawbacks, the benefits that can be obtained from this drug are substantial. Children and Adults suffering from ADHD have great difficulty with day-to-day activities, which can take a huge toll on their quality of life, depending on the severity of the illness.

Our take is that the potential benefits of taking this drug should be weighed against the risks. This should always be assessed in consultation with a physician. Focalin XR has the possibility to vastly improve someone’s situation and help them live a satisfying and productive life.

4/5 - (8 votes)

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