Focalin and Focalin XR

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

Brand Name: Focalin and Focalin XR

Generic Name: dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride


Focalin is a short acting stimulant medication and is available in the following strengths;

  • 2.5 mg

  • 5 mg

  • 10 mg

Because this medication is short acting, one dose is normally given first thing in the morning. Additional doses can be given four to six hours after the first dose.

Focalin XR is an extended release medication and is available in the following strengths:

  • 5 mg

  • 10 mg

  • 15 mg

Since Focalin XR is an extended release medication, it is taken only once per day, generally first thing in the morning.


Focalin and Focalin XR are central nervous system stimulant medications approved for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity (ADHD) for adults and children over the age of 6. The effects of these medications have not been studied for children under the age of six and should not be given to young children.

Before taking Focalin or Focalin XR, you should tell your doctor about any and all of the following health conditions you may have, or if there is a family history of any of the following:

  • Heart disease or congenital heart defect

  • Epilespy other seizure disorder

  • Tics or Tourette's Syndrome

  • Anxiety, Tension, Agitation or any other psychiatric illness

Common Side Effects:

Although the following is not a complete list, below the most common side effects of Focalin and Focalin XR are listed. These medications are generally well tolerated and side effects are minimal. Should side effects last more than a few weeks or interfere with your, or your child's ability to complete daily activities, you should speak with your doctor.

  • Headache

  • Nausea/Stomachache

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Decreased appetite

  • Nervousness

  • Dizziness

In addition to the common side effects, some people may experience delayed or slowing of height and weight, changes in eyesight or blurred vision. There is a chance of seizures while taking Focalin or Focalin XR, however, the risk is minimal if there is no previous history or family history of seizures. If there is a history of seizures, please notify your doctor before you or your child begins taking Focalin or Focalin XR.

Interactions and Warnings:

Focalin and Focalin XR should not be taken with a MAOI (monoamino oxidase inhibitor) or within 14 days of taking an MAOI. Severe hypertension or spikes in blood pressure can result from taking Adderall while taking an MAOI.

There have been some reports of sudden death caused by cardiac problems associated with stimulant medications. You should talk with your doctor about any heart condition or congenital heart defect. It is not known whether the underlying heart condition caused the sudden death in patients using Focalin and Focalin XR or if the medication contributed to the cause of death, however, anyone with a serious heart condition should not take Focalin or Focalin XR.

Stimulant medications can cause a spike in blood pressure and all patients taking stimulant medications should have their blood pressure monitored to make sure increases in blood pressure are not causing additional health problems.

Focalin and Focalin XR can increase agitation and nervousness in patients, and therefore, people with pre-existing psychiatric conditions should be monitored and, if needed, stimulant medication treatment should be discontinued. Some psychiatric conditions, which may worsen with Focalin and Focalin XR use, include: anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression and other mood disorders. For people with bipolar disorder, special care should be taken as stimulant medication can cause a mixed or manic episode.

Some children and adolescents with ADHD show aggressive tendencies and when taking Focalin or Focalin XR should be monitored to make sure aggression is not intensified or increased. Stimulant medications have not been shown to cause aggression or increase aggressive tendencies, however, care should be taken to monitor possible complications.

Some studies have shown an increase in the risk of seizures while on stimulant medication. Most of these patients have either a personal or family history of a seizure disorder, however, it may rarely happen in patients without any history of seizures. The FDA recommends discontinuing stimulant medication if seizures occur.

Studies have also shown there is a temporary slowing of growth in children that are consistently on stimulant medications. Monitoring to make sure children's height and weight are increasing at normal rates is recommended. Stimulant medication may need to be adjusted or temporarily stopped if a child is not growing within normal ranges.

Focalin can interfere with the effectiveness of some other medications. You should let your doctor know if you are taking any other medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins or herbal supplements. Your doctor should be aware if you are taking any of the following;

  • Antidepressant medications

  • MAOI medications

  • Blood thinner medications

  • Medications for blood pressure

  • Cold or allergy medications


Focalin and Focalin XR can cause complications during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breast-feeding. The medication in Focalin and Focalin XR can be passed to your baby through breast milk and can be dangerous to the baby.

In addition, when Focalin or Focalin XR is taken during pregnancy it can cause premature birth, low birth weight or withdrawal symptoms in your newborn.


"Medication Guide: Focalin", 2007, April, Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

"Medication Guide: Focalin XR", 2007, April, Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.