Focalin is a prescription drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 for treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As many as 30 percent of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) also have problems with ADHD. Focalin can help improve symptoms of ADHD in autistic children. Focalin, which is a refined formulation of Ritalin, is also known by the drug name Dexmethylphenidate hydrochloride.
Focalin is not appropriate for people with a history of glaucoma or motor tics. Focalin may not be appropriate for people who suffer from anxiety or agitation. Focalin should be used with caution in people with a history of heart problems, high blood pressure, aggression, drug abuse, seizures, bipolar disorder, or psychotic symptoms.
Focalin is a stimulant. Focalin is believed to work by changing the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain.
How do I take it?
Your doctor will likely begin your child on a low dose of Focalin and increase the dosage gradually in order to avoid side effects. Your doctor should monitor your child’s growth periodically while they are taking Focalin to ensure that the medication is not interfering with normal growth rates.
Focalin is taken orally twice a day. Doses should be taken at least four hours apart. Focalin may be taken with or without food.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions exactly when taking Focalin.
A study published in 2008 followed 124 children and adolescents under age 21 who met criteria for autism spectrum disorders. Of the 398 episodes of stimulant treatment, 69.4 percent were associated with favorable responses. Researchers concluded that stimulants were effective for treating hyperactivity, impulsivity, disinhibition, and inattention.
A study published in 2006 confirmed the finding of previous small studies that stimulants are equally beneficial for children with both autism and ADHD as they are for children with ADHD only.
Stimulants have caused sudden death in children and adolescents with heart defects and other cardiovascular problems. Focalin may interfere with growth in children. Stimulants have caused heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure in adults.
Common side effects of Focalin can include dizziness, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain or upset, headache, diarrhea, restlessness, and insomnia.