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Snorting or Smoking Focalin – Is It Safe?

Focalin is one of the most addictive medications available by prescription. In fact, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies this ADHD medication as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a high potential for abuse and can cause psychological or physical dependence. 

When the stimulant is abused recreationally, it can cause adverse effects. When the drug is snorted or smoked, its dangers multiply. What’s more, ingesting Focalin in either manner almost always indicates an addiction and professional treatment is needed. 

Ultimately, whether Focalin is snorted, smoked or ingested orally — the standard way — recreational use is highly unsafe.  

What Is Focalin? 

Focalin is intended to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children ages 6 to 12, adolescents, and adults. It is the brand name for dexmethylphenidate, a substance that belongs to a class of medicines called central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. Focalin comes as tablets with dosages of 2.5 mg (milligrams), 5 mg, and 10 mg. There is also an extended-release version of the tablet, and it comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg, 35 mg, and 40 mg doses. 

The immediate release version of Focalin lasts between four to six hours while the extended release form can sustain its effects for up to 12 hours.

Focalin, along with Adderall and Ritalin, is the most commonly prescribed ADHD treatment medication. It is more potent than Ritalin, but it is not an amphetamine like Adderall. 

Focalin works by boosting the dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. A patient with ADHD who uses Focalin will experience improved focus and a decrease in hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, which are indicative of the disorder unchecked.  

When the drug is used at high doses by people without ADHD, it can produce euphoria that feels like an energy rush.  Users report feeling more talkative and socially confident while on the drug. This is especially true when someone smokes or snorts the medication. When Focalin is ingested in this manner, it hits the bloodstream faster, and the effects are felt sooner. But Focalin is capable of producing adverse side effects, such as rapid heartbeat, disorientation, convulsions, and, in some cases, hallucinations. 

Positive effects can become harmful in minutes, if not seconds. Both types of effects can exhibit themselves in a user at the same time. This is even more apparent when the drug is taken in unintended ways, through smoking or snorting.    

What Makes Focalin Abuse Dangerous?

The ingredient that comprises Focalin has been known to produce deadly effects, particularly in young people. Dexmethylphenidate use has been known to cause sudden death in children and teens, especially those with heart problems and defects. Usage could also stunt a child’s growth and ability to gain weight. Adult users have also died from it; some have incurred heart attacks or strokes, particularly those with heart conditions. 

That’s not to mention the common and not-so-common side effects that come with Focalin use. 

Common side effects from this stimulant include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nervousness or jitteriness
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Heartburn
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Drowsiness

Serious side effects from Focalin include:

  • Depression
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Feeling unusually suspicious of others
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Slow or difficult speech
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Weakness or numbness of an arm or leg
  • Skin color change from pale to blue to red in the fingers or toes
  • Unexplained wounds on the fingers or toes
  • Changes in vision or blurred vision
  • Seizures
  • Believing things that are not true
  • Hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • Mood changes
  • Motor tics or verbal tics
  • Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, or eyes
  • Rash
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Purple blotches under the skin
  • Fever
  • Blistering or peeling skin
  • Joint pain
  • Frequent, painful erections in men
  • Numbness, pain, or sensitivity to temperature in the fingers or toes

While Focalin isn’t fatal in overdose, it can produce troubling overdose effects. Those symptoms include:

  • Inappropriate happiness
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Widening of pupils 
  • Unconsciousness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Muscle twitching
  • Uncontrollable shaking of a part of the body
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations (seeing things or hearing voices that do not exist)
  • Sweating
  • Flushing
  • Fever

Why Snorting or Smoking Focalin Is Not Safe

Snorting is the most common way Focalin and other ADHD medications are abused. This type of use was encapsulated in a 2012 New York Times article that profiled high-schoolers who abused ADHD medications: 

The boy exhaled. Before opening the car door, he recalled recently, he twisted open a capsule of orange powder and arranged it in a neat line on the armrest. He leaned over, closed one nostril and snorted it.

Throughout the parking lot, he said, eight of his friends did the same thing.

When someone smokes or snorts a prescription medication, it indicates a substance abuse disorder. Smoking or snorting not only allows a user to ingest a higher dosage of the medication, but it also allows them to experience the drug’s effects more expediently than by conventional, usually oral, means. 

Snorting Dangers

Snorting any drug, not intended for such use, isn’t safe because, in addition to its effects, users can suffer respiratory system damage. Smoking substances can also damage the nasal membranes and cause vomiting, dizziness, shakiness, increased heart rate, and constipation. 

Smoking Dangers

Users smoke Focalin or Adderall by using pipes, tobacco papers, or other paraphernalia. Sometimes they smoke it with substances like marijuana. Smoking any substance can cause health problems of the lungs, mouth, and airways. 

Long-term ingestion can also produce cancers of the throat, larynx, and tongue. Smoking can even produce diseases of the chest like bronchitis, emphysema, and lung cancer. This is in addition to the effects Focalin produces by itself. 

Treatment for Focalin Abuse

If you are smoking or snorting Focalin or even considering the possibility, it is probably an indication of a creeping addiction. Perhaps you are even there already. If you abuse Focalin, the safest, most effective means of getting sober is professional addiction treatment. 

The first step in treating any stimulant addiction is medical detoxification. At this stage, Focalin and other toxins are removed from your body safely and comfortably. Since the withdrawal symptoms of a Focalin addiction are not severe, your detox can occur on an outpatient basis.  Nevertheless, you will be medically supervised throughout to ensure a safe and comfortable process. 

Medications may also be administered to you to ease those withdrawal symptoms. They will also stem any Focalin cravings that arise. Medications commonly used in treatment include: 

  • Antidepressants to minimize depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Anticonvulsant medications if any seizures are experiences during the initial withdrawal process
  • Mild sedatives to combat the symptoms of insomnia, restlessness, and exhaustion
  • Anti-anxiety medication to keep stress levels low and decrease the risk of panic attacks

Recovery treatment follows detox. In a professional treatment setting, this phase will offer you the tools and skills necessary to manage your Focalin addiction in the long-term while providing resources to help you achieve sustained recovery.

A therapist or counselor will work with you to tailor a specialized treatment plan to maximize your chances at recovery. You also can choose from a range of treatment options that include individual counseling, support groups, educational workshops, relapse prevention planning, and various individual therapies. 

Sources

Dexmethylphenidate Oral : Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Pictures, Warnings & Dosing. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-22251-506/dexmethylphenidate-oral/dexmethylphenidate-extended-release-capsule-oral/details

Facts about smoking drugs, harm reduction. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dan247.org.uk/Drugs_Smoking.asp

Focalin: Uses, Dosage, Side Effects & Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.drugs.com/focalin.html

Hartney, E. (n.d.). Is Snorting Drugs More Dangerous? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-snorting-drugs-22107

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