Focalin XR is a prescription-only medication, marketed by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. It is not a weight-loss medication; rather, the drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. The medication does have certain potential side effects, and one of the most prominent happens to be weight loss -- something to be aware of if you or someone you know is taking Focalin XR.
A Stimulant Medication
Focalin XR is an extended-release formulation of dexmethylphenidate, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is classified as a central nervous system stimulant, and effects the brain by blocking the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine -- two key neurotransmitters associated with ADHD. As a stimulant medication, Focalin XR may cause weight loss due to its effect on these brain chemicals.
A Key Side Effect
Although Focalin XR can be effective in controlling the symptoms of ADHD, it also has the potential to suppress appetite. MayoClinic.com reports weight loss as a common side effect of Focalin XR. This is because people taking Focalin XR -- especially those just starting the medication -- may experience reduced appetite, or simply "forget" to eat regular meals when taking their regular once-daily dose of Focalin XR. Having your appetite suppressed, of course, can easily lead to eating fewer calories and hence result in rapid, often pronounced weight loss.
The "XR" in the drug's name refers to the medication's extended-release properties, or the drug's ability to work over time as digestive enzymes slowly break the capsule down. Focalin XR is intended to treat ADHD symptoms throughout the day, and thus can suppress appetite for many more hours than the immediate-release formulation of dexmethylphenidate.
Having ADHD symptoms under control while losing weight at the same time may seem like a good idea -- especially for people who are overweight and want to lose some extra pounds anyway. However, the weight loss induced by Focalin XR's appetite suppressant properties is not a healthy way to lose unwanted pounds. Reduced intake of food without attention to diet can deprive your body of the calories, carbohydrates, protein and nutrients it needs to stay at optimal health. It is crucial to discuss any weight loss experienced by you or someone you know while taking Focalin XR -- especially when a dramatic drop in weight occurs very rapidly.
Like most stimulant-class ADHD medications, dexmethylphenidate has a high potential to be habit-forming, especially when taken regularly. If you have a history of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, you need to discuss this with to your doctor before starting the medication. When used properly, Focalin XR is effective for controlling ADHD symptoms, reports PubMed Health. However, remember that the medication is not a weight-loss drug, and should be taken according to your doctor's instruction only.