Focalin vs Adderall

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For patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), certain drugs that alter the concentrations of neurotransmitters in the brain can help manage symptoms and improve focus and attention. Focalin and Adderall are two such medications used to treat ADHD. They each impact different neurotransmitters in the brain but both have a significant effect on improving concentration, reducing impulsivity, and promoting calmness in patients with ADHD. Focalin is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, increasing levels of dopamine by blocking its reabsorption into the neurons in the brain. Adderall is an amphetamine type medication which increases levels of both dopamine and norepinephrine by stimulating their release into the synaptic cleft where communication between neurons occurs.

What is Focalin?

Dexmethylphenidate (the generic name for Focalin) is a stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), acting primarily on the central nervous system. It was first approved by the FDA in 2001, and it works by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, thereby improving focus, attention span, and reducing impulsive behavior.

On the other hand, Adderall contains two active ingredients: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Like Focalin, it also affects chemicals in the brain that contribute to impulse control and attention span but has a broader effect due its combination of different stimulants.

While both medications are effective at managing ADHD symptoms, they differ slightly in terms of side effects profile. Focalin tends to have fewer side effects than Adderall as it only contains dexmethylphenidate which specifically targets dopamine uptake without affecting serotonin levels significantly. However, as with any medication choice should be based on individual patient need considering factors like specific symptom severity,sensitivity to medication side-effects etc.

What conditions is Focalin approved to treat?

Focalin is approved for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in these contexts:

  • For pediatric patients aged 6 to 17 years

  • For adult patients with ADHD Adderall, on the other hand, is also used for treating ADHD but has a broader application:

  • Treating both children (over the age of 3) and adults with ADHD

  • Used off-label for treating narcolepsy.

How does Focalin help with these illnesses?

Focalin helps to manage attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by increasing the amount of dopamine available in the synapses of the brain. It does this by blocking it from being reabsorbed by the neurons, so levels can be maintained higher for longer periods of time. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, a chemical that acts as a messenger in the brain and throughout the body, that plays an important role in mood, cognition, reward-pleasure system, movement coordination among other things. It is thought that individuals with ADHD have relatively lower levels of dopamine. Therefore, by increasing dopamine, Focalin can limit the negative effects of ADHD and help patients manage their condition and improve focus and attention.

Adderall also increases both dopamine and norepinephrine - another neurotransmitter involved in regulating alertness and attention - availability in your nervous system through similar mechanisms. While both drugs are effective for managing ADHD symptoms they do have different side effect profiles which should be considered when choosing between them.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name for a combination of amphetamine salts that act as central nervous system stimulants, enhancing the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain by reducing their reuptake. Adderall was first approved by the FDA in 1996. As Adderall is not a non-stimulant ADHD medication, it does not work by inhibiting the reuptake of norepinephrine or dopamine in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Its differing mechanism of action means that its side-effect profile is also different from non-stimulant ADHD medications, including Focalin. Specifically, Adderall does not typically cause fatigue, and is less likely to cause upset stomach or decreased appetite (common side effects of non-stimulant ADHD medications like Focalin). The effects of Adderall on dopamine and norepinephrine can be beneficial for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), especially in patients who do not respond well to the “typical” non-stimulant ADHD medications such as Focalin.

What conditions is Adderall approved to treat?

Adderall is a well-recognized stimulant medication used in the treatment of:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day.

How does Adderall help with these illnesses?

Adderall, similar to Focalin, is a stimulant that affects chemicals in the brain and nerves that contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control. It is primarily used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Adderall works by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, thereby enhancing focus, attention, and impulse control. Its action on these neurotransmitters helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of ADHD. Unlike Focalin, which is a single isomer compound and only contains dextromethylphenidate, Adderall is a mixture of different amphetamine salts. This composition makes Adderall a broader spectrum medication, and it may be more effective in some patients. It is often prescribed when a patient does not respond well to other stimulant medications, such as Focalin, or it may be combined with non-stimulant medications.

How effective are both Focalin and Adderall?

Both dexmethylphenidate (Focalin) and mixed amphetamine salts (Adderall) have established histories of success in treating patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and they were initially approved by the FDA within a few years of each other. Since they act on different neurotransmitters, they may be prescribed under different circumstances. The effectiveness of Focalin and Adderall in alleviating symptoms was directly studied in several clinical trials; both drugs exhibited similar efficacy in managing ADHD symptoms as well as similar safety profiles.

A 2005 review demonstrated that Focalin is effective at reducing the severity of ADHD starting from the first week of treatment, that its side effect profile is comparable to other stimulant medications, and it is generally well-tolerated across all age groups. Dosages for optimal efficacy are typically between 10-40mg/day depending on patient response and tolerance.

Similarly, a review indicated that Adderall seems to be more effective than placebo in treating ADHD but has been associated with greater risk for serious cardiac events compared to non-stimulant treatments due to its pharmacology involving norepinephrine reuptake inhibition along with dopamine release promotion. Nonetheless, evidence supports Adderall's use only after or alongside first-line treatments such as methylphenidate products because data confirming its standalone efficacy isn't robust enough yet despite being widely used since late 1990s. However, due to unique pharmacokinetics resulting from mixed optical isomers constitution which might influence individual responses differently from person-to-person based on their genetic makeup & enzyme activity levels - some people who didn’t respond well initially or experienced intolerable side effects might find significant symptom relief upon switching over.

abstract image of a researcher studying a bottle of drug.

At what dose is Focalin typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Focalin range from 2.5–40 mg/day, but many find that 10 mg/day is adequate for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in most people. Children and adolescents may be started on a lower dose such as 2.5-5 mg/day. In either population, the dosage can be increased after a few weeks if there is no response or if symptoms persist. It's important to note that the maximum dosage should not exceed 40 mg/day under any circumstances.

At what dose is Adderall typically prescribed?

Adderall treatment typically begins at a dosage of 5 mg once or twice a day. The dose can then be increased in increments of 5 mg weekly, depending on the patient's response and tolerance to the medication. The maximum recommended daily dose is usually around 40 mg, divided into two doses spaced approximately 4-6 hours apart. If there is no improvement in symptoms after attempting this dosage for several weeks, it may need to be re-evaluated by your healthcare provider. As with all medications, Adderall should be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

What are the most common side effects for Focalin?

Common side effects of Focalin and Adderall include:

  • Nervousness, anxiety
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Stomach upset or pain, nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Dizziness, jitteriness or shaking (tremor)
  • Dry mouth
    -Diarrhea or constipation -Sweating -Decreased libido (sex drive), impotence, difficulty having an orgasm -Rash, itching or hives on the skin.

Please note that these are not all the potential side effects. If you experience any unusual symptoms while taking either medication, it's crucial to contact your healthcare provider immediately.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Focalin?

While both Focalin and Adderall are stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they can have potentially serious side effects, such as:

  • Increased thoughts about suicide or self-harm
  • Signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling in your face, lips, tongue or throat.
  • Changes in vision: blurred vision, eye pain or redness
  • Heart problems: fast or irregular heartbeats, chest pain, shortness of breath
  • Low blood pressure symptoms - light-headedness feeling like you might pass out. -Nervous system reactions - restlessness, tremors and muscle twitches. Severe cases may involve convulsions and fever.

It's important to note that these severe side effects are uncommon but if you experience any of them while taking either Focalin or Adderall, it is crucial that you seek immediate medical attention.

What are the most common side effects for Adderall?

Adderall, a commonly prescribed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can present several side effects. These may include:

  • Dry mouth or unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Digestive issues such as stomach pain, nausea or loss of appetite
  • Nervousness and restlessness leading to sleep problems (insomnia)
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Weight loss due to decreased appetite
  • Tremors or shaking usually in your hands
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Frequent urge to urinate In some cases, it might also cause blurred vision and a rash. More severe but less common side effects could be confusion, agitation, hostility, muscle or joint pain. It is crucial that if any of these symptoms persist or worsen over time, you seek medical advice promptly.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Adderall?

While Adderall is a widely used medication for ADHD, it may cause serious side effects in some people. These could include:

  • Allergic reactions such as hives; swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat; difficulty breathing
  • Mood swings or changes in behavior that are unusual or severe
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure leading to chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting
  • Symptoms indicative of serotonin syndrome like agitation, hallucinations (seeing things), fever, sweating excessively
  • Signs suggestive of circulation problems - numbness/tingling/cold feeling in hands and feet
  • Severe headache along with blurred vision
  • Unusual wounds on fingers/toes.

If you experience any of these symptoms while taking Adderall, immediately seek medical attention.

Contraindications for Focalin and Adderall?

Both Focalin and Adderall, much like other stimulant medications, can potentially exacerbate symptoms of anxiety in some individuals. If you notice a worsening of your anxiety levels or if you experience panic attacks while using these medications, it is crucial to seek immediate medical help.

Neither Focalin nor Adderall should be consumed if you are currently taking or have recently taken monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors. Always inform your physician about any medications that you are on; MAOIs will need approximately two weeks to completely leave the system before starting treatment with either Focalin or Adderall to avoid risky drug interactions.

How much do Focalin and Adderall cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 60 tablets of Adderall (20 mg) averages around $380, which works out to about $6.30/day.
  • The price of 60 capsules (10 mg each) for Focalin is approximately $360, averaging to roughly $6/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Adderall (i.e., 40 mg/day or higher), then brand-name Focalin might be less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please remember that cost should not be your primary factor when choosing which medication is right for you.

As far as generic versions go:

  • Generic Adderall (amphetamine salt combo), at a dose strength of 20mg, can be found in packs up from 30 tablets and above with approximate costs ranging from $0.80 to $2 per day depending on dosage.
  • Generic Focalin (dexmethylphenidate), also available in packs starting from 30 capsules and above, has an average daily cost between $.75 and $2 based on dosages taken.

It's important to note that prices may vary depending upon location, pharmacy used and insurance coverage among other factors.

Popularity of Focalin and Adderall

Dexmethylphenidate, in generic form as well as the brand name Focalin, was estimated to have been prescribed to approximately 2 million people in the US in 2020. Dexmethylphenidate accounted for just over 5% of ADHD medication prescriptions in the US. As a more potent stereoisomer of methylphenidate (Ritalin), dexmethylphenidate has seen an increasing prevalence since its approval by FDA in 2001.

Mixed amphetamine salts, including branded versions such as Adderall, were prescribed to an estimated 16 million people in the USA during 2020. In the US, mixed amphetamine salts account for around a third of all prescriptions for ADHD medication and are used off-label by adults seeking cognitive enhancement or weight loss. The usage of Adderall has also been relatively steady over the last decade with some minor fluctuations year-over-year.


Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine salts) are both stimulants used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They have a long-standing record of efficacy in managing ADHD symptoms, backed by numerous clinical trials proving that they surpass placebo treatments. Sometimes these drugs may be combined or switched depending on the patient's response to treatment.

Both work primarily by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain, but their mechanisms differ slightly. Focalin blocks the reuptake of these neurotransmitters into the pre-synaptic neuron, thus enhancing their effects. On the other hand, Adderall not only blocks reuptake but also promotes release of these neurotransmitters from storage sites within nerve cells.

Focalin is typically given as an option if patients do not respond well to first-line stimulant medications like Adderall or desire shorter-acting control over symptoms due to its shorter duration of action compared to Adderall.

Both Focalin and Adderall are available in generic form which can help with cost savings especially for out-of-pocket payers. The onset times vary between individual patients; therefore it may take some time before noticeable changes occur regarding symptom improvement.

The side effect profile is similar between Focalin and Adderall with common adverse effects including decreased appetite, insomnia, abdominal pain etc., although certain side-effects such as increased heart rate might be more pronounced with Adderall than Focalin due to differences in pharmacological properties. For both drugs when starting treatment or altering dosages close monitoring is essential for detecting any aggravation of symptoms or emergence of new adverse events such as mood swings or suicidal ideation.