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Focalin vs Adderall: Which is Better for ADHD

focalin vs adderall

Choosing a prescription medication drug that works effectively and safely is the first step in managing the symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). To help you with this process, your doctor may prescribe you any of the two medications, namely Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) or Adderall (amphetamine).

Both these medication drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drugs that increase the brain’s norepinephrine levels. This article will tell you the major differences between Focalin vs Adderall drugs and their side effects and dosages.

What are Adderall and Focalin?


This prescription-only medication is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It functions by changing the amount of certain natural chemicals in the brain. This medication drug might help you to pay attention, stay focused, and control abnormal behavior activities.


This is also a prescription-only medication that contains a mixture of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine, which operates by altering chemicals such as norepinephrine and dopamine. It is usually prescribed by a healthcare professional to reduce the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Primary Difference between Focalin and Adderall

Active Ingredients

The active ingredient in Focalin is dexmethylphenidate. It is chemically similar to methylphenidate, and the main ingredient is Ritalin.

The active ingredient in Adderall is called amphetamine or mixed amphetamine salts.

How They Work

Both are classified as central nervous system stimulants. They increase the level of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that send messages between nerve cells.

Increased levels of dopamine and norepinephrine helps improve focus and concentration. However, the drugs used to manage ADHD-related symptoms include non-stimulant medications.

Focalin vs Adderall Side Effects

Like other drugs, both can cause severe side effects. Also, the strongest warning required by the FDA called the black box warning is carried by both of the stimulants.

Misuse of Focalin and Adderall can cause overdose, addiction, stroke, sudden death, or heart attack.


Common side effects of Focalin are:

  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Indigestion
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Hypertension
  • Vision Changes


Common side effects of Adderall such as:

  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach pain or nausea
  • Mood swings
  • Headache
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Impotence
  • Excess sweat
  • Speech problems
  • Vision changes
  • Hypertension

Effectiveness of Adderall and Focalin

Effectiveness of Adderall

Adderall immediate release (IR) starts working after 20 to 30 minutes of ingestion and reaches its peak effectiveness after about 1 to 2 hours. Adderall extended-release (XR) begins after about 30 minutes of consuming it and has a longer-lasting effect.

The half-life of Adderall is typically about 10-13 hours, which means at least two or three days are needed for Adderall to be eliminated from the body.

Effectiveness of Focalin

Focalin and Focalin (ER) start to show their effectiveness after 30 minutes of ingestion. It lasts for approximately 4 hours but, Focalin ER can last for up to 12 hours.

Focalin IR has a half-life of around 2.2 hours. For Focalin ER, it has a half-life of around 3 hours and can vary from 4.5 to 7 hours.


Focalin IR is an oral tablet with 2.5mg, 5mg, and 10mg strengths. Focalin ER is available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, 30mg, 35mg, and 40mg doses.

It can be bought in both brand-name and generic formulations. One can consume it both with or without food, but must not stop taking it suddenly. A healthcare professional will guide you on how to slowly taper off the drug.

Adderall IR is an oral tablet with 5mg, 10mg, 12.5mg, 15mg, 20mg, and 30mg dosage strengths. But Adderall XR is available in 5mg, 10mg, 15mg, 20mg, 25mg, and 30mg capsules. It is also available in both brand-name and generic formulations.

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