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Focalin vs. Adderall: What Are Differences and Similarities?

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The pharmaceutical market is certainly saturated with meds intended to therapy attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or attention deficit disorder (ADD). The number of distinct options is frequently useful for patients that may not react to the first remedy that they try. Although there are a variety of distinct options, the two most well-liked formulations are those comprising mixed amphetamine salts + those comprising methylphenidate.

This guide discusses Focalin vs Adderall meds used to treat ADHD. As stimulants, these meds aid to heighten focus & ultimately lessen impulsivity in those with ADHD. Although the identical way in which they function is unknown, both meds are believed to heighten the effects of norepinephrine & also dopamine in the brain. Certainly, low levels of norepinephrine & dopamine may donate to signs of ADHD.

Focalin vs Adderall

While being in the same drug class, they indeed have some differences in formulation, uses, & side effects. This guide explores everything you need to comprehend about Focalin vs Adderall drugs, the average dose needed, & their working aspects. Continue reading to know which is better for your medical use + cognitive aspirations.

What Is Focalin?

Focalin, manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, is a brand name for the ingredient dexmethylphenidate. Approved in 2005 by the FDA, it’s a med used as part of a treatment program to manage signs of ADHD; in adults & children – more difficulty focusing, regulating actions, & staying still or quiet more often than other individuals who’re the same age. The med is indeed best for adults, children (ages 6 to 12), or adolescents with ADHD, specifically for patients requiring a rapid onset & prolonged duration of the activity, including children requiring a reduction in ADHD signs throughout the school day [1].

Dexmethylphenidate belongs to a class of meds dubbed central nervous system (or CNS) stimulants. It functions by augmenting the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain.

It comprises exclusively the dextrorotatory (right-handed) stereoisomer of methylphenidate, & some regard its potency to be approx. double that of methylphenidate. Furthermore, it’s an isomer, or close relative, of methylphenidate, the active component in Concerta, Metadate, Ritalin, & Daytrana. It’s also available for sale in generic versions, including generic Focalin XR launched by Camber Pharma [2].

What Is Adderall?

Adderall has existed longer than Focalin. The FDA authorized it in 1996. Adderall is a mix of dextroamphetamine & amphetamine that’s administered as part of a therapy program to control signs of ADHD in adults & children 3+ years of age. Certainly, Adderall XR is administered to treat ADHD in adults & children 6+ years of age. Mydayis is used to therapy ADHD in adults & children 13+ years of age. Mydayis is certainly formulated to last up to 16 hours; Adderall solely lasts up to 12 hours.

Adderall is also used to therapy narcolepsy (a sleep illness that induces excessive daytime sleepiness & premature attacks of sleep) in adults & also children 12+ years of age. Furthermore, Adderall may heighten depression signs for a short time by augmenting energy levels, mood, + the capability to focus.

Adderall Pills

Adderall also belongs to the CNS stimulants class of meds. It functions by altering the amounts of certain natural substances in the brain. Further, the med helps to ameliorate energy levels & augment wakefulness, which could aid individuals with narcolepsy. As the med can heighten levels of focus, some individuals use it off-label to enhance their performance in sports & study + other cognitive & productivity purposes.

Adderall operates by augmenting dopamine & norepinephrine levels in the CNS. Norepinephrine certainly influences how the brain reacts to events, specifically how it pays attention & the swiftness at which it reacts to outside stimuli. Besides, dopamine, the body’s “feel good” chemical, superbly creates a rewarding impact.

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Focalin vs Adderall: Difference Between…

The forthright difference between Focalin and Adderall is that the former constitutes the dextrorotatory stereoisomer of methylphenidate. And Adderall isn’t derived from methylphenidate; instead, it’s a remarkable formulation of eclectic amphetamine salts (e.g., 75% dextroamphetamine / 25% levoamphetamine). Both meds are efficacious for the therapy of ADHD and are thought first-line alternatives.

Adderall has obtained authorization to therapy narcolepsy, whereas Focalin isn’t approved for it. That stated, there is some proof to indicate that Focalin XR may be an efficacious option. Their mode of action is slightly distinct due to the active components. Both stimulants are believed to hinder the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, but Adderall also triggers the presynaptic release of these neurotransmitters from the presynaptic neurons.

Let’s further discuss other differences between dosage, side effects, & getting high on these meds:


Dosage conversion should not be done without the help of a doctor. It’s indeed very essential. Focalin comes as tablets with immediate release (IR) dosages of 2.5 mg (milligrams), 5 mg, & also 10 mg. Besides, there’s also an extended-release (XR) version of the pill, & it comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg, 35 mg, & 40 mg doses.

Adderall is also obtainable in tablet form, with an IR as well as an XR version. The IR tabs certainly come in strengths of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, & 30 mg. The extended-release Adderall comes in dosage strengths of 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, & also 30 mg.

The duration of effect for the IR & XR versions of each med varies. IR lasts for about 4 to 6 hours, while XR last approx. 12 or so hours. All these meds are also available in generic versions.

With regard to formats, the meds are very alike. However, individuals popping Adderall IR may have an effortless time titrating dosages than those administering Focalin IR, due to the reality that they have more options & move up in increments of 2.5 mg for a longer span.

Focalin XR offers a 35 mg & a 40 mg dose – which Adderall XR doesn’t. That mentioned, some would argue that making Adderall XR at a greater dose strength than 30 mg is indeed unnecessary due to its heightened potency.

Side Effects

Pills Side Effects

If you take both meds for ADHD or other purposes, it’s influential to be aware of the possible negative effects. Effects can be extremely positive when both products are administered as intended. However, for individuals without ADHD who use these meds without medical supervision, the effects can certainly be dangerous.

As psychostimulant meds, Adderall & Focalin share many identical negative effects, such as:

  • decreased appetite;
  • stomachache;
  • dizziness;
  • nervousness;
  • insomnia.

According to, Adderall may also induce diarrhea, fever, headache, dry mouth, irritability, nausea, & vomiting. Further, subjective, anecdotal reports suggested that Focalin may certainly have a cleaner impact than Adderall & ultimately produce fewer jitters [3]. The negative effects of both meds are more probable at higher dosages.

Furthermore, Focalin & Adderall are controlled substances having a high potential for addiction & abuse. Both meds are categorized as Schedule II meds by the DEA. Administering these meds long-term can ultimately heighten the peril of abuse & also dependence, particularly if they are administered outside their prescribed dosage. These meds should only be administered under the counseling of a doctor.

Getting ‘High’

The original Focalin aroused an effect lasting approx. 4 to 6 hours. It wasn’t until 2008 that Novartis Pharma engineered an XR version designed to offer a sustained psychostimulant outcome for up to 12 hours. The IR form of Focalin is equal to Adderall IR, & the XR Focalin is equal to Adderall XR. Snorting these meds isn’t recommended.

Although dopamine transpires naturally, meds like Adderall certainly produce unnaturally high levels of it. This can induce users to come back for more.

When administered at typical doses for health issues like ADHD, Adderall doesn’t ordinarily induce a feeling of being high. Some individuals popping Adderall may undergo feelings of being energetic, excited, focused, or self-confident. Feelings of euphoria also sometimes happen. These effects are more probable when the med is misused or abused. When these meds are used at high doses, they can ultimately produce a euphoria that certainly feels like an energy rush. Some individuals can have a feeling of becoming more talkative & socially confident while on the med.

Comparing Adderall and Focalin for 3 Common Uses

Aside from treating ADHD, can these meds be useful in powering your brain function for cognitive purposes? How are they similar in treating ADHD & weight loss? Let’s find out if these meds are good for the following purposes.

Increasing Focus for Studying

Young Woman Studying

Both meds heighten the effectiveness of norepinephrine, but while Focalin remarkably targets the brain’s usage of dopamine, Adderall greatly targets serotonin. Both are used to heighten alertness, attention, & energy. Certainly, Adderall is a popular med among college students for studying & passing tests. However, neither med will make you smarter, but they will certainly aid you to work longer & more effectively.

According to recreational Adderall use, it offers you more energy & a heightened state of alertness. Both meds aid to heighten their reputation as “study drugs” that improve academic performance & ultimately get them via those long, late nights of studying. They give you an almost hyper-focus that ultimately disconnects you from any other task & prevents multitasking.

Overall, your capability to pay attention, motivation, remain focused on an activity, & superbly control behavior challenges are all areas that these meds will cover. Also, your listening skills may ameliorate; there is a potential that they will aid stop fidgeting, & maybe assist to organize tasks better, especially when studying.

ADHD Treatment

Focalin is used to therapy ADHD in adults & children 6 years & older, while Adderall can be used to treat ADHD in adults + children 3 years & older. The contents of Focalin XR & Adderall XR capsules can also be sprinkled on applesauce for uncomplicated administration in children with ADHD.

Adderall is also FDA-authorized to remedy narcolepsy, while Focalin isn’t authorized for narcolepsy, although, as a robust stimulant, it may have some off-label use for this purpose. Be prudent to talk with a doctor before switching to the best drug for your condition.

Certainly, everyone taking meds to treat ADHD necessitate comprehending whether the med they’re using is regarded as the most efficacious option. Regardless, both Focalin and Adderall are highly robust options & are contemplated as being significantly more efficacious. This is why they were authorized for this condition by the FDA.

Weight Loss

Nearly any psychostimulant med, like Adderall & Focalin, will speed up the metabolism & ultimately aid an individual to lose weight over the short term. Sometimes the weight loss is indeed so influential, making you feel like you’ve become a completely new person. Nonetheless, weight loss from Adderall should never be used as a beneficial long-term weight loss plan.

Weight Loss

Besides losing weight on Adderall, many people also experience a lower body mass index (BMI). In this regard, Adderall augments the level of the stimulatory neurotransmitter “dopamine” in the brain. This is a neurotransmitter that’s involved in movement, motivation, & satisfaction. When taking this med, it sends a signal that you’re indeed satisfied – leading to a lessened appetite. This is similar to Focalin. Having your appetite suppressed can ultimately easily lead to eating lesser calories & hence result in rapid weight loss.

Don’t just take Adderall or Focalin for test purposes without an OK from a doctor.

Focalin vs Adderall – Which One Is Better for You?

So far, we have covered everything about Focalin vs Adderall. In a nutshell, both products are indeed equivalent & efficacious as a treatment option for ADHD & other off-label uses such as weight loss & cognitive aspects. However, studies & reviews depict that Focalin is indeed better for treating children & adolescents, while Adderall is superbly most suitable for treating adults with ADHD [4]. Both meds are obtainable for sale in IR and XR versions. Which is better depends on your preference and response to any of these meds. As a rule of thumb, always consult your physician for the best remedy option for you. Don’t self-medicate.


  1. Dexmethylphenidate extended release: a review of its use in the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. By Marit D. Moen, and Susan J. Keam. Published: December 2009.
  2. Camber Pharma Launches Generic Focalin XR®. Published: January 26, 2022.
  3. Focalin vs Adderall: What’s the difference? Medically reviewed by Last updated: August 24, 2022.
  4. Comparative efficacy and tolerability of medications for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, adolescents, and adults: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. By Samuele Cortese, Nicoletta Adamo, Cinzia Del Giovane, Christina Mohr-Jensen, Adrian J. Hayes, Sara Carucci, et al. Published: August 07, 2018.