Focalin vs Adderall

What is Focalin? What is Focalin used for?

Focalin is a Brand name of a medicine that contains dexmethylphenidate as an active ingredient. Dexmethylphenidate is a dextrorotatory (right-handed) stereoisomer of methylphenidate and it is considered that its potency is approximately double to that of methylphenidate.  This drug is used to treat the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for patients who are at least 6 years of age or older.

It ideally works in conjunction with educational, psychological, behavioral or other forms of treatment. This mild stimulant of the central nervous system affects neurotransmitters in the brain such as dopamine and norepinephrine that may contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.

Focalin can also be used off-label for the treatment of sleep disorder called narcolepsy. Focalin is available in the form of immediate-release tablets in doses of 2.5 mg/5 mg/10 mg and an extended-release capsules as Focalin XR in doses of 5 mg/10 mg/15 mg/20 mg/25 mg/30 mg/35 mg/40 mg.

What is Adderall? What is Adderall used for?

Adderall is a Brand name for a medicine that contains a combination of two stimulant drugs: dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. Both drugs are central nervous system stimulants that work by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain and nerves that may contribute to hyperactivity and impulse control.

Adderall is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy which include excessive sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleepiness during daytime. Adderall is available in the form of immediate-release tablets in doses 5 mg/7.5 mg/10 mg/12.5 mg/15 mg/20 mg/30 mg and an extended-release capsules as Adderall XR in doses of 5 mg/10 mg/15 mg/20 mg/25 mg/30 mg.

How Focalin and Adderall work in the body?

Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine as sypathomimetic non-catechloamine substances are used in combination for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Adderall contains equivalent amounts of amphetamine sulfate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine saccharate and dextroamphetamine sulfate.

Amphetamines works by stimulating release of norepinephrine from central adrenergic receptors. At higher doses, amphetamines may cause dopamine release from the nigrostriatal dopamine systems and the mesocorticolimbic system. Amphetamines are also direct agonist on serotonin’s 5-HT receptors in the brain and may inhibit monoamine oxidase enzyme.

Peripherally, amphetamines may cause norepinephrine release through binding on the nerve terminals of adrenergic alpha- and beta-receptors. Serotonergic pathways modulation may contribute to the calming effects. It acts as a TAAR1 agonist and VMAT2 inhibitor.

Methylphenidate works by blocking dopamine uptake in adrenergic neurons of CNS by blocking carrier dopamine proteins or dopamine transport. This drug causes increased sympathomimetic activity in the brain.

Methylphenidate may indirectly increase neurotransmission of catecholamines by inhibiting the dopamine and norepinephrine transporter, which are responsible for clearing catecholamines from the synapse, particularly in the meso-limbic system and striatum of the brain.

Are Focalin and Adderall the same thing?

Although there are many different options for ADHD and narcolepsy treatment, the two most popular drugs are those that contain methylphenidate or mixed amphetamine salts such as Focalin and Adderall. So, Focalin and Adderall are not the same thing, they are different, however they also have many similarities. Immediate release form of Focalin and immediate release form of Adderall both last for about 4-6 hours after administration.

Their extended release forms (Focalin XR and Adderall XR) have also comparable effect lasting, which is about 12 hours. Their mechanisms of action are similar as they both work by inhibiting reuptake of stimulatory catecholamine neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine increasing their extracellular levels of each, but Adderall also triggers presynaptic release from presynaptic neurons of these neurotransmitters.


However, both products contain chemically different active ingredients, and Adderall is a combination of two active ingredients. Adderall is approved for the treatment of both ADHD and narcolepsy, while Focalin is only approved for the treatment of ADHD and it is often used off-label for narcolepsy treatment.

There are some data of evidence t that Focalin XR may be an effective option for narcolepsy treatment. Focalin’s half-life time in the body is approximately 2.5 to 4 hours while Adderall’s is 11 to 13 hours.

focalin vs adderall for studying

Which drug is more abusive, Focalin or Adderall?

Focalin and Adderall are both categorized in the “Schedule II” list of controlled-substances, which means that these drugs have a high abuse potential and are habit forming.  Many patients may become psychologically dependent after moderate or long-term use of these drugs.

This is because Focalin and Adderall may induce euphoria effects especially when they are taken in high doses. This is caused because of dopamine reuptake inhibition. The biggest problem is that tolerance is usually quickly developed, leading the user to require greater amounts of the drug for achieving the same effect.  If drug intake is suddenly stopped, an abuser may exhibit difficult withdrawal symptoms.

It is considered that Focalin is less popular than Adderall, and it probably is not abused to the same extent.  Adderall is a very popular drug among college students when they are studying, passing tests, and even for weight loss. Also, many partygoers and ravers often use Adderall in order to achieve a fast-induced euphoria.

The abuse of Focalin or Adderall may induce a temporary “stimulant psychosis” which may be characterized by delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized behavior.  Focalin may be less mainstream than Adderall, nevertheless its potential for abuse shouldn’t be discounted.

Focalin side effects

Postmarketing Reports for Focalin:

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Hypersensitivity reactions
  • Rhabdomyolysis

Focalin possible side effectsAdderall possible side effects
Headache (25-39%)Loss of appetite (22-36%)
Abdominal pain (15%)Headache (<26%)
Insomnia (5-17%)Insomnia (12-27%)
Restlessness (12%)Abdominal pain (11-14%)
Anxiety (5-11%)Weight loss (4-11%)
Nausea (9%)Anxiety (8%)
Dyspepsia (5-9%)Emotional lability (2-9%)
Anorexia (5-7%)Vomiting (7%)
Dizziness (6%)Nervousness (6%)
Fever (5%)Tachycardia (6%)
Mood swings (<3%)Diarrhea (2-6%)
Pruritus (<3%)Dizziness (2-7%)
Pharyngolaryngeal pain (4-7%)Fever (5%)
Irritability (5%)Nausea (2-8%)
Depression (<3%)Infection (4%)
Weight loss (4-9%)
Dry mouth (2-4%)
Dyspepsia (2-4%)
Fatigue (2-4%)

Postmarketing Reports:

Cardiovascular Side Effects: cardiomyopathy after chronic amphetamine use, Palpitations;

CNS Side Effects: Psychotic episodes, restlessness, euphoria, irritability, dyskinesia, dysphoria, tremor, tics, aggression, anger, logorrhea, paresthesia, bruxism, depression and dermatillomania,

Eye disorders: blurred vision, mydriasis

Gastrointestinal Side Effects: constipation, unpleasant taste

Allergic: rash, hypersensitivity reactions, urticaria, serious skin rashes (including Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis)

Endocrine Side Effects: changes in libido, Impotence,  frequent/prolonged erections

Skin Side Effects: Alopecia

Vascular disorders: Raynaud phenomenon

Musculoskeletal Side Effects: Rhabdomyolysis

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