At first glance, Focalin and Adderall are very similar medications. They’re both stimulants that are commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. They are typically administered at similar dosage strengths, and they are both available in immediate-release and extended-release formulations.
However, there are subtle differences, and one medication may be better than the other for certain individuals depending on their condition and response to treatment. Below are some of the factors you may want to consider when talking to your doctor about Focalin vs Adderall.
Mechanisms of Action
It is not fully understood how either Focalin or Adderall work to treat ADHD. However, both act on two neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine. Focalin inhibits norepinephrine and dopamine transporters, which increases the levels of these chemicals in the brain. Adderall inhibits the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine while also triggering the release of more of these chemicals, which increases the overall levels of these chemicals in the brain, much like Focalin.
It’s believed that by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, both Focalin and Adderall help improve attention, focus, and impulse control in individuals with ADHD.
Focalin has been approved by the FDA to treat ADHD only, while Adderall has been approved to treat both ADHD and narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder that causes severe daytime drowsiness and sudden bouts of sleep. As a stimulant, Adderall can help people with narcolepsy stay awake during the day. However, it’s important to note that Adderall should not be used to promote wakefulness or hold off sleep in people who don’t have a sleeping disorder.
In clinical studies, common side effects for Adderall and Focalin have been relatively similar. Some of the most frequently reported side effects of both include headache, loss of appetite, dizziness, nervousness, and difficulty sleeping. Some people who use Adderall have also reported abdominal pain, dry mouth, diarrhea, and irritability.
Keep in mind that side effects vary from individual to individual, so someone who experiences no noticeable side effects when taking Adderall might start having side effects after switching to Focalin, and vice versa.
When comparing Adderall and Focalin, one of the main things many people want to know about is the cost, especially if their insurance provider doesn’t cover either of these ADHD medications. Unfortunately, as brand name drugs, both Focalin and Adderall can be expensive. Focalin tends to be the less expensive of the two: sixty immediate-release tablets usually cost around $90-$100, while the same number of immediate-release Adderall tablets typically cost around $310-$360. Exact prices will vary by pharmacy and dosage strength.
There are generics available for both Focalin and Adderall: they are dexmethylphenidate and amphetamine salt combo, respectively. These forms are typically less expensive, so you may want to ask your doctor if it’s possible to switch to a generic in order to save money. You may also be able to save on brand name ADHD medications by using a pharmaceutical coupon or discount card. To save on Focalin, Adderall and their respective generics search our site.