Focalin and Adderall are both stimulant medications used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These manmade medications have a high potential for abuse as they are classified as schedule II controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Thus, they are equal in potency. Also, when high dosages are taken, both substances are capable of inducing euphoria.

Another major similarity between the two medications is that high school and college-age people widely abused them. They flock to these drugs because of the substance’s ability to heighten focus. The properties of these medications can fuel all-night study sessions before the next day’s exam.

Both drugs are perceived to be safe because they are doctor-prescribed. Plus, their abuse does not carry the same stigma of an OxyContin or heroin dependency. They also happened to be two of the most popularly prescribed and profitable drugs in the U.S. with Adderall outpacing Focalin in revenue.

Although they share many similarities, including their ability to produce dependency and addiction, there are some significant differences. Read on to learn more.

What is Focalin?

Focalin is intended to treat (ADHD) in children ages 6 to 12, adolescents, and adults. Focalin comes as tablets with dosages of 2.5 mg (milligrams), 5 mg, and 10 mg. There is also an extended-release (XR) version of the tablet, and it comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg, 35 mg, and 40 mg doses. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved Focalin in 2001.

What is Adderall?

Adderall has been around longer than Focalin and is prescribed more widely. The FDA approved Adderall in 1996. In addition to treating ADHD, the stimulant is also prescribed to treat narcolepsy. Adderall also comes in tablet form, with an immediate release (IR) and extended release (XR) version as well. The IR tablets come in strengths of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg. The extended-release Adderall comes in dosage strengths of 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg. Like Focalin, Adderall is intended for children ages 6-12, adolescents, and adults.

How They are Different

Adderall is comprised of a mix of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine salts, while Focalin is composed of dexmethylphenidate, a stimulant derived from methylphenidate (the substance that comprises other brand name ADHD medicines like Ritalin and Concerta).

Because Adderall is more widely prescribed, there is a lot more research and investigative use of it over Focalin.

Focalin has not been approved by the FDA to treat narcolepsy like Adderall, yet it has been employed under investigative use to treat the sleep disorder. Adderall has been put to investigative use in stroke patients. According to Mental Health Daily, some psychiatrists are considering the testing of Adderall for anxiety disorders.

Duration And Mechanism of Action

Adderall and Focalin — both the immediate and extended-release versions — last in the body the same amount of time: four to six hours for the IR versions and up to 12 hours for the XR versions. Adderall has a far longer elimination half-life of 11 to 13 hours, while Focalin’s half-life is estimated to be at two to 4.5 hours.

Though both medications release the dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters in the brain, they achieve this action through different means. Both medications can make people with ADHD feel more alert, focused, and present. Focalin works by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. This action causes the release of those neurotransmitters, which regulate mood and behavior.

While Adderall is similar in that it also inhibits the reuptake of the norepinephrine and dopamine chemicals, it goes one step further by triggering the release of those same neurotransmitters.

Side Effects

As Psychostimulant Medications, Adderall and Focalin Share Many of the Same Side Effects Such as:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Stomachache

According to, Adderall may also cause nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, and irritability. What’s more, anecdotal evidence abounds that Focalin has a “cleaner” effect than Adderall and produces fewer jitters.

Both are Dangerous When Abused

Still, the similarities between the two medications, particularly as it pertains to their addiction potential, cannot be ignored. Both drugs stimulate the central nervous system and share many of the same attributes of substances in the stimulant class. Upon discontinuation of use, both produce uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms including, sluggishness, sleepiness, excessive fatigue, and lethargy.

Another thing to consider is that when both medications are abused, they manifest patterns or phases, typical of all stimulants, that can keep users locked into a cycle of abuse.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), those phases look like the following:


When the user is actively engaged in taking the drug and experiencing its effect

Early Crash

When the drug effects wear off, and users develop anxiety, depression, and agitation along with intense cravings to reuse

Middle Crash

This is when increased feelings of depression and fatigue set in. At this stage, a user will have a profound need for sleep accompanied by insomnia replaces drug craving. When the user does sleep, it can last for up to 36 hours

Late Crash

After a long sleep, a user can awaken with desperate and intense feelings of hunger and thirst

Protracted Withdrawal

Attempts to maintain sobriety are countered with feelings of fatigue, depression, and suicidal thoughts. This can stay in place for weeks, potentially triggering relapse, which starts the cycle of abuse again

If these symptoms sound familiar, or you suspect that you or a loved one is ensnared in a pattern of Focalin or Adderall abuse, then professional addiction treatment is the only way out.

Adderall and Focalin Treatment

In a professional treatment program for Adderall or Focalin, you will undergo a process called medical detoxification. That’s when the drugs and other toxins are removed from the body safely and comfortably.

Since the withdrawal symptoms of ADHD medications are not severe, your detox can occur on an outpatient basis. However, if you use these medications with alcohol or other drugs, a medically supervised detox program in an inpatient setting is recommended.

Nevertheless, you will be medically supervised throughout to ensure a safe and comfortable process.

You May Also Be Administered Medications to Ease Those Withdrawal Symptoms. They Will Also Stem Any Adderall or Focalin Cravings That Come About. Common Medications Utilized in Treatment Include:

  • Antidepressants to minimize depression/suicidal thoughts
  • Anticonvulsant medications if any seizures are experienced
  • Mild sedatives to combat the symptoms of insomnia
  • Anti-anxiety medication to keep stress levels low

Recovery treatment follows detox. In a professional setting, this phase will offer you the tools and skills necessary to manage your addiction in the long-term while providing resources to help you achieve sustained recovery.

The treatment course for most Focalin or Adderall addictions is therapy and counseling in an outpatient program. In outpatient, you can fulfill the obligations of your daily life while attending therapy and counseling.

If your addiction is severe or you engage in polysubstance abuse, the practice of using more than one substance in an abusive manner at the same time, it is recommended that you attend an inpatient residential program that allows you the opportunity to access a comprehensive slate of treatment services. In residential, you will stay at the treatment facility and receive around-the-clock care and supervision.

If you have a mental health issue (such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder) along with a substance addiction, consider enrolling in a dual diagnosis program, which specializes in treating people with these co-occurring disorders.

Additionally, a therapist or counselor will work with you to tailor a specialized treatment plan to maximize your chances at recovery.

Professional treatment will offer you the ability to choose from a range of treatment options and aftercare programs that include individual counseling, support groups, educational workshops, relapse prevention planning, and various individual therapies.

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