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Strattera vs. Focalin For ADHD: What’s the Difference?

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Strattera and Focalin are two medications approved by the FDA to treat symptoms of ADHD. Though they both treat ADHD symptoms, each has a different mode of action. Focalin is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, and Strattera is an SNRI antidepressant. 

If you are searching for alternatives to CNS stimulants because of a medical condition or because of a substance use disorder, then Strattera or Focalin may be a suitable ADHD treatment. 

This article will explore the key differences between Focalin and Strattera. By the end, you’ll better understand each medication, so you’re more informed when discussing ADHD treatment with your healthcare provider.

Klarity has already connected 30,000+ people with healthcare providers who can diagnose and prescribe ADHD medication online. It’s our mission to make online mental health treatment convenient and cost-effective. 

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This article discusses suicide, suicidal ideation, and self-harm. If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or is in crisis, contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 800-273-8255.

Are Strattera and Focalin the Same Type of Medication?

While Strattera and Focalin are both used to treat ADHD, they are not the same type of medication. Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and Focalin is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Each has a different mode of action in the body.

Access to various treatment options is valuable for patients because not everyone can take the first line of ADHD treatment—CNS stimulants—without complications. People with anxiety, cardiovascular, or substance abuse issues might have adverse reactions to stimulants.

These patients might consider Strattera for ADHD treatment. 

What is Strattera?

Strattera is a selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. It helps elevate levels of norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain’s synapses, where these neurotransmitters help regulate attention, focus, memory, and mood. 

If you can’t take central nervous system stimulants—the first line treatment for ADHD—because of anxiety or cardiovascular issues, Strattera may be a good alternative for you as it is a non-stimulant ADHD treatment

How Does Strattera Work?

As an SNRI, Strattera increases norepinephrine levels in your brain. Specifically, it prevents norepinephrine and serotonin from being absorbed into glial cells, which keeps these neurotransmitters in the synaptic cleft, where they are needed for effective brain cell communication.

Norepinephrine is both a neurotransmitter and hormone that plays a crucial role in your attentiveness, circulation, mood, and sleep-wake cycle. 

Strattera can help to improve your attention span and reduce the impulsiveness or hyperactivity that patients with ADHD may experience. 

Forms and Doses

You can take Strattera by mouth in a capsule form with or without food. Depending on your doctor’s advice, the dosage could be anywhere from 40 mg once a day up to a maximum daily dosage of 100 mg. 

If you’ve tried Strattera and decided it isn’t the proper medication for your symptoms, consult with your doctor before stopping. Stopping Strattera suddenly can cause unwanted withdrawal symptoms. To prevent this, your healthcare provider will prescribe progressively lower and lower doses until it is safe to stop.

What Strattera Treats

Strattera can treat ADHD symptoms like lack of attention or ability to listen, inability to follow through on tasks, disorganization, forgetfulness, and distraction.

SNRIs are primarily antidepressants and are prescribed to treat depression and anxiety. For people with comorbid ADHD, depression, or anxiety, Strattera might be an effective treatment option to treat multiple diagnoses.

What is the Price of Strattera?

Without insurance, 30 capsules of Strattera can cost between $461.87 and $497.57, depending on the dosage and the pharmacy. The payment range should be outlined in your prescription coverage plan if you do have insurance. 

The FDA also recently approved a generic form of Strattera called atomoxetine, which could save you money at the pharmacy. 

Strattera Side Effects

Strattera has some common side effects that include:

  • Increased menstrual cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Irritability 
  • Digestive issues like constipation 
  • Rashes or itchy skin 
  • Impotence
  • Lower sex drive
  • Difficulty orgasming 


You should not take Strattera if you have liver or clinically significant cardiovascular disease. If you develop signs of jaundice or a yellowing of the skin or eyes, that can be a sign of liver damage, and you should stop taking Strattera immediately. 

If you have cardiovascular abnormalities, taking Strattera can result in serious complications like a heart attack or stroke, high blood pressure, or an increased heart rate. 

Additionally, if you experience symptoms of psychosis or mania, aggressive or hostile behavior, you should discontinue using Strattera.

Black Box Warning for Antidepressants 

All antidepressants come with a black box warning from the FDA. In some studies, antidepressants increased suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents. Though these findings weren’t replicated in adult populations, patients need to be aware of the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and monitor accordingly when taking antidepressants.

Drug Interactions

You should always inform your healthcare professional about any drugs (prescription or otherwise), vitamins, or supplements you’re taking prior to starting a new medication. 

Strattera does have 313 drug interactions and 11 disease interactions, which could exacerbate adverse side effects. 

Strattera has major interactions with medications like Lexapro and Prozac and moderate interactions with the following medications— 

  • Abilify
  • Cymbalta
  • Hydroxyzine
  • Seroquel
  • Vyvanse
  • Wellbutrin XL
  • Zoloft 

It’s essential that you consult with your doctor to do a thorough review of your health before beginning Strattera.

Serotonin Syndrome

Taking Strattera alongside other medications that elevate serotonin can cause an adverse, potentially fatal drug reaction called serotonin syndrome. When serotonin levels become too high, the neurotransmitter becomes toxic, leading to the following symptoms—

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Heavy sweating
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of muscle control and coordination 
  • Twitching 
  • Shivering
  • Goosebumps

Serotonin syndrome usually occurs within a few hours of starting a new medication or elevating the dose of your current medication. This reaction can be fatal. Monitor for the following severe symptoms and seek medical care immediately if you experience the following—

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High fever
  • Tremors and seizures
  • Unconsciousness

What is Focalin?

Focalin is a CNS stimulant used to treat ADHD. It is in the same class of medication as Adderall and Ritalin and works similarly. CNS stimulants are the first line of treatment for ADHD symptoms. 

However, CNS stimulants are addictive, schedule II controlled substances, and are heavily regulated by the DEA. You mustn’t share your CNS stimulant prescription with others and should only take it as directed. 

How Does Focalin Work?

Focalin elevates norepinephrine and dopamine levels in the brain’s synapses, which treats the hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive symptoms of ADHD and creates a sense of euphoria or well-being. 

Forms and Doses

As always, you should follow the instructions of your doctor before taking any controlled substance. You’ll find that Focalin is available as both an immediate-release or an extended-release tablet and can be taken with or without food.

If you’ve been prescribed the immediate-release tablet and are new to taking stimulants, you’ll likely start with 2.5 mg twice daily. The maximum daily dose for the immediate-release tablets is 20 mg. 

If you’ve been prescribed extended-release tablets and are new to stimulants, you’ll take 10 mg once a day. Dosage will vary if you’re currently on another stimulant, so you should be sure to inform your doctor if you’re taking any other medications immediately. 

Unlike Strattera, Focalin can be sprinkled into food if you’re unable or don’t like to swallow pills. If you take it with food, you should not chew it and instead swallow it whole in something like applesauce. 

Because Focalin is a controlled substance, you will not be able to stop taking it abruptly and will have to consult with your doctor about how to taper off the use of the medication safely. 

What Focalin Treats

Focalin is primarily prescribed to treat common symptoms of ADHD like impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and inattentiveness. The FDA also approves it for use as a narcolepsy treatment.

What is the Price of Focalin?

If you are paying for Focalin without insurance, you’ll pay around $79 for a supply of 100 2.5 mg tablets depending on the pharmacy. Your payment will vary based on your prescription coverage if you have insurance. 

Focalin Side Effects

Similar to Strattera, Focalin’s side effects also include digestive issues, insomnia, nausea, dry mouth, and dizziness. 

Beyond those shared side effects, people taking Focalin may also experience:

  • Sore throat
  • Heartburn
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Circulation issues
  • Painful prolonged erection


Focalin is a controlled substance and should be taken exactly as instructed by your doctor to avoid misuse or abuse. Because Focalin is a stimulant, it may not be the right medication for you if you have heart-related problems, experience psychosis, have anxiety, or have a history of substance abuse. 

Stimulants can cause strokes, heart attacks, or sudden death if you have high blood pressure or other cardiovascular abnormalities. If you have a history of depression or bipolar disorder, Focalin may cause new or worsening thoughts or behaviors. 

Additionally, you should not take Focalin if you have glaucoma or Tourette’s syndrome. 

Drug Interactions

Focalin interacts with 180 drugs, with 152 moderate and ten minor interactions. For medications frequently checked for interactions, clonidine, Lexapro, Prozac, and Zoloft have moderate interactions with Focalin.

Which ADHD Medication is the Right Choice For You?

While Focalin and other CNS stimulants are typically the first-line treatment for ADHD, they’re not always suitable for everyone. As an SNRI, Strattera is a non-stimulant ADHD treatment option that can also help treat other mental illnesses comorbid with ADHD, like depression and anxiety.

You’ll need to consider your medical history, current medications you take, and other important factors when figuring out which ADHD treatment is best for you. 

Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone. 

How Klarity Helps You Find the Best ADHD Medication

Klarity makes online mental health treatment fast, affordable, and convenient. We connect patients with healthcare providers specializing in diagnosing and prescribing medications for ADHD. 

We’ll connect you with a healthcare provider via a telehealth appointment in 48 hours or less. You’ll be able to skip the long wait times, avoid that commute, and save time and money. Book your visit on Klarity today.


“Dexmethylphenidate (Focalin).” GoodRx.

Gerardo Sison. “Focalin vs. Adderall: Differences, similarities, and which one is better for you.” The Checkup.

“Focalin Interactions.”,focalin.html

John P. Cunha. “Focalin vs Strattera.” RxList.

Juhi Modi. “The Pros and Cons of Strattera—A Nonstimulant medication for ADHD.” BuzzRx.

Larry Silver. “Strattera: ADHD Medication FAQ.” ADDitude Mag.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Serotonin Syndrome.” Mayo Clinic.

“Strattera Interactions.”,strattera.html

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