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Vyvanse vs. Focalin


Vyvanse vs. Focalin

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Choosing an ADHD medication can be confusing, especially when so many of them have similar active ingredients and effects on the brain. The trick is to examine what symptoms each medication treats, their side effects, and contraindicated medications and conditions. These details will help you and your health care provider choose between similar drugs, like Vyvanse and Focalin.   

Stimulant medications like Vyvanse and Focalin are popular for regulating the symptoms of ADHD. They work by increasing the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which governs certain cognitive functions and reduces ADHD symptoms.

Though Focalin and Vyvanse have similar effects on the brain and body, one may work better for you than the other, based on the type of ADHD you have, your body chemistry, and your medical history. In this article, we thoroughly compare these medications to help determine which one is right for you.  

If you want to get in front of an ADHD specialist within the next 48 hours, schedule an appointment today.

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse (active ingredient: lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is a time-released stimulant used to treat ADHD by targeting neurotransmitters in the brain that control impulsivity, hyperactivity, and focus. It was approved for use by the FDA in 2007 and is considered a schedule II controlled substance by the federal government. 

Forms and Dosages

Vyvanse is a prodrug, meaning it doesn’t activate in the body until it is processed by the liver. Because it also takes longer to process in the body, Vyvanse has a lower risk of abuse and addiction than ADHD medications like Adderall and Ritalin. 

Vyvanse comes in 5 mg, 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg, 60 mg, and the max dosage of 70 mg, and also comes in chewable tablets that follow the same dosage guidelines. This ADHD medication is taken first thing in the morning with or without food. Do not take Vyvanse anytime after 12 PM as it may interfere with your sleep pattern. Capsules should not be crushed or chewed. 

Conditions Treated

Vyvanse is FDA-approved to treat ADHD and some sleeping disorders like narcolepsy. It is also approved for use in those with binge eating disorder (BED).


Vyvanse is currently only in branded form and does not offer a generic version. This is one of the costlier ADHD medications on the market, with a one-month supply of 30 mg Vyvanse fetching between $400 and $450 outside of a health insurance plan. For more information on pricing under your current health insurance plan, contact your provider’s pharmacy department.

Side Effects

Most people taking Vyvanse do not experience side effects due to the more subtle nature of this medication’s delivery system. Common side effects of Vyvanse include but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Upper stomach pain

Less common but more severe side effects of Vyvanse include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Muscle twitching
  • Uncontrolled movements
  • Blood flow problems in the fingers and toes
  • Swelling in the ankles and feet
  • Rapid and unexplained weight loss
  • Mood changes, including aggression and depression

Warnings and Drug Interactions

Vyvanse is a federally scheduled controlled substance. Those struggling with substance abuse issues should speak with a healthcare provider before taking this medication. If you have had or are currently suffering from the following conditions, you should speak with your healthcare provider before taking Vyvanse:

  • Heart abnormalities
  • Circulation issues
  • Mental health issues
  • History of substance abuse

What is Focalin?

Focalin (active ingredient: dexmethylphenidate HCL) is a central nervous system stimulant primarily used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, adolescents, and adults. This stimulant works by affecting the neurotransmitters in the brain that control hyperactivity, focus, and impulse control. Focalin contains similar active ingredients as Daytrana and Ritalin. 

Forms and Dosages

When methylphenidate is produced, it’s possible to produce four different kinds of this chemical by rearranging the methylphenidate atoms. These arrangements are called isomers. Of the four possible methylphenidate isomers, only one has any benefits in targeting ADHD symptoms, while the other four actually make ADHD worse. This single active, beneficial isomer was brought to market as Focalin IR (immediate-release) and Focalin XR (extended-release).

Research has shown that having the only active isomer in a medication like Focalin works better and with fewer side effects than other methylphenidate delivery systems like Ritalin.

Focalin capsules come in 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg, 35 mg, and 40 mg dosages. Focalin is the first ADHD medication that did not come with arbitrary dosage maximums from the FDA. It is considered twice as strong on a milligram vs. milligram basis as drugs like Ritalin and Concerta.

Conditions Treated

Focalin is FDA-approved for use in individuals with ADHD and narcolepsy. 


Brand and generic forms of Focalin are currently available on the market. If you do not have health insurance, a one-month supply of Focalin costs approximately $250 for a 10 mg prescription. Online manufacturer coupons may knock that price down substantially for your first month’s supply. For more information on accurate pricing under your health insurance plan, contact your provider’s pharmacy department.

Side Effects

Side effects of Focalin include but are not limited to:

  • Stomach ache
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headache
  • Serious allergic reaction
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Blurred vision
  • Priapism

Warnings and Drug Interactions

Focalin is a stimulant that can cause health complications for individuals with heart abnormalities, high blood pressure, and circulation issues. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience palpitations, chest pain, or any other sign of heart problems. 

Focalin has the potential for abuse and addiction. Those who’ve struggled with mental health issues in the past or currently should speak openly and honestly with their healthcare provider before taking this medication. For more information on Focalin’s warnings and drug interactions, read your prescription’s accompanying literature and speak with an ADHD specialist who can explain the pros and cons of this medication. 

Which is More Effective? Vyvanse or Focalin?

Vyvanse and Focalin are very similar in the way they target ADHD symptoms, but they can have drastically different effects on your specific type of ADHD. The best way to find a medication that fits your ADHD and lifestyle is to speak with a healthcare provider who knows your medical history and who can prescribe an effective ADHD medication. 

See ADHD Providers Online Today at Klarity

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Starting at just $25 per month, you’ll receive professional medication management care without ever leaving the comfort of your home.
Take a free self-evaluation or schedule an appointment with an ADHD specialist on Klarity.

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