Home Blog

Focalin Versus Concerta: A Side-by-Side Comparison

Focalin vs Concerta for ADHD
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental condition that affects about 4.4% of adults [1*] in the US. There are varied treatment options for ADHD, including several medications, which makes it possible to tailor treatment plans to the needs of different patients.

In this article, we provide a detailed comparison of Focalin and Concerta. Both medications are approved for ADHD treatment, but they differ in chemical components, available forms and dosages, onset and duration of action, and potency. This overview can help you better understand the therapeutic mechanics and possible side effects of the above-mentioned medications.

Receive a personalized treatment plan for ADHD after a detailed assessment of your symptoms.

What is Focalin?

Focalin [2*] (dexmethylphenidate) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant administered orally to manage ADHD symptoms. It is believed to work by increasing the levels of specific neurotransmitters, mainly dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain. As a result, Focalin decreases inattention and impulsivity in patients with ADHD.

What is Concerta?

Concerta [3*] (methylphenidate) is also a CNS stimulant indicated for ADHD treatment. It increases dopamine and noradrenaline levels in the brain. It provides a calming effect and helps improve concentration, which makes it one of the most popular medications for ADHD treatment.

What is the Difference Between Methylphenidate and Dexmethylphenidate?

Methylphenidate is a stimulant medication that can be administered orally in its hydrochloride form or applied on the skin, depending on your condition. It is mainly sold under the brand names Ritalin [4*] and Concerta. These medications can make you feel active, energized, and excited, although you need to consult a healthcare professional and exercise caution while using them.

Dexmethylphenidate is a more potent isomer [5*] of methylphenidate administered orally to ADHD patients. It is sold mainly under the brand names Focalin and Focalin XR. It is equally effective as methylphenidate in tackling ADHD symptoms at lower doses.

Consult healthcare providers specializing in ADHD treatment online.

Focalin side effects

Focalin vs Concerta: Similarities

Focalin and Concerta are similar in many ways, such as:

  • They belong to the same drug class—CNS stimulants.
  • They are classified as Schedule II drugs under the DEA drugs classification, which reflects their high risk of abuse and dependence.
  • They are available only as oral prescription drugs on the recommendation of licensed healthcare professionals.
  • They are FDA-approved only for ADHD treatment.
  • They impart their therapeutic effects by increasing the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain.
  • They are almost equally effective in managing ADHD symptoms, excluding individual variations in response to a particular drug.
  • Some of their most common side effects include headaches, dry mouth, decreased appetite, weight loss, stomach problems, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Some of their more severe complications include an increased risk of serious cardiovascular events, abrupt increases in blood pressure and heart rate, psychiatric problems, seizures, detrimental effects on blood vessels, visual disturbances, painful and prolonged erections (priapism), and risk of abuse and addiction.
  • They can be used during pregnancy and lactation but only in cases determined by doctors where the benefits outweigh the risks of the medication.

Receive comprehensive personalized recommendations for ADHD treatment at MEDvidi.

Focalin vs Concerta: Differences

Besides many similarities, a few key differences do exist between Focalin and Concerta. Below are some significant differences between the two medications.




Active Ingredient

Dexmethylphenidate Hydrochloride

Methylphenidate Hydrochloride

Inert Ingredients

  • Gelatin

  • Sugar spheres

  • Polyethylene glycol

  • Diethyl citrate

  • Ammonio methacrylate

  • Titanium dioxide

  • Yellow iron oxide (10mg strength)

  • Sodium chloride

  • Sunnic acid

  • Butylated hydroxytoluene

  • Hypromellose

  • Synthetic iron oxides

  • Carnauba wax

Available forms [6*]

  • Immediate-release tablets (Focalin)

  • Extended-release capsules (Focalin XR)

  • Extended-release tablet

Available strengths

  • 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg (Focalin)

  • 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, 30 mg, 35 mg, and 40 mg (Focalin XR)

  • 18 mg, 27 mg, 36 mg, and 54 mg

Dosage frequency

  • Multiple daily dosing (Focalin)

  • Once daily dosing (Focalin XR)

  • Once daily dosing


  • 2x

  • 1x

Onset of action

  • 30 to 60 minutes (Focalin)

  • 1-2 hours (Focalin XR)

  • 1-2 hours

Duration of action

  • 4-6 hours (Focalin)

  • 08-12 hours (Focalin XR)

  • 08-12 hours

Absolute contraindications

  • Known allergy

  • Combined use with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Known allergy

  • Combined use with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Severe anxiety or agitation

  • Tics or Tourette syndrome

  • Glaucoma (raised eye pressure)

Clinically important drug interactions

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Blood pressure medications

  • Halogenated anesthetics

  • Risperidone

  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)

  • Selective serotonin inhibitors (SSRIs)

  • Tricyclic antidepressants

  • Vasopressor agents

  • Blood thinner medications

  • Anti-seizure medications

  • Risperidone

Shapes and Colors of Focalin Versus Concerta

The colors of Focalin and Concerta vary based on their strength. Immediate-release Focalin tablets are D-shaped and include the following options:

  • D 2.5: 2.5 mg, blue.
  • D 5: 5 mg, yellow.
  • D 10: 10 mg, white.

Focalin XR is available in the form of capsules and has the following colors based on the strengths:

  • 5 mg: light blue
  • 10 mg: light caramel
  • 15 mg: green
  • 20 mg: white
  • 25 mg: light blue and white
  • 30 mg: light caramel and white
  • 35 mg: light blue and light caramel
  • 40 mg: green and white

Concerta pills are elliptical or oval with imprinted “alza” and dosage:

  • Alza 18: 18 mg, yellow.
  • Alza 27: 27 mg, gray.
  • Alza 36: 36 mg, white.
  • Alza 54: 54mg, red.

Focalin vs Concerta: Dosage Guidelines

The dosage of Focalin or Concerta is determined by the physician and can vary depending on various factors, including age, medical history, side effects, etc. These medications should be taken exactly as prescribed, and you should not alter them without consulting your doctor.

The usual starting dose of Focalin in adults is 2.5 mg twice a day with a maximum dose of 20 mg per day. Concerta’s recommended initial dosage starts at 18 mg or 36 mg per day for adults and can increase up to a maximum of 72 mg daily.

The Effectiveness of Focalin vs Concerta for ADHD

Focalin is considered a strong medication compared to Concerta because dexmethylphenidate is stronger than methylphenidate [7*] on a mg-to-mg scale. However, clinically there is no significant difference between these medications in alleviating ADHD symptoms. The only difference lies in dosage determination: dexmethylphenidate-based medications are usually prescribed at half the dosage of methylphenidate-based medicines. Note that the effectiveness of each medication can differ from one patient to another, and only a healthcare provider can choose the most appropriate course of treatment and adjust it.


Although both Focalin and Concerta can help manage ADHD, they differ in chemical components, dosage guidelines, and many other aspects discussed in this article. The choice of medication depends on the intensity of your disorder and individual circumstances. We at MEDvidi are ready to assess your health in detail and offer the most suitable personalized treatment plan for ADHD.


+7 sources
  1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
    Source link
  2. Focalin
    Source link
    Source link
    Source link
  5. Dexmethylphenidate
    Source link
  6. Methylphenidate and dexmethylphenidate formulations for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. (2014)
    Source link
  7. Efficacy and safety of extended-release dexmethylphenidate compared with d,l-methylphenidate and placebo in the treatment of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a 12-hour laboratory classroom study. (2008)
    Source link
Show more
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


Prioritize your mental well-being

Consult a healthcare professional online and receive a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Recommended Articles

Join our newsletter

Sign up to receive mental health news and tips delivered right in your inbox every month.


Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.