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ADD & ADHD Center

Dangers of and Alternatives to Focalin

author image Charlotte Waterworth
Based in London, Charlotte Waterworth has been writing about health since 2000. Her work has appeared in trade magazines, including "Independent Community Pharmacist," "Pharmafocus," "Current Drug Discovery" and "Hospital Healthcare Europe." She is a member of the European Medical Writers Association. She holds an honors Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and a doctoral degree in gene therapy, both from Cardiff University.
Dangers of and Alternatives to Focalin
Doctor holding two pill bottles Photo Credit: Saklakova/iStock/Getty Images

Focalin is the brand name for dexmethylphenidate, a prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which was approved by the FDA in 2005. Focalin, like the related drug methylphenidate, works by stimulating the central nervous system. Focalin is contraindicated in patients who have heart disorders, because it may lead to sudden death. notes that Focalin, like other stimulants, can slow a child's growth. There are several other possible treatments for ADHD.

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Strattera is the brand name for the prescription drug, atomoxetine, which works by boosting levels of norepinephrine in the brain. Unlike Focalin, Strattera is not a stimulant. According to, nonstimulant drugs are usually prescribed if stimulants prove ineffective or cause intolerable side effects. Stattera has antidepressant properties so may be a good choice for people who have ADHD and depression. Common side effects include headache, sleepiness, mood swings and nausea.


Adderall is an oral prescription medication for ADHD that combines the drugs, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Like Focalin, it stimulates the central nervous system and it also blocks the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. People who are allergic to amphetamine or dextroamphetamine should not take Adderall. It is also contraindicated in people with heart disease, atherosclerosis, glaucoma, an overactive thyroid or severe anxiety, notes Like all stimulants, Adderall may slow growth. Common side effects include constipation, weight loss, dry mouth and insomnia.


Daytrana, which was approved by the FDA in 2006, is the first skin patch for the treatment of ADHD, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. It is made with methylphenidate, the same drug as Ritalin, and therefore it stimulates the central nervous system. Patients usually apply the Daytrana patch in the morning and leave it in place for 9 hours. Since Daytrana may be habit-forming, patches should not be left in place any longer than the doctor prescribes. Daytrana is not suitable for patients with glaucoma, a heart condition or severe anxiety. Common side effects include nausea, weight loss and a runny nose. The patch may cause red bumps to appear on the skin.

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