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Overview of ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects many children worldwide and can even continue through into adulthood. The condition is characterized by a combination of persistent issues such as being physically hyperactive, having difficulties with concentration, and having impulsive behaviours.

There isn't any medication that can cure ADHD but there are treatments available which help to control the symptoms of the disorder.  


Two of the most commonly prescribed medications that help to manage symptoms of ADHD include Focalin and Ritalin. There are differences between these drugs and knowing them may be helpful when developing a plan of action for managing ADHD in children.


Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) is a mild central nervous system stimulant medication that is similar to Ritalin and is the most commonly used drug to help manage ADHD.

Focalin is actually a modified version of Ritalin where the most active component of the drug is utilized in order to provide patients with the convenience of a rapid onset of the medication without exposing them to the increased risk of developing side effects like those seen with Ritalin.

Side effects with Focalin may still occur and these can include mild issues such as stomach aches, nausea, nervousness, headaches, loss of appetite, and possible weight loss. The medication can also cause sleeping disturbances so it's recommended that it is taken in the morning and early afternoon.

The Focalin capsules can be opened and the contents sprinkled in water or on top of applesauce for individuals who don't like swallowing pills.

Focalin has a longer half-life than Ritalin and its effects can last two to four hours longer than that the latter. This is an advantage since less of the Focalin may be prescribed for an affected individual to experience the same relief in symptoms as a higher dose of Ritalin would.


Ritalin (methylphenidate) is also a mild nervous system stimulant and is among the first medications used to manage patients diagnosed with ADHD.

Possible side effects of Ritalin include those that may be caused by Focalin but can also include dry mouth, blurred vision, constipation, and lightheadedness. The medication may also affect the growth of children and teenagers so their heights need to monitored by the prescribing physician.

Ritalin is the preferred alternative for elderly patients with ADHD or narcolepsy because it's a safer drug than the others for this group of individuals.

Ritalin is currently available in its generic form whereas there are FDA-approved generic versions of Focalin manufactured but may not yet be commercially available due to drug patents and/or drug exclusivity. Therefore, there may be a considerable price difference between the two medications.

This may have an impact on which one is prescribed for patients since not only may it be difficult for a family to afford to pay for it, but medical insurers may also be reluctant to pay more for a drug when a similar one at a cheaper price is available.     

Ritalin is a controlled substance and has been abused by people who wanted to improve their ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. For this reason, patients on Ritalin need to have their prescriptions written out every month by their physicians.

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