Vyvanse Uses, Effects, Risks & Addiction

Vyvanse is a central nervous stimulant (CNS) drug used to treat ADHD and Binge Eating Disorder (BED). It is a prodrug, meaning it is only effective if ingested. Some people believe that gives it a lower risk for abuse. However, Shire, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Vyvanse, has been fined for false claims.
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What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse (generic name: lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant drug. It is FDA approved to treat:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — ADHD is a mental health disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It affects a person’s ability to function or develop.
  • Binge Eating Disorder (BED) — Binge eating disorder is an eating disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of eating large quantities of food. People with BED often feel out of control and deep shame or guilt after the binge.

Who Manufactures Vyvanse?

Vyvanse addiction and abuse

Vyvanse is manufactured by Shire, the same pharmaceutical company that makes Adderall XR. It comes in chewable tablets or capsules ranging from 10 mg to 70 mg doses. It is the brand name for lisdexamfetamine dimesylate.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health lists Vyvanse in the same group as other amphetamine-based drugs. However, it doesn’t actually contain an active amphetamine. Lisdexamfetamine is a prodrug — meaning that it is inactive until the body metabolizes it.

Vyvanse is only effective if ingested. Therefore, it cannot be injected or snorted. Shire stated in their advertisements that it had a lower abuse liability than it’s active amphetamine-based competitors. However, the Department of Justice found these claims, and others the company made about their drugs, false and fined Shire 56.5 million dollars.

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Vyvanse Effects

Because the body must metabolize it first, Vyvanse takes longer than Adderall and other amphetamine-based drugs to take effect. Effects typically last 10 to 12 hours, while some studies report up to 14 hours. Prescribed doses range from 20 mg to 70 mg.

Vyvanse stimulates your central nervous system and produces several effects, including increased:

  • Alertness
  • Blood pressure
  • Body temperature
  • Breathing rate
  • Energy
  • Focus
  • Heart rate
  • Physical activity

These effects are usually safe, and often beneficial, for individuals with ADHD or binge-eating disorder.

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Recreational users (people without ADHD or binge-eating disorder) may experience feelings of euphoria, hyperfocus, and extreme bursts of energy. This is why Vyvanse has a high risk of abuse.

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Side Effects of Vyvanse

Like virtually all prescription drugs, Vyvanse does come with potential side effects. Common side effects include:

  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and stomach problems
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss

In rare cases, there is a risk of serious side effects like heart attack or stroke with any type of stimulant use. Call your doctor immediately if you or your child experience any symptoms off heart problems including shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting while taking Vyvanse.

Vyvanse Drug Interactions

Vyvanse is known to interact with several different types of drugs. If used with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), severe and possibly fatal effects may occur. Serious adverse effects may occur if taken with:

  • Medicines that increase your heart rate or blood pressure
  • Drugs that increase serotonin
  • Stimulant medications containing amphetamine or dextroamphetamine

Consult with your doctor to get a full list of drugs known to interact with lisdexamfetamine.

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Vyvanse vs. Adderall

Both Vyvanse and Adderall are central nervous system (CNS) stimulants. The DEA classifies them both as Schedule II drugs, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and addiction.

This chart compares the most relevant aspects of each drug:

VyvanseAdderall
Approved to treat:
  • ADHD
  • Binge eating disorder
  • ADHD
  • Narcolepsy
Active ingredients:
  • Lisdexamfetamine
  • Dextroamphetamine (75 percent)
  • Levoamphetamine (25 percent)
Forms available:
  • Extended-release
  • Immediate-release
  • Extended-release
Duration of effects:
  • 10 to 14 hours
  • Immediate-release: 4 to 6 hours
  • Extended-release: 12 hours
Risk of abuse:
  • High, but slightly lower than Adderall
  • High
Methods of abuse:
  • Ingesting
  • Ingesting
  • Snorting
  • Injecting

The main difference between the two drugs is how the body processes them. Dextroamphetamine, the main active ingredient in Adderall, enters the body in an active state, so the effects are more immediate and intense. Lisdexamfetamine, the active ingredient in Vyvanse, enters the body in an inactive state and gets converted to dextroamphetamine.

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Risks of Vyvanse

As mentioned, Vyvanse is a Schedule II controlled substance due to its high risk of abuse and addiction. Lisdexamfetamine can be habit-forming, so it should always be taken exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Vyvanse Abuse

Many students abuse Vyvanse as a “study drug.” They take Vyvanse hoping to gain a competitive advantage by achieving greater levels of focus or by staying up late and “cramming” for a test. Other common study drugs include Adderall, Ritalin, Concerta, and Dexedrine.

Students believe that these “study drugs” will improve their academic performance, however, studies show that students who misuse these drugs actually have lower grades than those who don’t. Prescription drug misuse can lead to a number of serious health risks, including:

  • Addiction
  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Depression
  • Malnutrition
  • Psychosis
  • Strokes
  • Serotonin syndrome
  • Overdose

In addition, since one of the side effects is appetite suppression, many people misuse Vyvanse in order to lose weight. Recreational users also abuse the drug to get high.

Vyvanse Overdose

Vyvanse can cause an overdose if someone takes more than the recommended dose. Symptoms of Vyvanse overdose include:

  • Aggression
  • Coma
  • Dangerously high heart rate
  • Depression
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart problems
  • Chest pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden death

If a Vyvanse overdose isn’t treated quickly by a medical professional, the consequences can be fatal.

Graphic of bottle and pill

Vyvanse and Alcohol

Some individuals mix Vyvanse and alcohol in order to drink more, stay up later, or combine highs. Though there has been no research done on the interaction of Vyvanse and alcohol, and there are no warnings in the Food and Drug Administration Vyvanse medication guide, it is not recommended to mix the two.

Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, whereas Vyvanse is a CNS stimulant. The combination of these two drugs can lead to serious heart issues.

Mixing Vyvanse and alcohol can cause mild short term effects, such as dizziness, high blood pressure, and increased heart rate. Severe and life-threatening effects, such as sudden heart attack or stroke, are also possible.

Pill bottle and skull

Is Vyvanse Addictive?

Vyvanse is considered an addictive substance. Individuals with a prescription, or people who abuse it frequently, can also develop a tolerance, meaning they need more and more of the substance to achieve the same effects.

If someone who has become physically or psychologically dependent on Vyvanse stops using it suddenly, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range from mild to severe depending on a number of factors including the length of use, dose, and health of the patient.

Vyvanse Addiction Symptoms

There are several symptoms, or warning signs, of Vyvanse addiction, including:

  • Using increased doses
  • Failed attempts to reduce or quit the use of Vyvanse
  • Increased amount of time spent obtaining, using, or recovering from Vyvanse
  • Cravings
  • Failure to meet social, educational, or work responsibilities
  • Previous hobbies and social activities get abandoned in favor of Vyvanse use
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Treatment for Vyvanse Addiction

Fortunately, there are several treatment options for anyone suffering from Vyvanse addiction. The most effective treatment options are:

  • Inpatient treatment programs — requires a patient to live in an inpatient treatment facility and undergo intensive treatment that may include physical health care, therapy, or medication-assisted therapy. These programs typically last for 30, 60, or 90-days, but can take longer if necessary.
  • Outpatient treatment programs — are more flexible than inpatient recovery programs. They typically require the patient to attend three to five sessions per week. They may also undergo individual or group counseling and a variety of therapy treatments depending on their situation. Outpatient programs are more effective for people who have high levels of motivation to get sober and need to continue fulfilling family, work, or school obligations throughout recovery.

If you or someone you care about is showing signs of Vyvanse abuse or addiction, it’s time for them to get help. Reach out to a professional to review available treatment options.

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Resources

Goodman, David W. “Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (Vyvanse), a prodrug stimulant for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” P & T: a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management vol. 35,5 (2010): 273-87.

Najib, Jadwiga et al. “Review of Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate in Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Journal of central nervous system disease vol. 9 1179573517728090. 23 Aug. 2017, doi:10.1177/1179573517728090

“Shire Pharmaceuticals LLC to Pay $56.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Relating to Drug Marketing and Promotion Practices.” The United States Department of Justice, 8 Jan. 2016, www.justice.gov/opa/pr/shire-pharmaceuticals-llc-pay-565-million-resolve-false-claims-act-allegations-relating-drug.

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Updated on: August 4, 2020
Author
Michael Bayba
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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