Updated on April 8, 2024
8 min read

Vyvanse Uses, Effects, Risks & Addiction

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Binge Eating Disorder (BED) can be challenging to manage. Vyvanse (generic name lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) is a medication that can be helpful for some, offering focus and control. 

It's important to understand that it's a powerful stimulant and, like any potent medication, carries potential risks. It's FDA-approved for treating ADHD and BED, but its effects on the brain can make people susceptible to misuse and addiction.2,3,4 It's crucial to use Vyvanse responsibly and under the guidance of your doctor.

Is Vyvanse Addictive?

Yes, Vyvanse can be addictive. As a stimulant medication, it increases dopamine in the brain. This dopamine boost helps control focus and attention, but it can also create pleasurable feelings that some people might crave and seek to repeat. This repetition can lead to dependence, tolerance (needing higher doses), and ultimately, addiction.

Children who are being treated for ADHD should also be monitored closely for any side effects or symptoms of dependence. Maintaining open and honest communication with your kids is vital to knowing if they’re struggling with addiction.

Why Do People Misuse Vyvanse?

Many students misuse Vyvanse as a "study drug" to enhance focus and stay awake while studying. This is dangerous because of the medication’s addiction risk.

Although it might feel like Vyvanse helps in the moment, research suggests it can actually hinder how well your brain absorbs and remembers information over time.10

If you have a child in school, it's important to be aware of the potential misuse of Vyvanse and similar drugs. Let your child know they can come to you if they're struggling with focus or feeling academic pressure.

You can also work together to explore healthy study strategies and stress-management techniques and seek professional support if needed.

How Common is Vyvanse Addiction?

Vyvanse abuse is becoming increasingly common, especially among young adults. A study found that as many as 1 in 6 college students use this prescription stimulant.11

However, Vyvanse's unique formulation may lower the risk of misuse and abuse compared to other prescription stimulants. Its inactive state prevents it from activating immediately, providing an extra layer between its users and potential harm.

It’s also an extended-release drug, so the body slowly absorbs it. However, Vyvanse causes tolerance, dependence, and addictive behavior when taken regularly. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Vyvanse Addiction?

These are some symptoms or warning signs of Vyvanse addiction:

  • Taking Vyvanse in larger doses or more often than prescribed
  • Unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce Vyvanse use
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Spending excessive amounts of time trying to obtain, use, or recover from Vyvanse
  • Neglecting responsibilities at work, school, or home due to Vyvanse use
  • Continuing to use Vyvanse despite the negative consequences

If you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, contact medical services immediately.

What Are Vyvanse Withdrawal Symptoms?

Stopping Vyvanse after prolonged use can lead to withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on many factors like the length of use, dose, and your health.

While withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, knowing what to expect can be helpful. Here are withdrawal symptoms you might experience (they typically occur within a week after discontinuation):

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Worsened ADHD symptoms
  • Headaches
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Body aches and shakiness
  • Strong cravings for Vyvanse

Everyone experiences withdrawal differently. Symptoms usually start within a day or two of stopping Vyvanse and can last for varying lengths of time.

While not typically life-threatening, the emotional aspects of withdrawal (like depression) can be very challenging. We encourage seeking professional support to help you cope with symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.

What Are the Signs of a Vyvanse Overdose?

Addiction can make an overdose more likely to happen. A Vyvanse overdose occurs if you take more than the prescribed dose.

Symptoms of Vyvanse overdose include:

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

If a medical professional doesn’t treat a Vyvanse overdose quickly, the consequences can be fatal. If you suspect that you or a loved one are suffering from an overdose, call emergency services immediately.

Remember to be honest about what you or your loved one took so professionals can respond appropriately.

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What Are the Side Effects of Vyvanse?

While Vyvanse carries potential side effects even when used as prescribed, addiction can worsen these risks:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks
  • Impaired judgment
  • Mood swings
  • Weight loss
  • Potential for overdose

Vyvanse can have significant health consequences, especially when misused. In rare cases, it can even trigger a heart attack or stroke. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting while taking Vyvanse, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Addiction is a serious condition, but it's important to remember that recovery is possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with Vyvanse addiction, don't hesitate to reach out for help.

Is Vyvanse a Safer Option Compared to Adderall?

Both Vyvanse and Adderall are powerful stimulants that carry the risk of misuse and addiction. While they work differently in the body, it's important to remember that neither is inherently "safer" than the other.

Both medications can lead to addiction and share common side effects. The difference is that Vyvanse is processed slowly by your body, making it less likely to be abused through snorting or injecting. However, oral misuse can still lead to addiction.

This chart compares the most relevant aspects of each drug:

VyvanseAdderall
Approved to treatADHDBinge-eating disorder (BED)ADHDNarcolepsy
Active ingredientsLisdexamfetamineDextroamphetamine (75%)
Levoamphetamine (25%)
Forms availableExtended-releaseImmediate-release
Extended-release
Duration of effects10 to 14 hoursImmediate-release: 4 to 6 hours9
Extended-release: 12 hours9
Risk of abuseHigh, but slightly lower than Adderall10High
Methods of abuseIngestingIngesting
Snorting
Injecting

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What are the Treatment Options for Vyvanse Addiction?

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

Inpatient Treatment Programs

Inpatient treatment programs require you to live in an inpatient facility and undergo intensive addiction treatment.

Treatment 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

Outpatient treatment programs are more flexible than inpatient recovery programs. They typically require you to attend three to five sessions per week. You may also undergo individual or group counseling and various therapy treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and contingency management (CM).

Outpatient programs are more effective for those motivated to get sober and must continue family, work, or school obligations throughout recovery.

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

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs

Substance abuse and mental health disorders often occur together. In this case, dual-diagnosis treatment programs provide specialized care for anyone suffering from both conditions.

These programs simultaneously treat the addiction and any underlying mental health disorders. This targets what is often the root of the problem and increases the chances of long-term recovery success.

Professional Detoxification

Detoxification is the most common first step in recovery and sobriety. It reduces the risk of relapse by providing medical, clinical, and personal support through one of the most challenging recovery phases.

The safest way to detox from Vyvanse is in a medically supervised detoxification program. This includes round-the-clock supervision and medical support. It also allows for monitoring of physical and psychological conditions and immediate medical attention if an emergency arises.

Other Treatment Options

Some other treatment options for Vyvanse addiction are:

  • Medically Supervised Detox: If you’ve overdosed, have too much of the drug in your system, or are suffering from severe withdrawal, you may want to be put on a medically supervised detox. This is to ensure you’re safe, in a controlled environment, and are healthily tapered off the drug to lessen your symptoms’ severity.
  • Aftercare Planning: This helps with sobriety maintenance after quitting the drug, which includes holistic care like therapy, counseling, and even group activities to make living without the drug easier.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation: This helps you manage stress and emotional regulation, which is great for impulse control and identifying what triggers Vyvanse use.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Holistically improved well-being via a balanced diet and consistent exercise can elevate your mood and health. A better lifestyle may keep you from craving the drug.

It is possible to fully recover from Vyvanse addiction. It often requires a mix of medical intervention and counseling to maximize your chances of recovery and eliminate the craving for the drug.

Seeking help is not shameful. It’s okay to ask for help and support—there are many channels you can look into for the kind of care you need.

Summary

Vyvanse is a prescription medication for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and binge eating disorder (BED). It is classified as a controlled substance due to its potential for abuse and dependence.

Misusing Vyvanse can lead to many serious health risks, including addiction, overdose, and even death. Therefore, following your doctor's instructions when taking this medication is important.

If you or someone you care about shows signs of Vyvanse abuse or addiction, seek help immediately. Various treatment options can provide the necessary support and resources for long-term recovery.

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Updated on April 8, 2024
11 sources cited
Updated on April 8, 2024
  1. Goodman, D. “Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate (Vyvanse), A Prodrug Stimulant For Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 2010.
  2. Najib et al. “Review of Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate in Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.” Journal of Central Nervous System Disease, 2017.
  3. Vyvanse.” Drugs.com, 2022.
  4. Shire US Inc. “Vyvanse.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2017.
  5. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic, 2023.
  6. Vyvanse and Alcohol/Food Interactions.” Drugs.com, 2023.
  7. Dwyer, K. “The Real Reason Study Drugs Are a Bad Idea.” Teen Vogue, 2016.
  8. Adderall vs Vyvanse - What's the difference between them?” Drugs.com, 2023.
  9. How long does Adderall last in your system?” Drugs.com, 2022.
  10. Aria, Amelia et al. “Perceived academic benefit is associated with nonmedical prescription stimulant use among college students.” Addiction Behavior, 2018.
  11. Benson et al. ”Misuse of stimulant medication among college students: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis.” Clinical Child And Family Psychology Review, 2015.

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