Vyvanse is a prescription drug used to treat ADHD and binge-eating disorder. Unlike other ADHD medications, such as Adderall and Ritalin, Vyvanse doesn’t contain an active amphetamine.
Lisdexamfetamine, the main ingredient in Vyvanse, is a prodrug — a biologically inactive compound that is converted into the active chemical dextroamphetamine when the body metabolizes it. Dextroamphetamine can relieve symptoms of ADHD. The chemical is found in other ADHD medications, such as Dexedrine and Adderall.
In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, lisdexamfetamine is grouped with other amphetamine-based drugs. Amphetamine-based prescription drugs are abused for a variety of reasons
Chemically, they’re similar to crystal meth. When amphetamines are snorted or injected, they can cause an intense rush or high.
Some people use the drugs without a prescription to focus, concentrate or stay awake.
Most people who misuse prescription drugs prefer short-acting drugs, which have effects that usually last between four and six hours. Vyvanse is a long-acting drug that can last for 13 to 14 hours, according to clinical trials.
People who misuse drugs don’t report feeling high or euphoric after taking Vyvanse. Instead, they say the medication makes them feel focused and energetic.
Vyvanse doesn’t give the same high caused by marijuana. Nor does it lead to the drunken feeling caused by alcohol. It may cause a small rush, but this rush is less intense than the effects of snorting or injecting amphetamines.
But despite the less intense rush, between 2013 and 2016, about 1.5 percent of high school seniors misused Vyvanse annually, according to the Monitoring the Future survey published in June 2017.
More than 12 million people were prescribed amphetamine products in 2016. More than 5 million people misused the drugs, according to the NSDUH published in September 2017.
The drug’s manufacturer tried to make Vyvanse more difficult to abuse by making sure it couldn’t be snorted or injected. Unlike those of many other drugs, the effects of Vyvanse aren’t accelerated by administering via inhalation through the nose or injection.
Because lisdexamfetamine is metabolized and converted into dextroamphetamine in the intestine, the drug must be swallowed for a person to feel any effect.
Additionally, the authors of a pair of 2009 studies published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology concluded that people who abused stimulants didn’t feel the same positive effects from Vyvanse as they did from dextroamphetamine.
And, in a 2010 article published in the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics, Dr. David Goodman wrote that Vyvanse had a lower potential for abuse than short-acting ADHD agents. But Goodman disclosed a financial conflict of interest because his previous research was funded in part by Shire, the pharmaceutical company that markets Vyvanse.
Several years later, in 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) fined Shire for $56.5 million because the company falsely claimed that Vyvanse had a lower abuse liability than other amphetamine-based drugs.
The DOJ said no study supported the claim that Vyvanse had no potential for abuse. Also, Vyvanse has the same black box warning as other amphetamine-based prescription drugs, which describes the potential for abuse, dependence and serious adverse health effects.
Like all amphetamines, Vyvanse can cause addiction. Amphetamines manipulate parts of the brain that control pleasure and reward. If they’re used for an extended period of time, the brain becomes dependent on them.
The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies lisdexamfetamine as a Schedule II controlled substance. Schedule II drugs have medical purposes, but they also have a high potential for abuse and addiction.
The label for Vyvanse has a black box warning that reads:
“Amphetamines have a high potential for abuse. Administration of amphetamines for prolonged periods of time may lead to drug dependence. Particular attention should be paid to the possibility of subjects obtaining amphetamines for nontherapeutic use or distribution to others, and the drugs should be prescribed or dispensed sparingly. Misuse of amphetamine may cause sudden death and serious cardiovascular adverse events.”
Vyvanse can’t be snorted or injected — a method of administration that allows the full dose of a drug to flood the brain — so some people who use it recreationally take high doses of the drug. This increases the risk of prescription drug addiction.
People who are dependent on or addicted to Vyvanse experience withdrawal symptoms and cravings when they abruptly quit taking the prescription drug. Vyvanse withdrawal can cause depression and extreme fatigue.
Patients withdrawing from Vyvanse may need to seek medical attention to stop taking the drug safely.
Taking low doses of Vyvanse to study or stay awake increases the risk of minor short-term side effects, such as trouble sleeping, dizziness, dry mouth and headache. These side effects may impair academic or work performance.
While short-term side effects of the ADHD medication are usually less severe, Vyvanse — especially when taken improperly or without a prescription — is capable of leading to more serious adverse reactions. Some of these reactions may even be life-threatening.
Studies show that Vyvanse can cause sudden death in children and adolescents who have heart problems. It may also cause stroke or heart attack in adults with heart problems, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Taking high doses of Vyvanse increases the risk of severe health problems, such as rapid breathing and irregular heartbeat. The risk of overdose is also increased when taking higher doses of the drug.
Symptoms of a Vyvanse overdose include:
You should always talk to your doctor before taking a prescription drug. Prescription medications should always be taken exactly as they are prescribed.
Our recovery programs are based on decades of research to deliver treatment that really works.
Clinical trials haven’t produced evidence that one ADHD medication is safer or more effective than another.
Shire was actually fined by the DOJ in 2014 because the company falsely claimed that Adderall XR was more effective than other medications.
Snorting or injecting amphetamines increases the chances of addiction because the full dose of the drug floods the brain. The intensity causes more dramatic effects and more rapid changes to brain chemistry. Vyvanse can’t be snorted or injected, so some people who use it recreationally take high doses of the drug. This increases the risk of prescription drug addiction.
ADHD medications affect people differently. One person with ADHD may benefit from one type of amphetamine, and another person may feel unpleasant side effects from the same medication.
Depending on a person’s lifestyle, short-acting drugs such as Ritalin and Adderall may be preferable for some. But others may prefer taking only one pill per day. Those people may benefit more from long-acting or extended-release formulations such as Vyvanse or Concerta.
Dexedrine and Adderall are the only ADHD medications approved for children ages 3 to 6. Vyvanse is approved for people ages 6 and older.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends behavior therapy in combination with medication for children older than six, but it doesn’t recommend one medication over another.
When taken as prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of ADHD, all amphetamine-based medications have a low risk of addiction. When misused or taken without an ADHD diagnosis, Vyvanse can cause a number of serious health problems, including addiction.
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