Vyvanse is a prescription drug that’s 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 converted into dextroamphetamine in the body. Before it’s metabolized, lisdexamfetamine is a prodrug. That means it’s biologically inactive. Dextroamphetamine is an active chemical that can relieve symptoms of ADHD. The chemical is found in other ADHD medications, such as Dexedrine and Adderall.
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.
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.
In the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, lisdexamfetamine is grouped with other amphetamine-based drugs. More than 12 million people used amphetamine products in 2016. More than 5 million people misused the drugs, according to the NSDUH published in September 2017.
People who misuse drugs don’t report feeling high or euphoric after taking Vyvanse. They say the medication makes them feel focused and energetic. It doesn’t cause anything similar to the high caused by marijuana or the drunken feeling caused by alcohol. It may cause a small rush, but the rush is less intense than the effects of snorting or injecting amphetamines.
The drug’s manufacturer tried to make Vyvanse more difficult to abuse by making sure it couldn’t be snorted or injected.Unlike many other drugs, the effects of Vyvanse aren’t felt more quickly if it’s snorted or injected. Lisdexamfetamine is metabolized and converted into dextroamphetamine in the intestine, so the drug must be swallowed for a person to feel any effect.
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.
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. Goodman disclosed a financial conflict of interest because his previous research was funded in part by Shire, the pharmaceutical company that markets Vyvanse.
The Department of Justice fined Shire for $56.5 million in 2014 because the company falsely claimed that Vyvanse had a lower abuse liability than other amphetamine-based drugs. The DOJ said no study showed Vyvanse had no potential for abuse, and Vyvanse has the same black box warning as other amphetamine-based prescription drugs. The warning describes the potential for abuse, dependence and serious adverse health effects.
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.
You should always talk to your doctor before taking a prescription drug. Vyvanse can cause sudden death in children and adolescents who have heart defects or 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. Taking high doses of the drug also increases the risk of overdose.
Symptoms of a Vyvanse overdose include:
Taking Vyvanse regularly or in high doses also increases the risk of dependence and addiction. When taken in low doses, continuous use of Vyvanse can cause dependence that is associated with cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
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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.
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 label for Vyvanse has a black box warning that reads:
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.
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.
Clinical trials haven’t produced evidence that one ADHD medication is more safe or 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.
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. Others may prefer only taking 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 abused or taken by people without ADHD, Vyvanse can cause a number of serious health problems, including addiction.
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