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Vyvanse Addiction: Signs of Abuse, Risks & Treatment

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

Medically Reviewed

Up to Date

This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 04/17/23

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Vyvanse is a prescription stimulant used to treat ADHD and binge eating disorder. Like other stimulants, Vyvanse carries a high risk of abuse and addiction.

Vyvanse, the brand-name version of lisdexamfetamine, is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It is FDA-approved to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge eating disorder in adults. Vyvanse is also used off-label to treat depression and schizophrenia and help people lose weight.

Vyvanse is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II drug, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse. Pharmacologically, Vyvanse is very similar to Adderall, but its formulation was engineered to limit its abuse potential.

What Is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is a “prodrug” of the CNS stimulant dextroamphetamine, meaning that it is administered orally in an inactive form and requires enzymatic processing to become active. Vyvanse works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, which are associated with enhanced mood and motivation. Vyvanse can be habit-forming and is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence.

What Is Vyvanse Used For?

Vyvanse has FDA-approved uses as well as off-label uses, including:

  • ADHD: As an ADHD medication, Vyvanse is approved for use in adults and children aged six or older to increase attention span and decrease restlessness.
  • Binge eating disorder: Although it is not intended as a weight-loss drug, using Vyvanse to treat binge eating disorder is FDA-approved.

Vyvanse off-label uses: Off-label uses for Vyvanse include weight loss, depression, schizophrenia and excessive daytime sleepiness. It should be noted that the FDA has clearly stated that Vyvanse should not be used as a weight-loss drug.

Vyvanse Dosage

Vyvanse comes in capsules and chewable tablets in strengths of 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg and 60 mg. In addition, there is a 70 mg capsule.

Vyvanse Dosage for ADHD

The Vyvanse dosage for people aged six or older is typically 30 mg once daily. Dosage may be adjusted incrementally until a maximum dose of 70 mg daily is reached.

Vyvanse Dosage for Binge Eating

The starting dose of Vyvanse for binge eating disorder is 30 mg per day, and it can be incrementally increased in 20 mg doses in weekly intervals. The recommended target dose is 50 mg to 70 mg per day, and the maximum dose is 70 mg per day.

Vyvanse Dosage for Children

The Vyvanse ADHD dosage for children aged six or older is 30 mg per day. Incremental increases should be discussed with your child’s doctor.

Vyvanse Administration

Vyvanse should be taken in the morning by mouth, with or without food. Taking it in the afternoon is not recommended because it may cause insomnia. Methods of administration include:

  • Vyvanse chewable tablets: Chew Vyvanse chewable tablets completely before swallowing.
  • Vyvanse capsules: Swallow whole with water; alternatively, open the capsule and mix the contents into yogurt, water or orange juice.

Alternatives for Vyvanse

There is currently no Vyvanse generic formulation available, but there are other drugs that provide similar effects. These include Adderall and Concerta.

Vyvanse vs. Adderall

Pharmacologically, the difference between Vyvanse and Adderall is the chemical makeup of the other compounds they are formulated with. In the case of Vyvanse, the prodrug lisdexamfetamine is metabolized into L- lysine and dextroamphetamine byproducts after consumption. Adderall is a mixture of four amphetamine salts, one of which is dextroamphetamine.

Because the primary active component in both medications is dextroamphetamine, they have similar effects. However, differences have been observed in the amount of time it takes for the onset of action: Vyvanse took about three hours to take effect, and Adderall took about two hours. The effects of both drugs persisted for up to 16 hours.

Unlike Vyvanse, Adderall is not approved for binge eating disorder. Vyvanse also may have less risk of abuse than Adderall since Vyvanse is only available in a delayed-release formula. However, Vyvanse is still associated with a potential for abuse.

Vyvanse vs. Concerta

Because Vyvanse and Concerta are both CNS stimulants, they have similar effects. However, Vyvanse and Concerta have different active compounds. The active component of Concerta is methylphenidate, which is also used in Ritalin. Additionally, Concerta does not last as long as Vyvanse. Concerta’s therapeutic effects last only 12 hours, while the effects of Vyvanse can last up to 16 hours. Concerta is also not approved for binge eating disorder.

What does Vyvanse Look Like?

Vyvanse chewables and capsules can differ in appearance and have features that include:

Vyvanse Chewable Tablets

  • 10 mg: White to off-white, round-shaped tablet; stamped ‘10’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other
  • 20 mg: White to off-white, hexagonal-shaped tablet; stamped ‘20’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other
  • 30 mg: White to off-white, arc triangular-shaped tablet; stamped ‘30’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other
  • 40 mg: White to off-white, capsule-shaped tablet; stamped ‘40’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other
  • 50 mg: White to off-white, arc square-shaped tablet; stamped ‘50’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other
  • 60 mg: White to off-white, arc diamond-shaped tablet; stamped ‘60’ on one side and ‘S489’ on the other

Vyvanse Capsules

  • 10 mg: Pink body/pink cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘10 mg’
  • 20 mg: Ivory body/ivory cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘20 mg’
  • 30 mg: White body/orange cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘30 mg’
  • 40 mg: White body/blue-green cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘40 mg’
  • 50 mg: White body/blue cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘50 mg’
  • 60 mg: Aqua blue body/aqua blue cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘60 mg’
  • 70 mg: Blue body/orange cap; stamped ‘S489’ and ‘70 mg’

Vyvanse Withdrawal and Symptoms

Vyvanse is generally tolerated as well as other CNS stimulants and has similar physical and psychological side effects. Like other stimulants, Vyvanse can cause dependence. For this reason, it is recommended that Vyvanse be used with caution and only as directed. People who abruptly stop taking stimulants often report symptoms of irritability and cravings for more of the drug. The Vyvanse “crash” refers to symptoms that occur when the drug starts to wear off. Most people take Vyvanse in the morning, so they may feel fatigued or irritable around midday as the drug’s effects wane.

Physical Side Effects

Some physical side effects of Vyvanse use include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weight loss
  • Erectile dysfunction

Psychological Side Effects

Some psychological side effects of Vyvanse use include:

  • Anxiety: Reported by 6% of users
  • Anorexia: Reported by 5% of users
  • Jittery: Reported by 4% of users
  • Agitation: Reported by 3% of users
  • Restlessness: Reported by 3% of users

Less commonly reported psychological side effects include:

  • Crying
  • Depersonalization (a sense of detachment from self and identity)
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Paranoia
  • Dysphoria

Long-Term Side Effects of Vyvanse

When used as prescribed for ADHD, long-term Vyvanse side effects are minimal. In addition, doctors believe that Vyvanse and other stimulants can be beneficial for ADHD treatment over the long term.

However, it is important to remember that as a Schedule II controlled substance, Vyvanse has a persistent risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. This means that you should take the drug exactly as prescribed to decrease your risk of developing a Vyvanse addiction.

Vyvanse Interactions

Vyvanse should not be taken with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or within two weeks of stopping MAOIs due to an increased risk of hypertensive crisis and serotonin syndrome. A hypertensive crisis is a severe increase in blood pressure that may lead to a stroke, while serotonin syndrome is characterized by agitation, trembling, dizziness and sweating. Make sure your doctor is aware of any prescription, over-the-counter or illicit drugs you may use in conjunction with Vyvanse in order to minimize the risk of dangerous interactions.

Vyvanse and Alcohol

Vyvanse and alcohol should not be used together. Alcohol is a CNS depressant, and Vyvanse is a CNS stimulant. Combining these classes of drugs can have unpredictable effects on the cardiovascular system.

Vyvanse and Pregnancy

Currently, there is little data on the effects that Vyvanse might have on pregnancy and potential neonatal adverse reactions. Although there are no well-controlled human studies to define risk, some animal studies indicate that adverse effects may be possible. This may be because Vyvanse can reduce blood flow to the placenta, which carries oxygen and nutrients to the fetus.

Is Vyvanse Addictive?

As a Schedule II controlled substance, Vyvanse carries a high risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. Although most people who take it as directed for legitimate medical reasons will not suffer from Vyvanse addiction, those who take Vyvanse that has not been prescribed to them have a higher risk.

That said, Vyvanse was formulated to have a lower risk of abuse than other prescription stimulants. Vyvanse comes as a “prodrug,” meaning that it is inactive and requires enzymatic metabolism for the active drug to become available. When someone takes Vyvanse orally, the prodrug lisdexamfetamine interacts with enzymes in the blood that break the drug into its metabolic byproducts. These byproducts include the amino acid L-lysine and dextroamphetamine, the active form of lisdexamfetamine.

Since metabolism is necessary for Vyvanse to take effect, common routes of abuse (for example, snorting the powder) do not deliver the potent high that is often associated with other prescription amphetamines. In addition, Vyvanse was formulated as a drug with extended-release capabilities, meaning the drug is released slowly. These precautions were designed to reduce Vyvanse’s potential for abuse. However, like all stimulants, Vyvanse has been shown to cause tolerance, dependence and addictive behavior when taken regularly.

Vyvanse is considered by the FDA and DEA to have a high potential for abuse, and it is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance. Vyvanse addiction potential can be minimized by taking the drug exactly as prescribed. Caution should be exercised with long-term regular use. Make sure to talk with your doctor about whether you have particular risk factors that could lead to dependence or addiction.

Can Vyvanse Get You High?

Vyvanse is designed to minimize the ability for people to get high by abusing it. Because it is packaged as a prodrug that requires enzymatic processing in the blood to be activated, Vyvanse is only effective when taken orally. In addition, Vyvanse is an extended-release medication, so the possibility of getting an immediate rush is limited. However, it is possible to misuse Vyvanse by taking very large doses by mouth. This can result in a transient, mild euphoria but also cause uncomfortable symptoms like rapid heart rate, nausea and anxiety.

Vyvanse Addiction Risk Factors

Although risk factors for Vyvanse addiction specifically are unknown, risk factors for stimulant addiction are similar to those for other substances. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their risk of developing a stimulant use disorder. Risk factors include:

  • Aggressive behavior
  • Lack of parental supervision
  • Abusing other substances
  • Having access to Vyvanse
  • Poverty

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Signs of Vyvanse Addiction

Unlike dependence, which is the presence of withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug, addiction is characterized by persistent drug-seeking behavior despite the potential for negative consequences. Signs and symptoms that someone has developed a Vyvanse use disorder include:

Physical Symptoms

  • Increasing tolerance to Vyvanse
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Hyperthermia
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dilated pupils
  • Appetite changes
  • Flushed skin
  • Poor coordination
  • Stomach pain
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased sex drive

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Using Vyvanse in ways other than prescribed
  • Obtaining Vyvanse without a prescription
  • Evasive or secretive behavior
  • Preoccupation with Vyvanse
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in motivational state
  • Failure to meet expectations at work or school
  • An inability to cut down or stop using Vyvanse
  • Erratic behavior
  • Hyperactivity
  • Changes to self-care and personal hygiene
  • Intense cravings for Vyvanse
  • Engagement in risky behavior in order to obtain or use Vyvanse

Signs of Vyvanse Abuse

Vyvanse abuse is not necessarily associated with addiction. However, there are observable physical and behavioral changes that can help family members and friends identify Vyvanse abuse, including:

  • Taking Vyvanse in ways other than as prescribed
  • Taking Vyvanse without a prescription
  • Mixing Vyvanse with other drugs or alcohol
  • Using Vyvanse in ways other than prescribed (snorting it, for example)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Intense focus/concentration
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Dilated pupils
  • Elevated or irregular heart rate
  • Changes in daily routines
  • Increased sociability
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Vyvanse Abuse Statistics

Because Vyvanse is a relatively new prescription drug, reliable statistics on Vyvanse abuse are not yet available. However, Vyvanse is chemically similar to Adderall and other prescription CNS stimulants, so data on CNS stimulant abuse can also describe Vyvanse abuse.

A 2015 meta-analysis of stimulant misuse among college students found that 17% of college students misuse prescription stimulants for recreational purposes and as study aids. A 2018 study of adults found that, of the 6.6% of people with CNS stimulant prescriptions, 1.9% misused the drug without meeting the criteria for addiction and 0.2% met the criteria for addiction.

Males are more likely to misuse prescription stimulants than females. The age group associated with the highest rate of misuse is people aged 18 to 25. It is possible that these numbers under-represent the actual prevalence of misuse, as many people are reluctant to report that they use stimulants without a prescription or in a way other than prescribed.

Vyvanse Overdose

Vyvanse overdoses occur when people take doses that are higher than their bodies are accustomed to. This most often occurs when people use Vyvanse recreationally (in an attempt to get high) or resume a high dosage after a period of abstinence. Overdoses are far more likely to occur if alcohol or other drugs are consumed with Vyvanse, and polysubstance overdoses are far more likely to have poor outcomes. In 2010, 63% of emergency department visits related to prescription stimulants included one (25%) or more (38%) other drugs. The most common co-used drugs were anti-anxiety and insomnia medications. The data underscores the importance of not using Vyvanse with other drugs or alcohol.

Stimulants have characteristic signs and symptoms associated with overdose, and Vyvanse overdose can be dangerous or even life-threatening. If you suspect an overdose, call 911 or the American Association of Poison Control Centers at (888) 448-0245.

Vyvanse Overdose Symptoms

In the absence of other drugs, Vyvanse overdoses cause uncomfortable signs and symptoms but are generally not life-threatening. However, using Vyvanse with other drugs significantly increases the risk of overdose, and the vast majority of deaths associated with prescription stimulants include at least one other drug or alcohol.

Vyvanse overdoses are associated with several physical and psychological symptoms, including:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Fever
  • Confusion
  • Restlessness
  • Panic
  • Anxiety
  • Erratic behavior
  • Tremors
  • Rapid respiration
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Vyvanse Withdrawal

As with other stimulants, abruptly quitting Vyvanse can lead to physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Rather than quitting cold turkey, people are typically recommended to taper their Vyvanse dose when trying to stop using the drug. This helps minimize the discomfort associated with detoxification and acute withdrawal.

Consultation with a medical professional is the most effective way to plan a safe and effective tapering schedule. Some people may choose to participate in a rehab program that provides a safe environment and helps them successfully manage the first days of withdrawal while minimizing the chance of setbacks occurring.

Symptoms of detoxification and acute withdrawal are characterized by profound fatigue, depression, anhedonia and extreme mood swings. People recovering from moderate to severe Vyvanse use disorder may experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). PAWS is a constellation of withdrawal symptoms that persist beyond the acute withdrawal phase. PAWS symptom intensity typically fluctuates but reliably subsides over time, usually weeks or months after quitting Vyvanse.

Vyvanse Withdrawal Symptoms

If you take a high dose of Vyvanse on a regular basis and suddenly stop, you are at risk for Vyvanse withdrawal. Symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Increased sleeping
  • Increased appetite
  • Muscle aches
  • Cravings

Vyvanse Withdrawal Timeline

In general, withdrawal symptoms start within 24 hours of the last dose of the drug and can last for three to five days. However, withdrawal can last up to two weeks in some cases.

Vyvanse Detox

If you are looking to stop taking Vyvanse, it is important to only do so under medical supervision. Vyvanse withdrawal can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms and intense cravings that are difficult to overcome on your own.

In some cases, a medically supervised detox may be recommended to help wean you off Vyvanse. This is especially true if you struggle with multiple substances or have existing mental health or medical problems. In medical detox, you are admitted to a facility and receive around-the-clock medical care from doctors and nurses who can treat Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms as they arise. This gives you a more comfortable detox process and prepares you for rehab, the next stage of Vyvanse addiction treatment.

Vyvanse Addiction Treatment

For many, medical detox is the first step on the path to a Vyvanse-free life. Afterward, inpatient rehab treatment, outpatient care and long-term aftercare services can help you address your addiction and learn how to avoid substance use throughout the future.

At The Recovery Village at Baptist Health, we believe anyone can recover from addiction. Using a full continuum of evidence-based care, our full-service rehab treatment center can address a wide range of addictions and co-occurring mental health concerns. In addition, we provide a variety of amenities, including basketball courts, frisbee golf, horseshoe pits and sand volleyball, to help heal your body as well as your mind.

If you or someone you love is struggling with Vyvanse abuse and addiction, help is available. Contact us today to speak with a representative and learn how professional addiction treatment can help you begin a healthier, drug-free life in recovery.

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