ClickCease Adderall vs Vyvanse: How are they different? - Granite Recovery Centers

Adderall vs Vyvanse: How are they different?

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 28th, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are medications that stimulate the central nervous system. The main components of Adderall are amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, while Vyvanse is composed mainly of lisdexamfetamine.

These drugs are mainly used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, a neurobehavioral condition. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. While it is mainly diagnosed in children, it can also affect adults. According to the CDC, millions of children are dealing with this condition in the United States alone.

While both Vyvanse and Adderall are classified as Schedule II controlled substances, they can be life-changing for those diagnosed with ADHD when properly used. For example, research shows that 75-80 percent of those who have ADHD will improve when taking Adderall. Not only will they be able to concentrate more easily, but they will also exhibit less destructive and impulsive behaviors. Similarly, research has shown that Vyvanse dramatically improves reading skills and comprehension in children.

In addition to being used to treat ADHD, Adderall is also used to help those with the sleep disorder narcolepsy, and Vyvanse can be used to treat those who struggle with binge eating disorders. Vyvanse, however, is not approved for those under 6 years old.

A Comparison of Vyvanse and Adderall

  • Adderall became available as a prescription medication in 1996, while Vyvanse was not approved until 2007.
  • Both Adderall and Vyvanse are considered psychostimulants.
  • Both Adderall and Vyvanse are used to treat ADHD; Vyvanse is also used to help those with eating disorders, and Adderall can be prescribed for narcolepsy.
  • Adderall’s active ingredients are dextroamphetamine and levoamphetamine, while the active ingredient in Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine.
  • Vyvanse only comes in an extended-release capsule, while Adderall comes in both an immediate-release and an extended-release form.
  • The immediate-release form of Adderall typically lasts for four to six hours; its extended-release form can last up to 12. Vyvanse typically lasts longer, with some studies reporting its effects will last up to 14 hours.
  • While both medications have a similar effect on the body, Adderall has more and harsher side effects. That is because Vyvanse is a prodrug, meaning it is inert when taken but is then metabolized by the body into a pharmacologically active drug. This can be a more efficient way of administering medication as it can improve absorption and metabolization in the body.
  • Because Vyvanse is a prodrug, medical professionals believe it is less likely to be abused than Adderall, though there is still some risk.
  • While Adderall is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor, Vyvanse, once metabolized into dextroamphetamine, increases the availability of dopamine. Both medications also affect the release or availability of norepinephrine.
  • A generic version of Adderall is available, but currently, Vyvanse can only be obtained as a brand-name product.

Differences between Adderall and Vyvanse

The biggest difference between these two drugs is that Vyvanse is a prodrug. Medical experts believe that prodrugs are a more efficient and gentler way of taking medication as the body can regulate the process. Prodrugs are inactive until metabolized by enzymes in the user’s body.

Because of this, some believe that Vyvanse is less likely to be abused than Adderall or Ritalin (an older medication also used to treat ADHD). Whereas individuals must take Vyvanse orally, the other medications can also be injected or snorted. It is also believed that, since the body regulates the metabolization of Vyvanse, the negative effects of withdrawal are not as pronounced since the taper off the drug is more gradual.

Possible Side Effects of Adderall and Vyvanse

Both Adderall and Vyvanse have side effects, but because Vyvanse is a prodrug, the side effects should not be as likely to occur or as serious. The following side effects can occur in patients who take either of these medications:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Increased heart rate and/or increased blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hallucinations

There are cases where heart attacks or strokes have occurred due to the use of stimulants. Because Vyvanse has less intense side effects, it might be more suitable for those more susceptible to side effects due to family history or prior conditions.

Can Vyvanse be Abused?

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are central nervous system stimulants, and both affect the brain’s neurobiology. Adderall is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Vyvanse also increases the amount of dopamine in the brain. Norepinephrine levels are also affected.

When used with guidance from a physician, these medications are useful in treating ADHD and can help children and adults improve their ability to focus and control impulsive behavior. Because Vyvanse is a prodrug, it is less likely to cause withdrawal symptoms when used according to directions. However, it will still affect the brain’s chemistry.

When used without a prescription, users find that Adderall and Vyvanse can create feelings of euphoria, improve energy levels and enhance mental concentration. For this reason, both of these drugs open themselves to being used by students and others who want to enhance performance before an exam or to do their best on an assignment. Some people may also use these medications for their mood-enhancing effects.

Unfortunately, the high that results from using these drugs can lead to addiction. This is one reason they are classified as Schedule II controlled substances as there is the potential for psychological and physical dependence.

Symptoms of Vyvanse Abuse

Possible signs that someone is abusing Vyvanse include speaking quickly as well as sweating and dilated pupils. The person may have insomnia and a loss of appetite and seem hyper or overly talkative. They also may seem more self-confident than normal. While the latter may not seem like such a bad thing, it can lead to unwise behavior. On the flip side, as someone experiences withdrawal from Vyvanse, they may show signs of depression, fatigue, and loss of motivation.

Symptoms of Adderall Abuse

Someone who is abusing Adderall may exhibit exhaustion and weight loss. They may talk too fast or have incomplete thoughts. Aggressive behavior and paranoia are possible, and relationship problems may occur. Other issues include anxiety, dizziness, reduced sex drive, nausea, and restlessness.

Why Is Adderall So Addictive?

The reason Adderall is addictive is that its active ingredients mimic the effects of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which are naturally occurring neurotransmitters.

Dopamine reinforces and rewards behavior we consider pleasurable, such as eating a good meal. Meanwhile, epinephrine increases alertness, clarity, and the ability to concentrate.

The brain releases dopamine associated with pleasurable activities like eating chocolate, playing with a pet, or having sex. It makes a person feel good. Epinephrine (also called adrenaline) ramps up the sympathetic nervous system, triggering feelings of alertness, clarity, and focus. Norepinephrine helps to enhance the effects of epinephrine and increases focus even further.

When someone takes Adderall, they create an imbalance in their brain. When taken under a physician’s supervision for a medical condition, this can correct certain issues. However, when taken without a prescription, a vicious cycle can take effect. As the brain keeps trying to achieve homeostasis, more and more Adderall is required to achieve the same result. If the person stops taking the medication cold turkey, it can lead to an extremely unpleasant withdrawal as the person feels they are in a mental fog, feels a lack of motivation, and may even have suicidal thoughts.

Is It Possible to “Crash” on Vyvanse?

Even though Vyvanse is believed to have fewer issues associated with it due to it being a prodrug, there are still side effects, and a crash is possible. For this reason, doctors typically prescribe the lowest dose they think will be effective for patients. Since the medication does begin to wear off after about 12 hours, as the day progresses, the patient may experience a crash. Symptoms include feeling irritable, tired, and anxious.

It is recommended that people taking Vyvanse to do so at the same time every morning and only take the prescribed dose. When a person takes more than their prescribed dose or takes Vyvanse without a prescription, they can experience the same addiction issues that users of Adderall experience.

Some Signs Vyvanse and Adderall Addiction

If someone finds themselves compulsively using either Adderall or Vyvanse, chances are they are addicted. If they have only taken a few doses of these medications, they can probably stop independently. However, after prolonged exposure, they may experience severe withdrawal and not be able to quit without help.

This is not because they lack the will or character; instead, it is because these are powerful stimulants that affect the brain. Because these medications change someone’s neurobiology, they may find themselves unable to control their cravings. It is a vicious disease, and the person affected should not feel ashamed or guilty but should reach out for help. Fortunately, Granite Recovery Centers provide a safe and compassionate space for those who want to recover and heal.

If someone is struggling with addiction to these types of stimulants or is concerned about a loved one, it is crucial to get help as soon as possible as there are potential long-term effects.

Those who have chronically abused Vyvanse or Adderall for long periods of time may incur permanent changes to their mental and cognitive functionality. Psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and even psychosis can occur, and suicidal thoughts are possible. There are also potential health issues, such as an increased likelihood of heart problems and malnourishment.

Professional Treatment Options Can Help You Succeed

With our detox program, you will be aided and supported by experienced and compassionate professionals like doctors, therapists, and holistic practitioners. Not only will you be given the help you need while you are in the process of detoxification, but you will also be given ongoing guidance to make sure you do not relapse. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Granite Recovery Centers provide a safe and hopeful place where people can recover. For those taking Adderall for a long time and suffering from deep depression and suicidal thoughts, having opportunities for ongoing care may be critical to making a full and long-lasting recovery. For these individuals, intensive outpatient options are available. These provide a combination of group therapy, individual therapy, education, and other services that the client may need.

These are just some of the many options that are available at Granite Recovery Centers. Programs are tailored for each individual, and all are administered with compassion and understanding. If you are dealing with an Adderall or Vyvanse addiction, do not suffer in silence. Reach out for the help you need so you can get your life back.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.