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Vyvanse Addiction: Abuse Signs & Treatment Options

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: December 21st, 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.

Vyvanse is a commonly prescribed drug used for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Vyvanse, which is an amphetamine, is also used to manage binge eating disorder. The drug also happens to be one of the most abused drugs in America. Vyvanse is most commonly misused to enhance professional or academic cognitive performance. Some people misuse Vyvanse to induce a pleasurable feeling of euphoria. These stimulating effects make Vyvanse a popular recreational drug.

Unfortunately, abuse of Vyvanse can lead to many issues, including cardiovascular complications, addiction, and even death. Abuse of Vyvanse is also associated with severe deterioration of quality of life. Thankfully, there is a treatment for Vyvanse addiction. At Granite Recovery Centers, we offer addiction recovery programs to help addicts safely recover from substance misuse disorders.

Our drug rehab program offers you the right combination of research-based modalities, access to residential treatment settings, and time. By combining holistic and evidence-based treatment methods, we can provide the best treatment options for Vyvanse addiction.

Among various well-known ADHD medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall, Vyvanse tends to fly under the radar. Due to its lower addiction potential, Vyvanse is marketed as a safer alternative to other prescription drugs used to treat similar health conditions. However, this does not mean Vyvanse has no addictive potential. If misused, the drug still has significant side effects.

 

The Chemistry of Lisdexamfetamine

Lisdexamfetamine is the generic name for Vyvanse, a stimulant medication. Vyvanse is approved in capsules that are prescribed in doses that range from 20 mg to 70 mg. As a stimulant medication, Vyvanse has effects of increasing:

  • Attention
  • Blood pressure
  • Energy
  • Alertness
  • Pulse rate
  • Physical activity
  • Respiration rates
  • Temperature

When Vyvanse is used under prescription, these effects are typically safe. Some of these effects are beneficial in the treatment of ADHD. However, when Vyvanse is abused, these changes on your central nervous system can be dangerous and even fatal.

 

History of Vyvanse

For many years in the U.S., prescription stimulant drugs have been widely misused. Vyvanse was developed as a countermeasure for the abuse of stimulant medications. Previously, commonly abused ADHD drugs like Ritalin were administered into the body in an active state. This meant that the body could rapidly utilize the drug and its effects came quickly. These are the qualities that make most stimulant medications candidates for abuse.

The developer of Vyvanse designed it as a prodrug. This means that Vyvanse is administered into the body in an inactive state. Vyvanse only becomes active when the body starts to metabolize the drug. This decreases Vyvanse’s abuse potential significantly.

According to the Mental Health Clinician journal, during metabolism, lisdexamfetamine (LXD) is cleaved into two: dextroamphetamine and L-lysine, an essential amino acid. Dextroamphetamine is the active form of the drug and comprises one of the two readily active compounds in Ritalin. Because dextroamphetamine is eventually produced in the body, many people still abuse Vyvanse.

 

Abuse of Vyvanse

One of the features that make Vyvanse safer is the delay in its effects. It takes a significantly longer period to feel the stimulant effects of Vyvanse than other ADHD drugs. Due to the high abuse rate of Vyvanse, the DEA classified it as a Schedule II drug, just like Ritalin and Adderall. This level of classification means that Vyvanse has a significant potential for severe physical or psychological dependence. Therefore, the DEA requires that individuals with Vyvanse prescriptions be monitored closely to spot any diversion or drug misuse.

Unlike other CNS stimulants, misuse of Vyvanse will not result in a quick high or rush. This is because of how the drug metabolizes in the body. To counter this delay in the rush onset, individuals who abuse Vyvanse resort to taking much higher doses to create pleasurable euphoric feelings.

When compared to Adderall, it takes a much higher amount of Vyvanse to create the same effects. This is why recreational use of Vyvanse typically involves taking the drug in forms and amounts different from what a doctor prescribes for medical use. Many recreational users try to induce a quicker effect by injecting or snorting the drug. This usually does not make any difference.

Intravenous or intranasal administration of Vyvanse does not alter the rate at which the drug metabolizes. This means that even if you inject the drug directly into the bloodstream, the delayed peak will still occur. However, even with the delayed action mechanism, there are still many individuals who become addicted and dependent on Vyvanse.

 

Effects of Vyvanse Abuse

When ADHD patients take Vyvanse, it results in better focus and has a calming effect. However, when non-patients use the drug for recreational purposes, they experience quite the opposite. Recreational use of this ADHD medication may result in:

  • Serious spurts of energy
  • Talkativeness
  • Euphoria
  • Hyperfocus
  • Intense alertness

From these effects, it is easy to see why many individuals misuse Vyvanse to increase academic and professional cognitive performance. Contrary to their infamy as “smart drugs,” CNS stimulants don’t actually make you any smarter. In fact, prolonged chronic stimulant abuse reduces the cognitive function of the brain due to imbalance. Abuse of Vyvanse, in the long-run, does more harm to your brain than good. As dependence takes hold, you gradually lose control over your professional responsibilities, health, and schooling.

 

Who Abuses Vyvanse?

College students are the biggest culprits of abuse of Vyvanse and other stimulant medication. The 1990s saw the rise of smart or study drugs. Parents are aware as more prescriptions of Ritalin become available to their children that are entering college and even high school. With the pressures of papers and exams, more and more students began using stimulant drugs to enhance academic performance.

Under the influence of stimulant medication, students could stay up all night, focused on the academic tasks at hand with enough energy to see them through stressful and cumbersome projects. Unfortunately, due to the addictive nature of stimulant drugs like Vyvanse and Adderall, the students continue using the stimulants long after completing their studies.

Another group of people that are heavily abusing Vyvanse comprises young adults entering the competitive workforce. In the case of treatment of ADHD, Vyvanse is a long-term treatment medication. According to one study, more than 90% of patients diagnosed with ADHD in their childhood who were appropriately treated had improved symptoms by the time they approached 38 years of age. Unfortunately, the kids who began abusing Vyvanse in high school to help them in their studies continue struggling with the addiction even as adults.

 

Signs of Addiction

Signs of addiction to Vyvanse include:

  • Trying to quit consuming the drug but being unable to do so
  • Lying about ever taking the drug
  • Becoming hostile and aggressive when questioned about the rate of consuming the drug
  • Denial about the amount of Vyvanse consumed
  • Hiding evidence of using Vyvanse
  • Making a lot of effort to obtain the drugs
  • Spending a lot of time devising ways of obtaining the drug
  • Spending too much money and time to get the drugs
  • Choosing the drug over other important things like work, school, and family
  • Continued usage of the drug even after clear signs of mental, physical, social, financial, and emotional harm

 

Other Common Behaviors

Some of the most common patterns of drug-seeking among addicts of Vyvanse include:

  • Doctor shopping, the practice of seeking out several prescriptions from different doctors
  • Buying the drug off the street or from unapproved drug stores
  • Pretending to suffer from the conditions treated by Vyvanse, such as binge eating
  • Intentionally “losing” your pills just to get another batch of the drugs
  • Hoarding Vyvanse pills
  • Begging or asking for pills from ADHD patients
  • Stealing or buying pills off people with prescriptions

 

Causes of Addiction

Like other CNS stimulant medications, the primary mechanism of action of Vyvanse involves increasing the production of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. This chemical balance alteration often goes hand-in-hand with addiction. Through regulation of the reward pathway, dopamine is often responsible for developing addiction and drug dependence. Dopamine induces a sense of euphoria and pleasure. This is why increasing the availability of dopamine in the brain increases the activation of the reward pathway. Due to incentive salience, the brain develops a sense of need for the stimulus implicated with activation in the reward pathway.

Another significant cause of addiction to drugs like Vyvanse is the development of tolerance. When your body develops tolerance, you require ever-increasing amounts of the drug to create similar effects as before. This is often because the brain gradually adapts to the drug’s presence; hence, the same dosage becomes ineffective over time. One of the significant consequences of tolerance is dependence. Dependence becomes withdrawn when you try to quit the drug. Addiction, which is detrimental compulsive drug-seeking, is the behavioral aspect of drug dependence.

Anyone can develop a drug addiction. However, some individuals are at more risk due to factors like:

  • Previous history of drug addiction
  • Long-term use of the drug under prescription, which is common for people under prolonged consumption of drugs like Vyvanse during treatment of mental health conditions like ADHD
  • Having illnesses that will increase the likelihood of accessing prescriptions of the drug
  • A family history of substance misuse disorder

 

Addiction Treatment Options

Like many other addictions, one of the biggest hindrances to seeking help for Vyvanse addiction is denial. This defense mechanism is often convincing yourself that you are not an addict. However, instead of allowing your addiction time to get worse, it is crucial that you seek help immediately.

There are many treatment options available for Vyvanse addiction. We offer several treatment options across our recovery centers. With the help of our qualified substance abuse professionals, you should be able to identify the right treatment option for you or your loved ones. In the case of polydrug use, we offer a dual-diagnosis treatment program. You can choose to benefit from an outpatient or inpatient treatment setting.

Under the outpatient treatment setting, you continue living at home and attend treatment sessions in our facilities during the day. Our programs begin with a medically supervised detoxification. This helps the body to get rid of Vyvanse and safely recover from the withdrawal symptoms. We advise against attempting to quit Vyvanse on your own because it can result in dangerous and even life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. This is why we place recoveries under the watchful eyes of skilled addiction treatment professionals. 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.

 

Other Options

If your situation does not allow you to live at a recovery facility, but you still like the idea of rehab, you can enroll in an intensive outpatient program. Under partial hospitalization programs, you will be able to access all the rehab services and still manage to return home at the end of your session. Therapy is also crucial in the journey to sobriety. Therapy provides a safe and supportive social environment to interact with peers and share your story. In therapy sessions, you can get valuable practical and actionable tips from people who have been on the same journey.

Our holistic and evidence-based treatment programs include a combination of therapies that address the addiction and the root cause of Vyvanse misuse. Such therapies include:

 

Granite Recovery Centers

We understand that addiction treatment should not only be effective but also transformative. This is why we offer individualized treatment that addresses all your unique needs. We first work to identify all the aspects of your life that shaped your Vyvanse addiction. The treatment we recommend to you or your loved ones considers your interests, motivations, and personality. This ensures that the treatment is effective and engaging.

One of the biggest challenges to recovering from a Vyvanse addiction is an ongoing ADHD treatment. Quitting a Vyvanse misuse while trying to manage your ADHD symptoms may seem like a daunting task, but it is possible. Our treatment programs take a tapering approach, which has proven effective in managing withdrawal symptoms while gradually cutting down on Vyvanse consumption. With the right help and support, you can manage health issues and live a life free from addiction.

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.