Vyvanse is a brand name for the medication lisdexamfetamine that is prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and binge-eating disorders 1,2. Vyvanse belongs to a class of medicines known as central nervous system (CNS) stimulants1.
Vyvanse is classified as a Schedule II drug, indicating it has known medical use, but it also carries a high potential for abuse and dependence 3. Schedule II is the highest cautionary classification given to prescription drugs, and these drugs are only to be used under the strict supervision of a physician.
Is Vyvanse Harmful?
Examples of ways in which people may misuse or abuse Vyvanse include:
- Taking larger doses than prescribed.
- Taking the drug more often than prescribed.
- Taking the drug any other way than orally (snorting, injecting, etc.).
- Taking it without a prescription.
- Mixing it with alcohol or other drugs.
Vyvanse can be an effective drug for the treatment of ADHD and binge-eating disorders when it is prescribed and monitored by a physician. Many people take Vyvanse for extended periods of time without any problem. However, if Vyvanse is misused or abused, it can speed up the development of tolerance, have a negative impact on both mental and physical health, and lead to a maladaptive pattern of abuse.
When someone abuses Vyvanse, a tolerance for the medication may develop, meaning that he or she may require increased doses to feel the desired effects of the drug. Over time, the tolerance can facilitate the development of physical dependence on Vyvanse, which means that the body cannot function normally without the presence of the stimulant medication. When a person is physically dependent on Vyvanse, symptoms of withdrawal will occur when attempting to stop using the drug.
While physical dependence and addiction are not the same, physical dependence often accompanies addiction, which is a progressive condition characterized by continued Vyvanse abuse despite negative consequences. Chronic Vyvanse abuse can lead to a problematic pattern of use that causes significant impairment and distress in the user’s life. When someone is addicted to Vyvanse, he or she will use the drug despite interpersonal, physical, or psychological problems, experience serious cravings for Vyvanse, and have problems controlling use.
Short-Term Effects of Vyvanse
Vyvanse use can cause a few desirable, short-term effects, such as 4:
- Increased focus.
- Feelings of being in control.
- Increased sociability.
- Increased energy.
In people with ADHD, Vyvanse is intended to increase focus and attention. However, there is a growing trend for people to take stimulants, such as Vyvanse, even when they do not have ADHD. Such usage may stem from a belief that the drug will make them smarter or give them a competitive edge academically.
Many high school and college students begin to abuse Vyvanse and other stimulants for this reason. However, research has shown that when students who do not have ADHD take Vyvanse and other stimulants, they actually have a lower GPA 5. Despite research findings such as these, students continue to use Vyvanse as a study aid. In addition to using Vyvanse for academic reasons, many people also abuse Vyvanse for weight loss or merely to get high 5. College students may combine alcohol with Vyvanse when partying to decrease the feelings of drunkenness or stay awake longer.
Some people take Vyvanse orally, but more often, abusers of Vyvanse use it by crushing and snorting it, or mixing it with water and then injecting it 5.
Side Effects of Vyvanse Use
Vyvanse can produce undesirable effects which can be both physical and psychological. Physical side effects can include 1,4,6:
- Dry mouth.
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Stomach pain.
- Decreased appetite.
- Weight loss.
- Excessive sweating.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Changes in sex drive.
Some side effects of abusing Vyvanse are serious and require medical attention, including 1:
- Uncontrollable shaking.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Swelling of face, tongue, lips, or mouth.
- Blurred vision.
- Blue fingers or toes.
Vyvanse can cause heart attack, stroke, or sudden death, even if taken exactly as prescribed 1. It’s important to speak to your doctor about any known medical conditions, particularly heart defects or problems. Abusing this medication can greatly increase the risk of these adverse effects and fatalities.
Psychological side effects can occur in people with no history of mental illness, but the misuse of Vyvanse can sometimes cause these symptoms to emerge. Psychological symptoms can include 1,2:
- Mood swings.
- Manic episodes.
These physical and psychological symptoms may complicate the recovery process and make it difficult for someone to quit using Vyvanse on their own. If you or someone you know suffers from problematic Vyvanse use, call our helpline at 1-888-744-0069 to learn about rehabilitation options.
Long-Term Effects of Vyvanse Abuse
Chronic Vyvanse abuse can lead to numerous mental and physical health effects. Repeated use can lead to the development of tolerance and physical dependence, after which withdrawal symptoms may arise when use is reduced or quit. If someone who is dependent on Vyvanse continues to use, he or she may go on to develop an addiction, which is characterized by problematic use despite negative consequences.
Some other possible long-term effects of Vyvanse abuse include 5,6,7:
- Stunted height and weight in children.
Effects of long-term abuse may vary depending on the method of administration. Intravenous users are at risk for the following 6:
- Track lines.
- Collapsed veins.
- HIV or hepatitis.
- Infection of the heart lining.
Conversely, intranasal users are at risk for the following effects 6:
- Nasal bleeding.
- Perforated septum.
Some social and lifestyle effects of long-term drug abuse or addiction may include:
- Impaired work or school performance.
- Excessive absences.
- Job loss.
- Suspension or expulsion from school.
- Child neglect.
- Legal problems (DUI, drug possession, etc.).
Because Vyvanse is a stimulant, an addiction to this medication can be classified as a Stimulant Use Disorder according to the DSM-5 6. There are some signs and symptoms of a Vyvanse addiction you should be aware of, such as 6:
- Vyvanse is taken in greater doses or for a longer period of time than originally planned.
- Attempts to cut back on or quit Vyvanse use are unsuccessful.
- An inordinate amount of time is spent getting or using Vyvanse, or recovering from its effects.
- Strong cravings for Vyvanse are present.
- Use results in failure to meet responsibilities at home, school, or work.
- Interpersonal, physical, or psychological problems result from Vyvanse use.
- Vyvanse is used in hazardous situations, such as before or while driving.
- Important recreational or occupational activities are abandoned in favor of Vyvanse use.
- Tolerance develops, requiring increased doses to achieve the same high.
- Withdrawal symptoms appear with cessation of use.
If you or someone you know suffers from an addiction to Vyvanse or any other drug, call our helpline at 1-888-744-0069 to speak to a treatment support representative about recovery options.
Vyvanse Withdrawal Treatment
When a person tries to stop using Vyvanse, symptoms of withdrawal may develop. These symptoms tend to be unpleasant and uncomfortable, and many users will continue to use Vyvanse to alleviate or prevent these symptoms.
Someone who is trying to get sober may relapse due to withdrawal symptoms, which is why treatment is often recommended.
Common Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms include 4,5:
- Extreme fatigue.
- Intense cravings.
- Mood swings.
- Concentration problems.
- Increased appetite.
- Sleep difficulties.
Some people are unable to stop using Vyvanse on their own and benefit from the supervision and care found at professional detox programs to help them withdraw safely and comfortably from the medication. Detox programs are short-term, lasting a few days, and provide 24/7 monitoring, as well as access to medical and psychological care when needed. Medical evaluations and ongoing assessments are part of the detox process, as well as emotional support from staff to help people get through this difficult time.
While there are some medications designed to help people taper off of drugs such as heroin, there are no medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to specifically manage Vyvanse or stimulant withdrawal or treat cases of stimulant dependence. Various symptoms of withdrawal, such as depression or sleep problems, may be treated as needed with appropriate medications.
Detox is only the first step on the road to recovery. For many, addiction is a chronic struggle that must be managed over a person’s lifetime. Once detox has been completed, many patients transition into a long-term recovery program. Ongoing treatment in an inpatient and/or outpatient setting can provide a person with relapse prevention skills, stress-management techniques, and other various therapeutic interventions to help with long-term recovery. Treatment will help the person abusing Vyvanse explore the reasons for the addiction and develop coping skills to use in trigger situations.
Inpatient treatment programs require that you reside at the facility for the duration of treatment. These programs are typically 30, 60, or 90 days, although they can be longer if needed. Patients receive an intake evaluation, which an experienced treatment team uses to create an individualized treatment program based on the patient’s unique needs. Individuals generally receive individual therapy, group counseling, around-the-clock medical care, and aftercare planning.
Outpatient recovery programs provide patients with the flexibility to live at home while receiving treatment services. Some people use outpatient treatment programs as step-down care after completing an inpatient program, while others utilize outpatient as their primary means of treatment. Some outpatient programs are more intensive than others. Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) and Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) require a substantial daily time commitment, while others only meet a couple times a week for 1-2 hours per day.
Following a course of inpatient or outpatient treatment, many continue with various forms of aftercare including regular participation in support group meetings, such as those offered by 12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA). NA can provide ongoing support and a sense of community for someone living a sober life.
If you or someone you love suffers from a Vyvanse addiction, call 1-888-744-0069 to receive information about Vyvanse detox and recovery programs.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (2016). Lisdexamfetamine.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (2016). Dextroamphetamine and amphetamine.
- U.S. Department of Justice. Drug Enforcement Administration. Office of Diversion Control. Controlled Substance Schedules.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine (2014). Substance Abuse: Amphetamines.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (2014). DrugFacts: Stimulant ADHD medications: Methylphenidate and Amphetamines.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed). Washington, DC: Author.
- Food and Drug Administration. (2007). Vyvanse.