Vyvanse is the brand name of a medication prescribed to treat attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge eating disorder (BED) 1. This substance is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that interacts with several neurotransmitter systems in the brain. It will boost alertness, attention levels, and energy in those who consume it. This substance is similar to other prescription stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin 2,3:
Vyvanse is a prodrug stimulant, which means it is inactive until it is metabolized in the body. Here’s how this works: Vyvanse is comprised of lisdexamfetamine dimesylate which—unlike many other stimulants—becomes active only after being chemically modified by enzymes in the bloodstream. When metabolized, the lisdexamfetamine in Vyvanse is converted to dextroamphetamine (a potent stimulant) and l-lysine (a natural amino acid) 3. By requiring enzymatic conversion to the active prodrug once it has been absorbed into the blood from the GI tract, Vyvanse offers a completely different method of time-release compared to other stimulants. Rather than relying on special coatings to slow the effects, Vyvanse achieves its results due to its slow, enzymatic-controlled rise in concentration of active drug in the blood 3. This unique feature and resulting lack of a quick onset “high” could deter attempts to abuse the medication via methods such as crushing and snorting the pill 3. However, that does not mean that recreational Vyvanse users do not commonly attempt to snort and inject the drug to achieve a stronger high.
Similarly to other stimulants, Vyvanse can be abused by people seeking pleasurable effects of the drug. Those seeking a high may attempt to crush and snort the drug to produce a quicker and “better” high (as this method creates more rapid and intense effects in many other drugs). Users who take the drug recreationally typically do so to 2,4:
- Experience a euphoric high.
- Help with studying.
- Improve concentration.
- Increase energy.
Rates of prescription amphetamine abuse rose sharply from 2008 to 2012 among 18-25-year-olds and people 26 and older 4. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 4:
- Large numbers of college students were abusing prescription stimulants (as many as 20% in 2011).
- College students with ADHD were giving away or selling their medication at high rates (approximately a third of students surveyed admitted doing so at least once).
Does Snorting Vyvanse Cause a More Intense High?
Stimulants interact with various neurotransmitters in the brain, but one in particular, dopamine, is related to the “high” produced when abused. When a stimulant medication is used as prescribed, it triggers a release of dopamine at steady levels. When many stimulants are snorted, the dopamine level can rise more quickly and to higher levels, which causes a fast and intense high 5. Vyvanse, however, is different because it is a prodrug stimulant.
When Vyvanse is consumed orally, it must be processed by serum enzymes after being absorbed into the blood from the GI tract for the effects to be active 3. This process can take some time, and people looking for an immediate onset of effects may attempt to bypass this process by opening the capsule and snorting the powder 2,4.
While snorting many drugs—such as Adderall (another stimulant) and painkillers like OxyContin—might result in a significant increase in the rate and intensity of effects as compared to oral ingestion, the same does not appear to be the case for Vyvanse.
In actuality, comparisons of Vyvanse use by oral consumption and intranasal consumption show that the effects are equal 3. The onset and duration of effects were similar as were the levels of dextroamphetamine available in the body whether the substance was snorted or taken orally 3. In reality, snorting Vyvanse does not speed up or intensify effects. This is likely due to the chemical formation of Vyvanse, which requires the substance to be processed from lisdexamfetamine to dextroamphetamine to be active 3. Attempting to snort Vyvanse only causes additional physical harm.
Side Effects of Snorting Vyvanse
Side effects of Vyvanse use (which will increase in number and intensity with abuse) include 1,2:
- Problems getting to sleep or staying asleep.
- Dry mouth.
- Chest pain.
- Problems breathing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Lack of hunger and weight loss.
- Pain in the abdomen.
- Constipation or diarrhea.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Chest pain.
- Difficulty speaking.
- Facial swelling.
- Vision problems.
- Cyanosis (blue tint to lips, fingers, toes, etc.).
- Motor or verbal tics.
Abusing Vyvanse may lead to heart attack, stroke, or even sudden death 1.
In addition to those physical health effects, Vyvanse can trigger or worsen mental health symptoms. Someone snorting Vyvanse may experience 1:
- Mood changes.
- Delusional thinking.
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not actually present).
Snorting Vyvanse can also lead to other side effects which arise from this specific method of administration. People that snort Vyvanse put themselves at risk of 7:
- Sinus inflammation.
- Anosmia or compromised sense of smell.
- Chemical injury to the nasal septum, potentially resulting in tissue necrosis and/or perforation.
- Dry, hoarse voice.
- Difficulty swallowing.
- Deterioration of nasal mucosa.
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Can Snorting Vyvanse Cause an Overdose?
Someone taking Vyvanse as prescribed is at low risk of overdose because the medication is usually started at a low dose and gradually increased 1. However, someone consuming higher amounts of Vyvanse—with or without medical need—is at a much higher risk of overdose.
Symptoms of Vyvanse overdose include 1,7:
- Vertigo and syncope (dizziness and fainting).
- Hostile mood or behavior.
- Severe anxiety and panic.
- Signs of psychosis, including hallucinations.
- Markedly elevated body temperature.
- Severe nausea and vomiting.
- Tachycardia or dangerously elevated heart rate.
- Hypertensive crisis.
- Profuse sweating.
- Significant problems breathing, or inability to breathe.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Cardiac arrest.
It is clear that abuse of stimulant medications can be dangerous. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency department visits related to prescription medications for ADHD more than doubled from 13,000 in 2005 to 31,000 in 2010 8. About 11,600 of these people sought ER treatment from use of stimulants only while the others required treatment for adverse events related to combining stimulants with other substances. Using stimulants like Vyvanse in combination with alcohol and/ or sedatives like Xanax put the individual at the greatest risk 8.
Signs That Someone is Addicted to Vyvanse
All stimulant medications have the potential to be abused, but the risk of abuse and addiction varies between each medication version. While Vyvanse was developed with unique chemical properties with the hope of minimizing abuse liability 4, it still poses a serious risk to those who misuse it. In fact, Vyvanse is a Schedule II controlled substance, indicating the risk for severe psychological or physical dependence 3.
Addiction is a condition marked by observable, behavioral changes in the user. It is the compulsive use of a substance without regard to the dangers that use could bring. Someone who has become addicted to Vyvanse may 9:
- Take larger doses of the medication than prescribed.
- Spend more time, effort, and money getting and using Vyvanse.
- Struggle to reduce use or altogether quit Vyvanse.
- Shift relationships or have more conflict with loved ones.
- Have reduced performance with tasks at home, work, or school.
- Display odd or unexpected changes in mood.
People snorting a substance like Vyvanse may have tools used to inhale the powder or discarded capsules around their space. A powdery substance may be on their clothes, hands, or face from use. Additionally, someone addicted to Vyvanse may begin to experience the physical damage to the sinuses mentioned early.
Getting Help for Vyvanse Addiction
Someone wanting to end their use of Vyvanse will face a challenging situation. Ending use of stimulants is related to a period of withdrawal symptoms, sometimes called “the crash.” During the withdrawal period, the user may experience or show signs of 7:
- Extreme anxiety.
- Paranoia and scattered thinking.
- Increased need for sleep.
With some stimulant users, fatigue, depression, and lack of motivation can last for more than four months following last use 7. To manage the symptoms and produce a greater likelihood of sustained recovery, professional treatmentthat includes a period of detoxification is a great option 10.
Treatments can occur in a number of inpatient and outpatient settings depending on the needs of the individual. No matter the location, behavioral therapy will be an essential element of the process. Behavioral therapy options that show success with stimulant users include 7,10:
- The Matrix Model. This therapy employs a combination of group and individual therapy sessions focusing on relapse prevention, motivational interviews, 12-step program participation, education, and social support to maintain recovery. This model takes place during a 24-week period.
- Contingency management. This therapeutic approach provides vouchers/rewards for positive, recovery-sustaining behaviors. This approach has shown success with certain difficult-to-treat groups of stimulant abusers 7.
- Family therapy. Since people with stimulant use disorders frequently have conflict within relationships, family therapy is helpful in adding support, improving relationships, and gaining more information about the substance use from loved ones.
To find the best success for you or your loved one, learn about your options for professional treatment. It’s easy to ask for help. Call to speak to someone today.