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Vyvanse Addiction And Treatment Options

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 1, 2019

Vyvanse is a prescription stimulant drug that affects the central nervous system. It is used to treat ADHD in adults and children. While Vyvanse has been found to help people treat these health issues, it can become a drug of abuse, with the potential for addiction. Thankfully, there is treatment available to help you or a loved one recover from addiction and regain good health.

What Is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse(Lisdexamfetamine) is a type of amphetamine which is a stimulant used to help people improve their ability to pay attention and to treat destructive impulses like binge eating. For people that suffer from these things, it is taken daily, and provides a greater sense of calm and focus.

The diagnoses of ADHD have increased in the U.S., and according to the CDC, 11% of Americans aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD since 2011. Many children and adolescents with ADHD find it difficult to pay attention in school and their grades often reflect their impaired ability to concentrate. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 60% of these children will continue to suffer with ADHD throughout adulthood.

Like most drugs, Vyvanse comes with potential side effects including nausea, vomiting, constipation, stomach pain, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, and more. Serious side effects include blurred vision, a pounding or irregular heartbeat, behavior changes, uncontrolled movements, muscle twitching, and others.

How Does Vyvanse Work In The Brain?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), all stimulant drugs increase the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, which according to NIDA, is the chemical responsible for “pleasure, movement, and attention.” Stimulants achieve their calming effect by increasing dopamine levels slowly and steadily.

Stimulants are usually prescribed in low doses that are gradually increased over time. When they are taken other than as prescribed, they can increase dopamine rapidly and produce more intense effects. When abused, stimulants create a euphoric experience, increasing the risk of addiction.

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Is Vyvanse Addictive?

Vyvanse use can lead to tolerance and dependence. As a type of amphetamine, Vyvanse has a strong potential for abuse. Amphetamines alter the way the brain responds to the signals sent by neurotransmitters. When someone uses a medication for a while, the brain becomes accustomed to the changes made by the drug, which is why they may develop a tolerance and become at greater risk for addiction. People may also experience withdrawal when they stop using the substance due to the physical dependency that may result from use, including prescribed use.

When comparing Vyvanse to other stimulant prescription drugs like Concerta and Adderall, Vyvanse was formulated with a longer half-life to be slower-releasing, while working more gradually, in turn holding less potential for abuse. The half-life is the amount of time it takes for half of the drug to be removed from the body. If a drug has a shorter half-life, it works faster and is eliminated faster, which increases the risk of addiction.

Additionally, because Vyvanse comes in capsule form, it cannot be crushed and snorted, making it less likely to be abused. However, Vyvanse works very similarly to the other stimulant drugs and can still be abused. When someone stops taking Vyvanse or another stimulant, the crash of dopamine levels in the brain is what causes the withdrawal symptoms of depression, fatigue, and trouble sleeping. For many people suffering from addiction, the unpleasant experience of withdrawal is enough to encourage the continued use of the drug.

Why Do People Become Addicted To Vyvanse?

Also known as “smart drugs,” prescription stimulants are commonly abused among teenagers and college students who take them to improve their ability to focus while studying and to achieve better grades. These drugs are also abused by some professionals to increase their focus and productivity within the workforce.

This abuse is also the result of the common misconception that stimulants increase intelligence and improve one’s ability to learn. Stimulants are also abused for weight loss as they suppress appetite. The increase of dopamine offers a euphoric experience for those who take higher doses than prescribed or take stimulants without a prescription and many people use them for the sole purpose of getting high.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of A Vyvanse Addiction?

When someone is addicted to a substance, no matter what it may be, they will almost always display certain physical, emotional, and behavioral changes.

The physical signs of an amphetamine addiction include:

  • increased body temperature
  • euphoria
  • increased blood pressure
  • dry mouth
  • faster breathing
  • dilated pupils
  • increased energy
  • decreased appetite
  • nausea
  • headache

The behavioral symptoms of an amphetamine addiction include:

  • hostility
  • paranoia
  • aggressiveness
  • reduction of social inhibitions
  • altered sexual interest
  • unrealistic impressions of ability
  • the inability to control the use of the drug, despite wanting to stop or reduce dosage
  • continued use despite any health issues or the breakdown of relationships or other important aspects of their life
  • neglecting other activities that used to be important
  • doctor shopping to get more drugs from multiple physicians

When someone stops taking amphetamines, they may experience withdrawal. These symptoms include fatigue and lack of motivation, an increased appetite, depression, anxiety, irritability, disturbed sleep patterns, and cravings.

The Health Consequences Of Amphetamine Abuse

Besides the risk of developing an addiction, amphetamine abuse can also cause serious health issues. According in part to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, these problems include permanent mental and cognitive impairment, structural brain abnormalities, emotional disturbances, depression, heart problems, malnourishment, social problems including withdrawal from loved ones, psychosis, coma, and even death.

Treating A Vyvanse Addiction

For those suffering from an amphetamine addiction due to Vyvanse use, the most successful treatments will involve inpatient detoxing and behavioral therapies. In addition to treating addiction, behavioral therapies have been found to be effective for treating ADHD by helping to teach or strengthen positive behaviors and eliminate unwanted ones.

At the onset of inpatient treatment, residential detox is guided by a medical professional to rid the body of the drug and ensure the safety of the patient, and to ease withdrawal in as comfortable a way as possible.

Following detox, inpatient treatment involves 24-hour monitoring in a clinical setting and focuses on behavioral therapies like individual, group and family counseling, support groups, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and relapse prevention. Behavioral therapies are especially helpful for those addicted to amphetamines because they often suffer from a co-occurring mental disorder like depression, which may have existed prior to the addiction or occurred as a result of withdrawal. Inpatient therapy will typically involve nutritional supplementation since many sufferers of amphetamine addiction enter their treatment malnourished.

Outpatient therapy follows inpatient treatment and includes the continuation of behavioral therapies and counseling with the difference being the patient is now living at home and visiting the clinic for appointments. Follow-up care has also been shown to be effective for those suffering from amphetamine addiction and involves job placement assistance, education assistance, and continued support to help patients remain drug free.

You Don’t Have To Go Through Addiction Alone

If you’re worried that your use of Vyvanse has developed into abuse, or you’re concerned a loved one has become addicted to their medication, there is hope for treatment. You don’t have to go it alone, the friendly staff at is here to answer your questions and help you find the treatment you’re looking for. Contact us today to learn more about your options for receiving the aid and support you need for beating addiction.

WebMD - Vyvanse

Center for Disease Control - Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Prescription Stimulants

Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) - Amphetamines

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