The Pros and Cons of the ADHD Drug Vyvanse

What is Vyvanse?  

Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate), also known as Elvannse or Venvanse, is the brand name of a CNS (central nervous system) stimulant most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD in children and adults, and (less regularly) prescribed as a treatment for obesity. It was originally designed with the purpose of being a less-addictive and longer-  lasting alternative to other ADHD (dextroamphetamine-based) drugs like Adderall. So far, studies show that it is effective and well-tolerated for children with ADHD over the age of six who take about 30 mg/day, and 70mg/day for adults.  

As the first pro-drug of its kind, it is an important innovation. Prodrugs are in a special class because they are different than some other medications—they need to be fully absorbed before affecting the body, which means they stay in your system longer. Vyvanse has been shown to last for up to 14 hours. This stretched out “high” means that there is likely less of a peaking and crashing.

Because of its long duration and the fact that it’s highly bioavailable—most of it is “used” by the body, rather than some of it being “flushed out” (eg: in the urine)—it’s extremely effective. Another reason that Vyvanse is preferred over similar drugs is that it’s effectiveness isn’t altered by PH fluctuations in the gut which can occur when we eat certain foods or take other drugs.      

What are some benefits of Vyvanse?

Vyvanse has similar properties to other amphetamines. Some athletes use amphetamines to improve strength and endurance, and enhance performance. Clinical trials show that at regular (low doses), amphetamines have a positive effect on cognition, alertness, reaction time, task performance, goal-focused behavior, memory and focus. One study showed that Vyvanse was effective for 14 hours “In a work-place-like setting,” suggesting that it could be useful in preventing fatigue for those who have to stay up for long periods of time, like students pulling all-nighters or professionals with long night shifts.

Vyvanse users report long-lasting focus and productivity:  

“I have had a full day of experience today uninterrupted by any issues, although I didn’t get any sleep last night. At 8 I took it, and then from about 9 until 3 I was alert and active and I got stuff done in those 6 hours that I have been putting off for weeks and would have taken me days to do.” ~ vtez at adduk.com

People occasionally use amphetamines to stay focused if they have a lot of work to do in a short period of time. One Reddit user reports being able to accomplish “2-3 times the amount of work” they’d normally do in a day. Users also report that it helps them to stop binge eating.  

Is Vyvanse safe / legal?

Vyvanse was first approved for prescription use by North American regulatory bodies in 2008 and 2009. It has shown positive results in helping with concentration, memory,  focus, fatigue prevention and possibly aiding in physical stamina—just one dose can help ADHD sufferers focus for 12 hours or more. However, studies show that taking more than the recommended dose can cause impairment in any of the long list of possible benefits listed in this article, if not cause added side effects. This drug is both illegal if used without a prescription and can also be addictive (though it is not believed to be as addictive as other amphetamines).

The most commonly reported side effects of Vyvanse are dry mouth, anxiousness (and related physical symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat), and insomnia. Less commonly reported side effects are stomach discomfort (especially the upper stomach), dizziness and weight loss.

More severe but very rare reactions include heart/cardiac problems, circulation problems, and psychological problems such as those related to bipolar disease (eg: mania, hallucinations). It should be noted that, in 2014, the drug company that makes Vyvanse claimed that clinical studies disproved the effectiveness of the use of the drug for depression.

Although this product is regularly prescribed to children, it should be noted that the use of stimulants for children with ADHD has been associated with stunted growth. It is not advisable to take this with MAOI antidepressant medication or if you are pregnant or nursing. Those with kidney, heart and cardiovascular problems or those taking any other medication should avoid taking this drug or take with extreme caution and only under the advice of a health professional.

Where can I get Vyvanse?

You must have a prescription to acquire Vyvanse and related drugs, though it may be possible to find them online in some instances.

What’s the difference between Vyvanse and Adderall?

The main difference between the two drugs is that Adderall is stronger but also has a greater chance of negative side effects. The effects of Vyvanse are generally milder and longer-lasting, and it is also less addictive. Vyvanse can only be taken orally, whereas it is possible to ingest Adderall in other ways (though this is not at all recommended). Since Adderall has been around longer, however, more research has been undertaken to test its overall safety. Vyvanse and Adderall are both made of D-amphetamine salts, but Adderall also has a different combination of types of amphetamine salts. Adderall is available as a generic prescription in the U.S., so it is possibly available to U.S. residents at a lower cost.

Here’s one user report on their preference for Adderall:

Personal preference is for Adderall, as I tend to use amphetamine recreationally and 12 hours is just too long a time for me to be stimmed out like that. People who use it as a study aid commonly claim that Vyvanse is more useful as it’s considered less noticeable than Adderall and…easier to use for studying.” ~ Thinks_Them on Reddit

How much is too much?

The dosage of Vyvanse depends on the individual prescription. Pills come in 30g, 50g, and 70g doses and are generally taken once a day in the morning. If you are trying any new drug, it’s important to go slow and stay low—that is, only take the minimum recommended amounts and only take it occasionally.

When you take Vyvanse or any drug for the first time, carefully observe what is happening in your body during the time that it is supposed to be affecting you. Do not take another dose if you feel any unpleasant effects. It’s important to have a trusted friend know what is going on as well. You should also avoid combining it with any other substance, even “natural” ones!

Though Vyvanse is generally thought to be less addictive than other amphetamines, it is important to note that addiction is entirely possible for those with and without prescriptions for such drugs. If you take doses higher than what is recommended, you are at risk for harmful side effects as well as addiction.

This drug can be particularly harmful (psychologically) for those with bipolar disorder or associated symptoms. Taking more than the recommended dosages has a high possibility of interfering with cognitive functioning instead of enhancing it.   

The FDA warns that amphetamines be “prescribed sparingly” and also notes that effects from long-term, regular use of this drug are unknown, simply because it has only been around and used regularly for a few years.

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