Vyvanse is a common brand name medication for the drug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, which is a prodrug of d-amphetamine. In the United States, it’s a Schedule II controlled substance according to the FDA.
Vyvanse is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. Other CNS stimulants include Adderall, cocaine, and amphetamines. Stimulant drugs like these have a high potential for stimulant abuse and dependence, which means they’re highly addictive.
Generally, Vyvanse is used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and moderate to severe Binge Eating Disorder (BED). While Vyvanse may be prescribed to children and adults, there are still potentially serious side effects including addiction and overdose risks.
If you or a loved one is struggling with Vyvanse abuse, there are several treatment options available that can help you to safely stop taking the drug and manage withdrawal symptoms.
Why Is Vyvanse Addictive?
Prescription stimulants including Vyvanse, other amphetamines, and products containing methylphenidate have a high abuse potential. People may lose control of how much they’re taking and begin abusing Vyvanse, which can lead to Vyvanse addiction.
Amphetamines like Vyvanse target certain parts of the brain to stimulate the central nervous system and increase dopamine levels. After taking Vyvanse, a person may feel more energetic, alert, and focused.
Additionally, the increased dopamine can create a feeling of euphoria since it affects the pleasure and reward receptors in the brain. This good feeling is the main reason that Vyvanse can be addictive.
Even if a person is taking the prescribed amount, a physical dependence can develop. This makes it challenging to stop taking Vyvanse, even if it hasn’t been abused.
How Vyvanse Abuse Leads To Addiction
Since Vyvanse is commonly prescribed for both kids and adults in the United States, it can be easy to get. Plus, the high abuse potential of the active drug in Vyvanse means an addiction can easily develop.
Some of the short-term effects of Vyvanse include:
- being more alert/focused
- increased energy
- increased sociability
- dry mouth
- loss of appetite
- a sense of euphoria
In addition to craving the highly addictive drug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, wanting some of these positive, short-term effects can also lead to increased drug use. People who have a history of substance abuse may also be more likely to abuse and get addicted to Vyvanse.
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Even if a person is taking Vyvanse as prescribed, he or she can develop a tolerance to the drug. This can sometimes lead to taking higher doses of Vyvanse than prescribed (drug abuse) to get the same effect.
Finally, a physical dependence can develop in patients who are being treated with Vyvanse. This is when addiction is most likely to occur. Once a person has developed a physical dependence on Vyvanse, withdrawal symptoms may show up if the drug is stopped suddenly.
Long-Term Effects Of Vyvanse Addiction
While Vyvanse may be a helpful prescription drug for some people, there are still potentially life-threatening side effects including cardiovascular reactions that have resulted in sudden death.
Addiction is another potential side effect of Vyvanse, which can have a huge impact on a person’s brain, mental health, and ultimately increase the risk of overdose.
Depending on a person’s preexisting conditions, some of the long-term effects of Vyvanse addiction can include:
- increased blood pressure and/or heart rate
- peripheral vasculopathy
- serotonin syndrome
- weight loss
- abdominal pain, nausea, and/or vomiting
- gastrointestinal effects
- new or worsening mental health disorders
- suicidal or homicidal ideation
Changes To The Brain
When a person takes Vyvanse, it’s converted into l-lysine and dextroamphetamine in the body. These work together to block the norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain. This imbalance is what causes the short-term effects of Vyvanse that can lead to addiction.
Unfortunately, over time, the brain may struggle to correct this imbalance. This can lead to serious long-term side effects including serotonin syndrome, peripheral vasculopathy, and more.
Effects On Mental Health Disorders
In addition to having potentially serious physical side effects, Vyvanse has also been linked to new and worsened mental health disorders including depression and bipolar disorder.
Vyvanse may cause some serious mental (psychiatric) problems in children, teenagers, and adults, such as:
- new or worse behavior and thought problems
- new or worse bipolar illness
- new or worse depression
- suicidal or homicidal ideation
A person who is already struggling with a mental health disorder may see his or her symptoms worsen after taking Vyvanse.
Unfortunately, many people who struggle with a substance use disorder also have a mental health disorder whether it’s been diagnosed or not.
That means if someone is abusing Vyvanse, they may be worsening the symptoms of such mental disorders as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder without even knowing it.
Additionally, Vyvanse abuse can also lead to the development of new mental health disorders. Even if a person has never struggled with one, a mental illness can develop during or after Vyvanse abuse.
Risk Of Overdose
Even when taken as prescribed, the active drug in Vyvanse, lisdexamfetamine, can cause sudden death, heart attacks, or strokes. This is especially true if the person has preexisting heart defects or heart problems.
These serious reactions and the risk of overdose are more likely to occur if Vyvanse is being abused. For these reasons, it’s important to contact a treatment specialist immediately if you or someone you know may be abusing Vyvanse.
Symptoms of a Vyvanse overdose may include:
- aggressive behavior
- panicked feelings
- shortness of breath
- muscle aches
- increased/irregular heartbeat
- nausea, vomiting, or stomach cramps
- loss of consciousness (coma)
Of course, the risk of overdose is increased when abusing Vyvanse with other drugs including alcohol.
If you suspect a Vyvanse overdose, call the poison control helpline at 1-800-222-1222 or call emergency services at 911.
Signs And Symptoms Of A Vyvanse Addiction
Because Vyvanse has such a high potential for abuse, a person may easily develop a Vyvanse addiction.
Changes in behavior are common in facing any type of substance use disorder. You or a loved one may begin acting differently or spending time differently once an addiction develops.
A person who is abusing Vyvanse may spend a lot of time trying to get it, using it, or recovering from its effects. Additionally, they may not go to important social, work-related, or fun activities as much. They may also start to lose interest in their hobbies.
If you think that a loved one may be struggling with Vyvanse abuse or addiction, look for these physical signs, emotional changes, and mental health symptoms.
If you or someone you know may be struggling with a Vyvanse addiction, there are several physical signs that may be noticeable.
If a person has recently taken Vyvanse, they may be more alert with increased energy and sociability. They may have dilated pupils, and they most likely won’t have much of an appetite.
Alternatively, if a person has developed an addiction to Vyvanse, more serious physical side effects may start showing up.
Physical signs of a Vyvanse addiction may include:
- increased heart rate
- faster breathing
- higher blood pressure
- weight loss
- loss of coordination
- flushed skin
- vomiting and/or abdominal pain
If you’ve noticed any of these physical side effects in yourself or a loved one, take the time to talk to your healthcare provider or a treatment specialist about a possible Vyvanse addiction.
Again, a physical dependence can develop even when taking Vyvanse as prescribed. For that reason, it’s important to be aware of how the medication may be affecting you or someone you know.
In addition to physical changes, a Vyvanse addiction can also lead to emotional changes over time.
Emotional changes that you may see in someone who has developed an addiction to Vyvanse can include:
- mood swings
- changes in behavior
If you’ve noticed a significant change in behavior, irritability, or frequent mood swings in a loved one who’s taking Vyvanse, there may be a possibility of addiction.
Mental Health Symptoms
Vyvanse can cause psychiatric adverse reactions, which means it can cause mental health disorders to develop even when they weren’t present before. It can also make existing mental health symptoms worse.
Vyvanse addiction may cause any of these mental health symptoms:
- new or worsening depression
- new or worsening bipolar disorder
- suicidal or homicidal ideation
These side effects can become quite severe. Contact a medical healthcare professional immediately if you notice these symptoms in someone taking Vyvanse.
Vyvanse And Polysubstance Abuse
Taking Vyvanse in combination with other drugs or alcohol is considered polysubstance abuse. Consuming multiple substances at once can have devastating effects on the user.
Common effects of taking Vyvanse with other drugs include:
- heart attack
- sudden personality changes
- mood swings
Some common drug combinations including Vyvanse may include:
Vyvanse Addiction Treatment Options
There are several successful treatment options to choose from when it comes to Vyvanse addiction, amphetamine abuse, or polysubstance abuse disorder. These options include both inpatient treatment and outpatient treatment.
Inpatient treatment is a more intensive and immersive option than outpatient treatment. With inpatient rehab, a person will go into a detox facility and stay for several weeks or months. Generally, this is the most effective option for people with Vyvanse addiction, amphetamine abuse, or polysubstance use disorder.
Whether it’s because of jobs, families, or other responsibilities, some people aren’t able to seek inpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment is another addiction treatment option where people visit a treatment center several times a week for support and resources.
No matter which path the person chooses, treatment options for Vyvanse addiction, amphetamine abuse, or polysubstance use disorder may include:
- behavioral therapy
- support groups
- medication-assisted treatment
- evaluation and treatment for additional mental health issues, like depression or anxiety
- long-term follow-up to prevent relapse
Because of the withdrawal symptoms, it can be dangerous to quit Vyvanse or other amphetamines all of a sudden. Instead, it’s best to get in touch with a treatment specialist that can help you figure out the best treatment plan.
Finding Treatment For Vyvanse Abuse
If you or someone you know is having problems with Vyvanse abuse or amphetamine addiction, don’t put off getting help. Contact an AddictionResource.net treatment specialist today to learn more about finding a treatment facility that works for you.
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- National Institute On Drug Abuse—Drugs, Brains, And Behavior: The Science Of Addiction
- National Institute On Drug Abuse—The Science Of Drug Use And Addiction
- U.S. Food And Drug Administration—Vyvanse
- U.S. National Library Of Medicine: MedlinePlus—Lisdexamfetamine
- U.S. National Library Of Medicine: National Institutes of Health—Potential Adverse Effects Of Amphetamine Treatment On Brain And Behavior: A Review