Adderall and Vyvanse are both amphetamine-based stimulant medications which are used to treat the symptoms of ADHD in both adolescents and adults. While they share many similarities, they also have a few key differences, which can affect how and why doctors use them in different circumstances. Read on to learn more about the similarities and differences in their potential side effects and dangers.
Disclaimer: This post is not a recommendation or endorsement for Adderall or Vyvanse. These medications are only FDA-approved for the treatment of certain specific medical disorders, and can only be taken by prescription and with oversight from a licensed medical professional. We have written this post for informational purposes only, and our goal is solely to inform people about the science behind these drugs’ effects, mechanisms, and current approved medical uses. What are Adderall and Vyvanse?
Adderall ( dextroamphetamine -amphetamine ) and Vyvanse ( lisdexamfetamine ) both belong to a class of drug called amphetamines .
Amphetamines act on the central nervous system (CNS) to increase levels of dopamine , norepinephrine , and serotonin [ 1 , 2 ].
Adderall and Vyvanse are both stimulants that have been officially FDA-approved for the treatment of ADHD, as well as a few other medical conditions [ 1 , 3 , 4 ].
Adderall is also FDA-approved to treat the symptoms of narcolepsy and other fatigue-related conditions, such as excessive daytime sleepiness – whereas Vyvanse is also FDA-approved to treat binge eating disorders (BED) [ 5 ].
Stimulants such as Adderall and Vyvanse are often the “first-line”, or primary, treatments for ADHD [ 6 , 7 , 8 ].
American adults who take Adderall for ADHD have increased by 90% from 2002 to 2005. Vyvanse is not as commonly used and was approved for use in children in 2007, in adults in 2008, and in adolescents in 2010 [ 9 , 10 , 11 ].
However, amphetamine use can lead to addiction and abuse. Stimulants have become the second-most abused drug by college students. This stems from a belief that stimulants like Adderall are “harmless” (they are not) [ 1 , 12 , 13 ].
Both Adderall and Vyvanse are classified as Schedule II drugs by the FDA, meaning they pose a high risk of abuse that may lead to physical and/or psychological dependence. This also means that they require a prescription in order to be legally bought and used [ 1 ].
To learn about the medical uses and mechanisms of Adderall and Vyvanse, check out this post .
Adderall and Vyvanse are both amphetamines classified as Schedule II drugs by the FDA. They increase brain dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, and they are both prescribed for ADHD.
Due to their stimulating effects, amphetamine-based drugs such as Adderall and Vyvanse are widely abused for their effects on focus and sustained attention.
According to one survey of students who abuse stimulant medications, as many as 93.5% of the students reported that they abused these drugs in order to increase their ability to study for prolonged periods of time [ 1 ].
Students who abuse these amphetamine stimulants also commonly report a variety of other effects consistent with the known effects of these drugs, such as elevated mood ( euphoria ), increased motivation , and increased physical and mental energy [ 14 ].
However, there are a few differences between these drugs that can affect how and why they are abused.
For example, the “euphoric” effects of Vyvanse are believed to be lower due to the time it takes to convert to D-amphetamine [ 10 , 15 ].
Similarly, one survey of 10,000 patients reported that Vyvanse was abused at slightly lower rates than both extended and immediate release Adderall – once again most likely because of the slower and steadier release of the active component by Vyvanse [ 16 ].
Some people abuse Adderall and Vyvanse to try to increase focus and motivation, while others use these drugs recreationally.
Nonetheless, in all cases, abusing these drugs without a prescription, or using them recreationally, carries serious risks and dangers.
For example, abuse of amphetamines can cause potentially serious adverse side-effects including psychosis, heart attacks, diseased heart muscle, and even sudden death. They can also cause long-term increases in heart rate and short-term increases in blood pressure [ 1 ].
Amphetamines also carry a very high risk of addiction and dependence, which can then lead to withdrawal symptoms after abuse. Withdrawal, in turn, can lead to symptoms such as [ 2 ]:
According to one study, Vyvanse may produce fewer withdrawal symptoms than other amphetamines – however, this finding may simply be due to the fact that relatively fewer people abuse this drug compared to other amphetamines, and therefore this finding does not necessarily mean that actual risks of abuse are lower than other drugs [ 10 , 15 ].
There is very little scientific evidence supporting the fact that Adderall improves cognitive performance in non-prescription users. For example, one study in 46 healthy volunteers reported that Adderall had no effect on memory, creativity, intelligence, or standardized testing, but the volunteers believed that they were improving [ 17 ].
Believing that Adderall can improve cognitive performance may, in fact, help some people simply by increasing self-confidence. In other words, many of the supposed “cognitive enhancements” from these drugs may simply be a placebo effect [ 17 ].
Amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse can cause serious adverse effects and carry a high risk of addiction. We strongly recommend against using these drugs without a doctor’s prescription. Keep in mind that if you have a condition that might require you to be treated with Adderall or Vyvanse, the best way to minimize your risk of adverse side-effects is to make sure your doctor is fully informed about your medical history, any other drugs you are currently taking, and other relevant factors. The most common side-effects of both Adderall and Vyvanse include [ 4 , 18 , 16 ]: Loss of appetite Dizziness Dry mouth Irritability/agitation Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea Weight loss (weight loss can be countered through other medications such as cyproheptadine or […]