Vyvanse Addiction Guide
Vyvanse abuse is an ongoing issue in the United States.1 Surveys track abuse of prescription stimulants, but do not offer breakdowns of specific substances such as Vyvanse.1 In 2019, nearly 5 million Americans 12 years of age or older had abused prescription stimulant medications, including Vyvanse, within the last year.1 The largest age group that had abused prescription stimulants in the last year was people between the ages of 18 and 25.1
Vyvanse use has steadily increased throughout the United States.2 Despite this increase, the state of Nevada has one of the lowest rates of Vyvanse use in the country.2 This may be due to the fact that Nevada has the lowest percentage of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnoses in the country, along with the lowest rates of children who are given medications to treat ADHD.2
The purpose of this article is to help you learn more about:
- What Vyvanse is, and what it is used for.
- The short- and long-term effects of taking Vyvanse.
- Vyvanse withdrawal.
- Vyvanse abuse signs.
- Signs of addiction to Vyvanse.
- How Vyvanse abuse is treated.
- How you can get help for Vyvanse abuse and addiction.
What is Vyvanse Used For?
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) is a prescription stimulant medication that is a controlled substance.3,4 It is approved to treat ADHD and moderate to severe binge eating disorder (BED).3 Other stimulant medications that function similarly include Adderall (a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), Ritalin (methylphenidate), Concerta (methylphenidate), and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).4, 5 While these medications are prescribed to treat the same conditions, the formulations are different and they don’t all work exactly the same.4, 5 Vyvanse is the longest-acting stimulant medication.6 Sometimes one medication is prescribed if a different one hasn’t been effective or has caused unpleasant side effects.6 Vyvanse increases levels of dopamine, which influences certain areas of the brain that control movement, pleasurable feelings, and the ability to focus.4
What are the Side Effects of Vyvanse
Abusing Vyvanse can have serious risks, and you may wonder, “Is Vyvanse dangerous if it is prescribed by a doctor?” Even taking it as prescribed can involve both short- and long-term side effects that can be harmful to your physical and mental health.3, 4, 5
Vyvanse has some positive effects, especially when used as prescribed.4 It can help people who have ADHD focus better and feel calmer.4 However, there are negative short-term effects as well. These can include:3, 4, 5
- Aggressive behavior.
- Blurred or double vision.
- Causing or worsening symptoms of mental illness including bipolar disorder, depression, or psychosis.
- Changes in heart rhythm or palpitations.
- Development of tics.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Dry mouth.
- Excessive sweating.
- Feeling jumpy or restless.
- Grinding your teeth.
- High blood pressure.
- Lack of sex drive or impaired sexual functioning.
- Loss of appetite.
- Raised body temperature.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Shortness of breath.
- Stomach upset, including nausea, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Weight loss.
Continued use of Vyvanse can have negative effects on your body and mind.3,4,5 These side effects are more likely to occur if you use more Vyvanse than prescribed if it is not prescribed to you, or if you take it differently than prescribed.4,5 These long-term side effects can include:3,4,5
- Altered sense of taste.
- Areas of swelling (edema).
- Damage to the heart muscle.
- Dental issues as a result of grinding your teeth.
- Heart attack.
- Issues with blood flow in the fingers, known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.
- Lesions from picking at the skin.
- Liver damage.
- Mental health issues such as depression, paranoia, or psychosis.
- Nutritional deficiencies.
- Serotonin syndrome, a dangerous drug reaction that can occur when Vyvanse is taken with other medications that affect serotonin levels, and causes changes to mental state, stomach problems, muscle and nerve problems, seizures, and issues stabilizing body functions.
- Liver damage.
- Uncontrollable and involuntary movements.
These side effects can be extremely dangerous or potentially fatal, even if you take Vyvanse as prescribed.3 You may ask, “What happens if I take too much Vyvanse?” If you take too much of any drug, you can overdose, which can be fatal.3,5 Finally, chronic use can increase the likelihood of becoming addicted to Vyvanse, especially if it is misused.3,4,5
Since Vyvanse is an addictive substance, it is possible to become physically dependent on it.4 If you have been taking Vyvanse for a while, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you abruptly stop taking it.4,5,7 These symptoms can include:4,5,7
- Depression with or without suicidal thoughts or attempts.
- Feeling hungry a lot more than usual.
- Moving slower than usual or feeling restless.
- Vivid nightmares.
- Sleeping more or less than usual.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Urges to use Vyvanse.
Am I Addicted to Vyvanse?
There is a high likelihood of abuse, tolerance, dependence, and addiction with prescription stimulant medications like Vyvanse.3,5,7 While these terms are interconnected, they don’t mean the same thing.
Abuse refers to taking Vyvanse in ways other than how it is intended to be taken.5 This can include taking more than prescribed, taking it more frequently than prescribed, taking it when it isn’t prescribed to get high, or crushing and snorting the medication.5
Vyvanse tolerance can develop after extended use, even when used under medical supervision.3 Tolerance is when the body becomes accustomed to the effects of Vyvanse, and the usual dose becomes less effective.3, 7 When tolerance develops, you need a higher dose to achieve the same effect, which can lead to people taking more Vyvanse to feel focused or get high.7 Tolerance isn’t always a sign of a problem, but it can be one of the signs of Vyvanse abuse, dependence, and addiction.
Dependence refers to when the body adjusts to the presence of Vyvanse in the system.3 (p18) Physical dependence can occur when the medication is taken as prescribed, but it can also be a sign of Vyvanse addiction.3,5,7 Withdrawal symptoms appear when Vyvanse use is suddenly significantly reduced or stopped.3,5,7
When Vyvanse abuse progresses to the point where it becomes uncontrollable and starts to affect various areas of a person’s life, it becomes an addiction.5,7 Addiction causes changes in the brain that affect how a person thinks and behaves. Just because someone stops using Vyvanse doesn’t mean that they no longer have an addiction to the drug.8 Tolerance and dependence can be symptoms of addiction, and there is some overlap between signs of abuse and addiction, but the presence of one doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an issue with the others.7
Vyvanse Addiction Symptoms
If you are concerned that you or a loved one may be abusing or have an addiction to Vyvanse, there are some indicators to watch out for. These can affect the way a person looks or acts, and can signify a potential problem with Vyvanse.
Some of the physical symptoms of Vyvanse abuse or addiction include:3 (p12, 17), 7 (p561)
- Rapid breathing.
- Dilated pupils.
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using Vyvanse.
- Flushed skin.
- Increased activity or restlessness.
- Lack of coordination.
- Weight loss.
- Loss of appetite.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Rapid pulse.
- Stomach pain.
- Sweating a lot more than usual.
There are also behavioral signs of Vyvanse abuse and addiction to be aware of. These can include:3,4,5,7
- Feeling urges to take Vyvanse.
- Inability to stop using Vyvanse even when it has affected various areas of your life such as physical or mental health, functioning at school or work, or relationships.
- Needing to take more Vyvanse to feel the effects.
- Sleeping or eating less than usual.
- Taking extra Vyvanse before studying for a test.
- Taking more Vyvanse than intended or being unable to stop using it.
Types of Treatment for Vyvanse Abuse
There is a variety of ways in which Vyvanse abuse or addiction can be treated. Treatment can be provided in several different settings using a range of therapeutic techniques.5,8The type of treatment you receive is dependent on your unique circumstances and individual needs.
If you are physically dependent on Vyvanse, attending a detox program is a good first step, as it allows you to receive medical supervision and care as you detox and stop using Vyvanse.8 While Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms are unlikely to involve physical risk or be as uncomfortable as withdrawal from other substances, there is some danger associated with detoxing.9 Depression can become severe and potentially lead to increased risk of suicide; you can be monitored and treated during a medically supervised detox.7,9
Detox assists only with removing Vyvanse from the body, and it does not address the complex nature of addiction.8 For best results, detox should be followed up with another form of treatment such as inpatient or outpatient care.8 Inpatient treatment involves staying at a facility for several weeks while receiving 24/7 monitoring and support, intensive group therapy, and regular individual counseling sessions.8 Outpatient treatment is less intensive; it provides less monitoring and allows people to receive care while living at home and engaging in their daily responsibilities, i.e., work or attending school.8
Group and individual counseling sessions make use of specialized therapeutic techniques that are designed to help people address the triggers that contribute to addiction so they can live life without using substances.5, 8 Counseling can help people learn how to deal with high-risk situations and stress, prevent relapse, improve relationships with others, and participate in activities that encourage sobriety.5, 8 It is also important to find an appropriate medication to treat symptoms of ADHD and ensure that the treatment facility can help you explore non-stimulant options.8, 10 If you have other mental health symptoms, the facility can help treat those as well.8
Finding Help for Vyvanse Abuse
As a prominent provider of addiction treatment across the United States, American Addiction Centers can help you address any issues you may have with Vyvanse or other substances.11 With facilities across the country, including Las Vegas, Nevada, it is easy to access care no matter where you are.11, 12 Treatment plans are effective and tailored to meet your needs, and are available at all levels of care, from medical detox to outpatient treatment.11, 12 For more information, call our free, confidential helpline 24/7 at 702-800-2682.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2020). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Piper, B.J., Ogden, C.L., Simoyan, O.M., Chung, D.Y., Caggiano, J.F., Nichols, S.D., & McCall, K.L. (2018). Trends in use of prescription stimulants in the United States and Territories, 2006 to 2016. PLOS One, 13(11).
- Food and Drug Administration. (2017). Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) capsules, for oral use, CII.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Stimulant ADHD medications: Methylphenidate and amphetamines.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription stimulants.
- University of Pittsburg Medical Center. ADHD medications: The basics.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse.(2020). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (Third edition).
- Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and substance abuse treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series 45, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 06-4131. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Mariani, J.J., & Levin, F.R. (2007). Treatment strategies for co-occurring ADHD and substance use disorders. The American Journal on Addictions, 16 (Suppl 1), 45-56.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). American Addiction Centers.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Desert Hope Las Vegas treatment center.
- American Addiction Centers. (2021). Substance abuse treatment services.
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