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Vyvanse Addiction: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment Options

4 min read · 8 sections

Vyvanse is both a prescription central nervous system stimulant as well as a Schedule II drug according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. As such, it has therapeutic uses along with a potential for misuse and dependence.1

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse, the brand name for lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, is a prescription central nervous system stimulant for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and moderate to severe binge eating disorder in adults.1

But similar to many prescription stimulants, Vyvanse can still be misused and can lead to addiction, dependence, and more.1 For along with the therapeutic benefits of prescription stimulants such as Vyvanse, immediate effects can include excitement, alertness, euphoria, and an increased sense of well-being.2 As such, some people misuse prescription stimulants to get high.3,4

Can Vyvanse be Misused?

Yes. Along with generating a high, stimulants are sometimes misused in an effort to boost cognitive performance, lose weight, and improve memory.3,4 The reality, however, is that prescription stimulant use is actually negatively associated with academic performance, which means despite perceptions, it likely won’t help you academically.3 Plus, research shows that students who misuse stimulants have high rates of other substance use and don’t perform as well as their non-using counterparts.6

Additionally, when Vyvanse is employed as a weight-loss aid, it can actually be dangerous. According to warnings on the drug label, doing so has been associated with serious cardiovascular effects.1

It’s important to note that Vyvanse, which was approved in 2007, is somewhat unique among other prescription stimulants in terms of its chemical structure and pharmacological activity.1 It is manufactured as a prodrug, which impacts the way the drug is activated in the hopes of serving as an abuse-deterrent mechanism. In effect, Vyvanse needs to pass through the gastrointestinal tract to become active, which may limit the ability of it to be misused by snorting or injecting as doing so wouldn’t produce any effects. Additional pharmacokinetic properties of the drug limit its oral misuse potential as well. Therefore, even if a large dose is taken by mouth over a short period of time, absorption may be delayed, which may decrease the euphoria that can lead to misuse.7

Again, the jury is still out to some degree with regard to the drug’s abuse-deterrent capabilities, as more studies are needed. However, it’s safe to say that Vyvanse has the potential for dependence and addiction, and it can even lead to death in some instances of intentional misuse and resulting overdose.1

Vyvanse Side Effects

In addition to its therapeutic effects, Vyvanse can have various adverse side effects, even for those taking it to treat ADHD and binge eating disorders.1

The most common adverse reactions reported with Vyvanse use for ADHD (in adults, children, and adolescents) and for binge eating disorder (in adults) include:1

  • Anxiety.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • Dizziness.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Diarrhea, constipation.
  • Upper abdominal pain.
  • Anorexia.
  • Decreased appetite and weight.

Vyvanse Addiction and Misuse

Given its prescription status, many people assume Vyvanse is safe even if they misuse it. However, as a Schedule II drug, Vyvanse has a potential for abuse and dependence.  In fact, warnings on its drug label indicate that use of Vyvanse can lead to tolerance, dependence, addiction, overdose, and death.1

Symptoms of Vyvanse Misuse

Signs and symptoms of central nervous system stimulant misuse can include:1

  • Hyperactivity.
  • Restlessness.
  • Insomnia.
  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate.
  • Flushed skin.
  • Increased sweating.
  • Dilated pupils.
  • Vomiting.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Decreased appetite.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Tremors.

Anxiety, aggression, hostility, suicidal and homicidal ideation, and psychosis have also been reported in relation to Vyvanse misuse.1

Vyvanse Overdose

Just as with other prescription stimulants, it’s possible to overdose on Vyvanse. Common symptoms of a stimulant overdose can include:4

  • Confusion.
  • Panic.
  • Aggression.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Dangerously elevated body temperature.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Heart arrhythmia.
  • Overactive reflexes.
  • Muscle pains and weakness.
  • Restlessness.
  • Tremors.
  • Seizures.

Additional symptoms of stimulant overdose can include an irregular heartbeat that can lead to a heart attack, abnormally high or low blood pressure, circulation failure, nerve problems that can progress to seizures, and stomach issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. Ultimately, overdose can lead to convulsions, heart failure, and death.4

Long-Term Effects of Vyvanse Misuse

Ongoing misuse of central nervous system stimulants such as Vyvanse can hasten the development of tolerance, physiological dependence, and addiction.

With tolerance, the drug’s effects become less pronounced over time. 1 Someone who has built tolerance to a drug may require increasingly large doses to achieve the desired effect.2

Dependence means a person’s system adapts to the presence of the drug so that they’ll only feel “normal” when the drug is present. When the person stops taking the drug, they can experience withdrawal symptoms. Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms can include significant fatigue and depression.1

Though tolerance and dependence-associated withdrawal are both diagnostic features of a stimulant use disorder, their presence doesn’t always mean addiction has developed—such as might be the case in people who develop some degree of tolerance and dependence while taking the drug as prescribed as part of a therapeutic regimen.1

Instead, a stimulant use disorder is a more pervasive mental health issue that commonly involves more than just tolerance and withdrawal, and is characterized by compulsive, drug-seeking behavior that may interfere with several aspects of a person’s life, such as their health, job, and relationships.10

Signs and Symptoms of Vyvanse Addiction

If you or a loved one has issues with stimulants such as Vyvanse, it’s helpful to understand the following criteria used to diagnose a stimulant use disorder. However, a formal diagnosis can only be made by a healthcare professional.10

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a person has a stimulant use disorder when use leads to significant impairment, as manifested by exhibiting at least two of the following criteria within a 12-month period:10

  • Use of the drug in larger doses or for a longer period than had been intended.
  • A persistent desire to use or repeated unsuccessful attempts to decrease or cease use.
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time attempting to procure the drug, use it, or get over its effects.
  • Cravings, urges, or a desire to use.
  • Recurrent use resulting in failure to fulfill obligations at school, home, or work.
  • Continued use despite negative effects on social life and interpersonal relationships.
  • Reduced recreational, work, or social activities reduced or abandoned.
  • Repeated use in environments or situations where it could cause physical harm.
  • Ongoing use even with the knowledge that physical and/or psychological problems. are likely to have either been caused or worsened by use.

Vyvanse Addiction Treatment

Although there are currently no FDA-approved medications that specifically manage stimulant withdrawal or treat stimulant use disorder, medically supervised detox, either on an inpatient our outpatient basis, and professional substance use disorder treatment can be helpful in promoting recovery.2

People who suddenly cut down their dose or abruptly stop using stimulants, especially after prolonged or high doses, can develop uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as:1

  • Extreme fatigue.
  • .
  • Insomnia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Agitation.
  • Strong cravings.

Additionally, individuals can experience serious psychological symptoms such as severe depression or suicidal ideation.1

While Vyvanse withdrawal may be very uncomfortable, it is very rarely fatal. However, symptoms can be intense and difficult to get through on your own. As such, some form of medically managed withdrawal, such as the kind in detox, can help keep a person as safe and comfortable as possible by monitoring and addressing withdrawal symptoms, like depression and suicidal ideation.2,12

Additionally, people with stimulant use disorders often have co-occurring conditions and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ADHD, or additional types of substance use disorders. It’s important to address these conditions as well as the stimulant use, as psychiatric problems can worsen the prognosis for recovery from substance use disorders, and vice versa.2

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease that requires treatment to get better. However, with proper treatment, people can recover from stimulant use disorder and resume happy, healthier lives.11

Types of Vyvanse Addiction Treatment

After detox, people often benefit from ongoing treatment to address any underlying issues associated with addiction and to learn ways to prevent relapse.11 Behavioral therapies, which are commonly used to treat stimulant use disorders, can include:2,4

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people learn to modify unhelpful thoughts and behaviors.
  • Contingency management (CM), which provides reinforcements and tangible positive rewards (such as vouchers and gifts) when people meet their goals.
  • Community reinforcement approach (CRA), which helps people make lifestyle changes that support abstinence.
  • Motivational interviewing (MI), which helps people explore and resolve ambivalence and helps them build internal motivation to make positive changes.

While treatment should be personalized to your unique medical, mental, and social needs, it can take place in different settings.11 One option is inpatient rehab, during which you live on site in a treatment facility for the duration of treatment and receive 24/7 care, monitoring, and attention. Another choice is outpatient rehab, where you live at home but travel to a treatment center on a regular schedule.2

Following formal treatment, many people participate in some form of aftercare to help them maintain recovery. Aftercare can involve different components, such as individual counseling, self-help groups, alumni programs, and/or regular phone contact with your rehab facility.13

American Addiction Centers is a leading provider of treatment for stimulant misuse and addiction, with treatment centers conveniently located across the nation. If you or a loved one is struggling with inhalant misuse or addiction, contact our admissions navigators, who are available 24/7 to answer your questions and help support you as you take your first steps toward recovery.



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