Vyvanse is designed in a way that provides a measure of protection against abuse. However, abuse is still possible. Some may misuse the drug to enhance cognitive performance—for example, while studying.
Long-term effects of abuse can include addiction, heart problems, psychosis, paranoia, and seizures.
Unlike other drugs that treat ADHD, including Ritalin and Adderall, Vyvanse’s unique chemical design means that it is activated in the body in a different way than other stimulant drugs.
Vyvanse is classified as a prodrug. These substances are chemically modified versions of pharmaceuticals that must first undergo an enzymatic conversion to become an active form of the drug.3
Even though an abuse deterrent has been engineered into the medication, some potential for Vyvanse abuse exists.
When someone is looking to amplify the effects of a drug, especially prescription drugs with extended-release mechanisms, one of the most common methods used to enhance the “high” is to crush a pill or open a capsule and snort the powder or dissolve it in a solution for needle use.
But because Vyvanse requires a rate-limited step of enzymatic conversion to become active amphetamine, it may be harder for users to achieve the desired surge of euphoria, even if they snort or inject it.3 In fact, a study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that when Vyvanse was administered via injection in doses as high as 50mg, it did not produce significant euphoric effects. On a “drug likability” scale, subjects felt a much greater drug-like “rush” from d-amphetamine than from Vyvanse. The study also noted that it was very difficult to extract the active amphetamine from the product through crushing.4
This could, therefore, discourage people from abusing it. The journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics noted that Vyvanse’s structure as a prodrug may offer a lower potential for abuse and reduces the risk of food or drug interactions. It is also the only stimulant with FDA-approved abuse-deterrent labeling.5,6
Despite this, lisdexamfetamine remains an amphetamine stimulant. Even though an abuse deterrent has been engineered into the medication, some potential for abuse of Vyvanse exists—primarily by ingesting larger than prescribed doses.
Signs that someone may be abusing Vyvanse include:7
An overdose of Vyvanse can include symptoms such as:2
Ingesting a large amount of Vyvanse can potentially be fatal and lead to seizures and heart failure.8
Although Vyvanse is somewhat more difficult to abuse than other prescription stimulant drugs, it’s not impossible. By taking more than the recommended dose, users can experience a range of serious, negative impacts on their health in the long run.
For example, misuse of central nervous system stimulants such as Vyvanse can hasten the development of tolerance, physiological dependence, and addiction. Some degree of tolerance and dependence may develop even in people who take the drug as prescribed.
Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms can include:9
Other serious long-term effects of Vyvanse misuse, some of which may be associated with fatalities, include:8,10
Many students who do not have ADHD take stimulant medications with the belief that the drugs will improve their academic performance or augment their cognitive skills. Studies have found that the rate of prescription stimulant abuse among college students is as high as 17%.11 Another study done by a researcher at the University of Kentucky found that 30% of the students at that school had misused ADHD medications to help them study.12
The Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey tracks middle and high school students, studying their behaviors, actions, and attitudes in a wide variety of areas. In 2018, MTF researchers determined that 1.8% of 8th graders, 4.1% of 10th graders, and 4.6% percent of 12th graders had misused Adderall at some point in their lives.13
Despite misuse to enhance cognitive performance, evidence is mixed on whether these drugs actually improve performance.
If you or someone you know is abusing Vyvanse, talk to your doctor or consider getting help at a drug rehabilitation program. Quitting the drug can prevent long-term effects on your health and help you avoid potentially severe consequences, such as overdose.
. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Amphetamine (Vyvanse).
. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Medline Plus. (2016). Lisdexamfetamine.
. Gudin, J, and Nalamachu, S. (2016). An overview of prodrug technology and its application for developing abuse-deterrent opioids. Postgraduate Medical Journal, 128(1), 97-105.
. Jasinski, D. and Krishnan, S. (2009). Human pharmacology of intravenous lisdexamfetamine dimesylate: abuse liability in adult stimulant abusers. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 23(4), 410-418.
. Goodman, D. (2010). Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate (Vyvanse), A Prodrug Stimulant for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 35(5), 273-276.
. Simon, K, Worthy, S., Barnes, M., and Tarbell, B. (2015). Abuse-deterrent formulations: transitioning the pharmaceutical market to improve public health and safety. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 6(2), 67-79.
. Food and Drug Administration. (2017). VYVANSE (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) capsules, for oral use, CII.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription Stimulants.
. Government of South Australia. Amphetamine Withdrawal Management.
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
. Reynolds, J. (2017). Why It’s Risky for College Kids to Take ADHD Meds to Help Them Study. U.S. News and World Report.
. Cooper, A. (2011). College students take ADHD drugs for better grades. CNN.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Monitoring the Future Study: Trends in Prevalence of Various Drugs.
. Baggot, K. and Kaminer, Y. (2014). Efficacy of stimulants for cognitive enhancement in non-attention deficit hyperactivity disorder youth: a systematic review. Addiction, 109(4), 547-557.
. Lakhan, S. (2013). Prescription Stimulants in Individuals with and without ADHD – Do They Improve Cognition? Neurology, 80(7).
. Weyandt, L. (2018). Neurocognitive, Autonomic, and Mood Effects of Adderall: A Pilot Study of Healthy College Students. Pharmacy, 6(3), 58.