Vyvanse is a prescription drug that is typically prescribed to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is a central nervous system stimulant and controlled substance. Vyvanse is approved for use by the FDA for individuals aged six and up. Some doctors and patients prefer this drug to Adderall, also used to treat ADHD, because its effects last longer. However, like Adderall, Vyvanse can be habit-forming and is subject to abuse. Chemically, amphetamine-based prescription drugs are similar to crystal meth. Although Vyvanse contains an inactive amphetamine compound, it converts to “active” when metabolized by the body. Like other controlled substances, patients must take the medication exactly as prescribed; abusing this substance can lead to addiction.
Introduction to Vyvanse
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine in generic form) is mainly prescribed by doctors to patients with ADHD. Sometimes it is prescribed to adults who have serious binge-eating disorders. However, Vyvanse is not approved to treat obesity or to promote weight loss. Some doctors favor Vyvanse for ADHD over other amphetamine-based medications like Adderall and Ritalin, because it tends to reduce symptoms longer and it is less prone to abuse because of its slower metabolization. Patients taking Vyvanse don’t have to take it as often as other stimulants, and this reduced dosing decreases the risk for abuse. However, the drug is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule II controlled substance.
Unfortunately, Vyvanse can interact with some medications, so it’s important to avoid taking it with other drugs unless you have the consent of your doctor. Vyvanse can also interact with vitamin C. The acidity in vitamin C-containing foods can reduce the effectiveness of the drug, so patients must be mindful about how much vitamin C they ingest. Also, some patients taking this drug report some common side effects that include:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Feeling jittery
In some cases, individuals taking this drug have experienced more serious side effects that include:
- Heart problems (i.e. increased heart rate, chest pain)
- Trouble breathing
Doctors avoid prescribing this medication to patients with known heart problems or irregularities because of its association with heart-related side effects.
Vyvanse is available in capsule and pill form. It cannot be injected or snorted, but some people who abuse the drug take it in high doses to achieve their desired effect. Taking Vyvanse at higher doses increases the risk for addiction development. Individuals should also note that there are no safeguards when buying this drug on the street; users cannot be certain they are purchasing Vyvanse. Many street drugs are laced with other dangerous drugs that can lead to serious health complications like overdose. On the street, this drug may be referred to as ‘Vicky’ or ‘V-twin.’
What Does Vyvanse Do?
Vyvanse works by altering chemicals in the brain. Specifically, it increases norepinephrine and dopamine levels. Increasing these chemicals helps people achieve more focus; patients enjoy improvements in their attention span. The drug also helps users control their impulsive behavior and hyperactivity. Typically, the full effectiveness of the drug cannot be felt for a few weeks of use.
Some people find Vyvanse to be more effective than other ADHD medications while others do not. The main difference between Vyvanse and other ADHD drugs is that it takes longer for the body to metabolize—so it stays in the system longer. However, some people find that its side effects are worse and may prefer a different medication. Unlike Adderall, which has an action duration of 6 hours, Vyvanse can remain active for up to 13 hours.
Vyvanse Abuse and Addiction
Like other stimulants, Vyvanse is subject to abuse. Unlike many other stimulants, however, it cannot be snorted or injected, so its rate of abuse is less than that for other drugs used to treat ADHD. Nevertheless, Vyvanse is habit-forming. People who have abused this drug report that they enjoy the increase in energy and focus that it delivers. While it is not associated with a euphoric high, Vyvanse can promote feelings of high energy, especially when taken at a higher dose. Unfortunately, higher doses are extremely risky. Stimulants can lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate. A high dose can cause seizures, respiratory problems, and overdose.
Because Vyvanse is habit-forming, the body can become dependent on it. Physical dependency is one characteristic of addiction. If the individual is also psychologically dependent on the drug, (i.e., they “need” it to cope with certain situations or triggers), they demonstrate another aspect of addiction. As mentioned, abuse of this drug is dangerous. Higher doses can lead to more severe side effects—even death.
Signs and Symptoms of Vyvanse Abuse and Addiction
Typically, the first sign of Vyvanse abuse is taking a higher dose of the drug— like taking it before another dose is recommended by the prescribing physician. Of course, taking this drug without a prescription is a definite form of abuse. A person with a Vyvanse abuse problem or addiction may exhibit the following signs and symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Increased irritability or anxiety
- Doctor shopping (to obtain more of the drug)
- Lying about drug use
- Taking someone else’s prescription
- Feeling unable to stop taking the medication
- Feeling preoccupied about obtaining the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to take the drug
People may exhibit different signs and symptoms, but the key characteristic of a Vyvanse addiction tends to be the presence of withdrawal symptoms when the drug isn’t taken for a period of time. Withdrawal symptoms from Vyvanse may include intense cravings, headache, anxiety, depression, shaking, sweating, paranoia, etc…
Treatment for Vyvanse Addiction
Individuals who are abusing this drug or who are addicted to it should know that help is available. Once an addiction has set in, there is no cure except for abstinence. The medical community regards substance addiction as a chronic condition: While it can be effectively managed (with abstinence), it is likely to progress in severity without treatment.
FHE Health takes a comprehensive view of Vyvanse addiction, providing patients with many different options and treatment plans to suit their individual needs.
A person who has become dependent on Vyvanse may need to undergo medical detox (depending on the severity of their dependency). During a medically supervised detox from Vyvanse, healthcare providers can prescribe medications to reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea or anxiety. In most cases, a Vyvanse detox can be completed in about a week.
Those with an addiction to Vyvanse should understand that medical detox is not a cure. It helps to break the cycle of abuse by targeting the individual’s physical dependency on the drug. However, people may still experience cravings and feel psychologically compelled to use the drug again. This is why it’s imperative to continue with post-detox therapies which target the psychological and behavioral aspects of the drug addiction.
FHE Health features inpatient and outpatient drug addiction programs designed to help people manage their addictions. During therapy sessions, recovering individuals learn how to cope with the triggers that caused them to misuse the drug in the first place. They also learn about strategies for warding off relapse.
Healthcare providers at FHE Health often encourage recovering individuals to take advantage of aftercare support once they’ve completed the initial intensive portion of their therapy. Relapse rates tend to be highest within that first year after treatment. Elements of an aftercare program, like ongoing counseling or residence in a sober living community, provide people with support that can help them stick with their recovery. People who may not have adequate support systems at home or feel vulnerable for one reason or another can benefit greatly from an aftercare plan in their quest to stay sober.
If you or a loved one is battling an addiction to Vyvanse or another drug (prescription or illicit), seek help from FHE Health. Failing to get treatment only prolongs suffering, and continuing to abuse dangerous drugs carries immense risks for your physical and mental health. Recovery from substance addiction is possible, but it requires high-quality treatment of the kind you can find at FHE Health.