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Vyvanse vs Adderall

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Comparative Analysis


For patients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or narcolepsy, certain drugs that alter the concentrations of compounds in the brain can help manage symptoms and improve focus. Vyvanse and Adderall are two such medications often prescribed for these conditions. Both affect neurotransmitters in the brain, primarily dopamine and norepinephrine, which play crucial roles in attention and alertness. Vyvanse is a prodrug of dextroamphetamine activated during digestion, resulting in a more gradual onset and longer duration of effect compared to Adderall. On the other hand, Adderall contains mixed amphetamine salts providing immediate therapeutic effects but has a shorter duration than Vyvanse.

Vyvanse vs Adderall Side By Side

Brand NameVyvanseAdderall
ContraindicationsCannot be taken with MAO inhibitorsCannot be taken with MAO inhibitors
CostAround $380 for 30 tablets of 50mgAround $220 for 30 capsules of 20mg XR; Generic version: $25 to $40 for a month’s supply
Generic NameLisdexamfetamineAmphetamine and dextroamphetamine
Most Serious Side EffectSymptoms of heart problems, signs of psychosis, symptoms indicating circulation problems in fingers and toes, aggression or hostility, growth suppression in childrenSigns of an allergic reaction, increase in suicidal thoughts, experiencing seizures, confusion state or unusual changes in mood behavior, vision issues, rapid heart rate, symptoms of a manic episode
Severe Drug InteractionsMAO inhibitorsMAO inhibitors
Typical Dose30–70 mg/day5 mg once or twice daily up to a maximum of 40-60 mg/day

What is Vyvanse?

Lisdexamfetamine (the generic name for Vyvanse) is a stimulant drug that was developed as an advanced medication following the initial class of ADHD medications such as Adderall. Lisdexamfetamine was first approved by the FDA in 2007. It increases levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain to help reduce symptoms of ADHD, effectively maintaining these neurotransmitters' availability within the brain longer than usual. It's prescribed primarily for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge eating disorders in both children and adults. The key difference between Vyvanse versus Adderall lies in their composition: while Vyvanse only contains lisdexamfetamine, Adderall is a mix of four different amphetamine salts which means it can potentially have more side effects.

What conditions is Vyvanse approved to treat?

Vyvanse is approved for the treatment of various conditions, including:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children and adults
  • Moderate-to-severe Binge Eating Disorder (BED) in adults

On the other hand, Adderall is used to manage:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy

How does Vyvanse help with these illnesses?

Vyvanse helps to manage ADHD by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine available in the synapses of the brain. It does this by promoting their release from nerve endings so levels can be maintained higher for longer periods of time. Dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters, chemicals that act as messengers in the brain and throughout the body, that play an important role in attention, cognition, motivation, reward system and mood regulation among other things. It is thought that individuals with ADHD have relatively lower levels or imbalanced distribution of these neurotransmitters. Therefore, by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine, Vyvanse can limit the negative effects of ADHD such as impulsivity or distractibility and help patients manage their condition better.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a brand name for the combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are central nervous system stimulants that affect chemicals in the brain and nerves contributing to hyperactivity and impulse control. By increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters, Adderall helps increase attention span, focus, and reduce impulsive behavior. It was first approved by the FDA in 1996. Unlike Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine), which is a prodrug that must be metabolized before becoming active in the body, Adderall works immediately after it's taken. This immediate action means its effects can be felt quicker than Vyvanse but may also wear off sooner as well. Its side-effect profile varies from individual to individual - some common ones include weight loss due to decreased appetite, trouble sleeping or restlessness especially when taken late in the day; dry mouth; abdominal discomfort or nausea; increased heart rate or blood pressure; anxiety or mood changes among others. These medications should not be taken without medical advice since there could potentially exist contraindications based on your health history.

What conditions is Adderall approved to treat?

Adderall has been approved by the FDA for the management of:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Narcolepsy, a neurological disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness.

How does Adderall help with these illnesses?

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays multiple roles in the body, including motivation, reward, and the regulation of mood. It also affects attention and focus. Adderall works by increasing levels of dopamine available in the brain, thereby improving symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Its actions on norepinephrine may also contribute to its effectiveness as an ADHD treatment. Since it has a direct effect on both dopamine and norepinephrine levels, Adderall is often prescribed when patients do not respond well to other stimulants like Vyvanse or may be combined with these drugs for more effective symptom management.

Adderall acts immediately once it enters the bloodstream which can provide quick relief from ADHD symptoms but this immediate action can lead to a "crash" once effects wear off. On the other hand, Vyvanse must first be converted in the body before it becomes active which leads to smoother transitions but potentially delayed onset of effects.

How effective are both Vyvanse and Adderall?

Both lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) and adderall, two stimulant medications, have established histories of success in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and they were initially approved by the FDA about a decade apart. Since they act on similar neurotransmitters but with slightly different mechanisms, they may be prescribed under different circumstances. The effectiveness of Vyvanse and Adderall was directly studied in several clinical trials; both drugs exhibited similar efficacy in managing symptoms of ADHD as well as comparable safety profiles.

A 2010 review of randomized controlled trials demonstrated that Vyvanse is effective at alleviating symptoms of ADHD starting from the first week of treatment. Its side effect profile is generally favorable over many other stimulants, including suppressed appetite and trouble sleeping being commonly reported side effects. A 2008 study reports that Vyvanse has become one of the most frequently prescribed drugs for ADHD due to its long-lasting action - it can last up to 14 hours with a single dose taken in morning.

In contrast, Adderall has been shown to also effectively manage symptoms related to ADHD but typically requires multiple doses throughout the day given its shorter duration of action when compared to Vyvanse. However, because each patient's metabolism varies greatly which affects how quickly these medications are processed through their system – some patients may prefer or respond better to one medication over another.

Nonetheless, data confirming its efficacy as a stand-alone treatment is robust for both drugs: numerous studies support their use in treating ADHD across different age groups from children all the way up adults. Due to their unique pharmacology relative to non-stimulant treatments for ADHD, either drug might be an optimal choice depending on individual patient characteristics such as response rate or potential adverse events like cardiovascular conditions where caution should be exercised due high potency nature these stimulants carry.

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At what dose is Vyvanse typically prescribed?

Oral dosages of Vyvanse range from 30–70 mg/day, but studies have indicated that 30 mg/day is sufficient for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in most people. Children and adolescents may be started on 20 mg/day. In either population, dosage can be increased after a week if there is no response. The maximum dosage that should not be exceeded in any case is 70 mg/day. Similarly, Adderall dosages vary from person to person and start as low as 5 mg per day for children and could go up to 40mg per day for adults depending upon the severity of symptoms and individual responses to medication. However, it's crucial not to exceed the prescribed dose without consulting with a healthcare provider.

At what dose is Adderall typically prescribed?

Adderall treatment is typically initiated at a dose of 5 mg once or twice daily. The dosage can then be gradually increased to a maximum of 40-60 mg/day, divided into two or three doses, spaced about 4-6 hours apart. It's important to consider that the optimal dosage will vary from patient to patient and should be individualized according to the therapeutic needs and response of each person. If there is no response after several weeks at the highest recommended dose, re-evaluation may be necessary for alternative treatment options.

What are the most common side effects for Vyvanse?

Common side effects of Vyvanse and Adderall may include:

  • Anxiety or nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting, stomach pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Jitteriness (unintentional trembling or shaking)
    These medications are both stimulants used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They function by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in your brain that help with focus, attention, and impulse control. If you experience any persistent adverse effects from either medication, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider for guidance.

abstract image of a patient experiencing side effect

Are there any potential serious side effects for Vyvanse?

While both Vyvanse and Adderall are amphetamine drugs used to treat ADHD, they each have their own potential side effects. Serious side effects of Vyvanse can include:

  • Symptoms of heart problems such as chest pain, shortness of breath or fainting
  • Signs of psychosis: hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not real), delusions (believing things that are not true), mania (an abnormally elevated mood)
  • Symptoms indicating circulation problems in fingers and toes: numbness, pain, cold sensation, unexplained wounds and changes in skin color
  • Aggression or hostility
  • Growth suppression in children

For Adderall these may include:

  • Cardiovascular reactions like high blood pressure and rapid heart rate
  • Mental/mood changes – from aggression to depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Uncontrolled movements or vocal outbursts (tics)
  • Circulation issues causing numbness, pain, discoloration in fingers/toes.

In rare cases for both medications there could be symptoms indicative towards serotonin syndrome which includes agitation, hallucinations, fast heartbeat etc. If you notice any of these symptoms while taking either drug it is important to seek medical attention promptly.

What are the most common side effects for Adderall?

Common side effects of Adderall can include:

  • Dry mouth, sore throat
  • Appetite loss, weight loss
  • Sleep problems including insomnia
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Headache, dizziness
  • Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath.

Less common but serious side effects could be confusion, aggression or hostility. You should immediately consult your healthcare provider if you experience any unusual symptoms while on Adderall. Please note that this list does not cover all possible side effects and others may occur.

Are there any potential serious side effects for Adderall?

While Adderall is a common medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, it can occasionally lead to serious side effects. If you notice any of the following symptoms while taking Adderall, seek medical assistance immediately:

  • Any signs of an allergic reaction or severe skin reaction: these may include hives, itching, fever, swollen glands, difficulty breathing or swallowing; swelling in your face or throat; sore throat; burning eyes; skin pain; red or purple skin rash with blistering and peeling.
  • Increase in suicidal thoughts or urges to harm yourself.
  • Experiencing seizures (convulsions).
  • Confusion state or unusual changes in mood behavior such as extreme happiness/sadness.
  • Vision issues including blurred vision, tunnel vision, eye pain/swelling. You might also see halos around lights.
  • Rapid heart rate: fast/irregular heartbeats that could be accompanied by chest pain.
  • Symptoms indicative of a manic episode like racing thoughts/increased energy levels/reckless behavior/extreme happiness/talkativeness/severe sleep disruptions.

Remember that this list does not cover all possible side effects. Always consult your healthcare provider for medical advice about side effects when considering Adderall treatment.

Contraindications for Vyvanse and Adderall?

Both Vyvanse and Adderall, like most other stimulant medications, may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety in some people. If you notice your anxiety worsening or an increase in jitteriness, restlessness, or disruptive behavior, please seek immediate medical attention.

Neither Vyvanse nor Adderall can be taken if you are taking or have been taking monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors (MAOIs). Always tell your physician which medications you are currently on; MAOIs will require a period of about 2 weeks to clear from the system to prevent dangerous interactions with both Vyvanse and Adderall.

How much do Vyvanse and Adderall cost?

For the brand name versions of these drugs:

  • The price of 30 tablets of Vyvanse (50mg) averages around $380, which works out to about $12.67/day.
  • The price for Adderall XR (20mg) is roughly $220 for a supply of 30 capsules, working out to approximately $7.33/day.

Thus, if you are in the higher dosage range for Vyvanse (i.e., 70 mg/day), then brand-name Adderall is less expensive on a per-day treatment basis. Please note that cost should not be a primary consideration in determining which of these drugs is right for you.

For the generic versions, costs are significantly lower:

  • Generic Vyvanse isn’t available yet so there's no cheaper alternative currently.
  • Generic Adderall (amphetamine salt combo), however, can cost between $25 and $40 for a month’s supply depending on dose and it’s available in packs from as low as 5 up to more than 1000 tablets. This means your daily cost could start from just under one dollar per day depending on your required dosage.

Popularity of Vyvanse and Adderall

Lisdexamfetamine, commonly known by the brand name Vyvanse, was prescribed to around 10.7 million people in the US in 2020. Vyvanse accounted for approximately 13% of ADHD prescriptions in the US and has been generally increasing in utilization since its approval.

Mixed amphetamine salts, including brand versions such as Adderall, were prescribed to over 17 million people in the USA during that same year. This accounts for just under a quarter of all ADHD prescriptions and about a third of stimulant prescriptions overall. Whilst there has been some fluctuation over time, Adderall use has remained relatively stable over recent years.


Both Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) and Adderall (amphetamine mixtures) are well-established in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with a plethora of clinical studies supporting their effectiveness over placebo treatments. In certain scenarios, these drugs may be combined, but this is subject to careful consideration by a healthcare provider due to potential drug-drug interactions. Their mechanisms of action differ slightly; while both impact levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, Vyvanse provides a more steady release compared to Adderall's immediate effect.

Vyvanse tends to be prescribed as first-line therapy for ADHD due to its lower risk for misuse given it must undergo conversion in the body before becoming active. Conversely, Adderall might serve as an alternative or adjunctive therapy particularly when patients have not responded optimally to initial treatment or if cost is a concern since it has an available generic form.

Both medications require some time for therapeutic effects to become noticeable and demand close monitoring especially at initiation of therapy. The side effect profiles are similar between Vyvanse and Adderall including risks such as decreased appetite, insomnia and irritability among others. Yet they are generally well-tolerated with appropriate use under medical supervision. Patients should immediately seek medical attention if they experience worsening symptoms or develop suicidal thoughts during treatment.