Adderall vs. Vyvanse: What’s the Difference?

Published January 1st, 2021 by Angel Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Frecking
Medically Reviewed:
Gerardo Sison
Updated Date: Feb 26th, 2021
 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders affecting children in the United States, with an estimated 10 percent of children in the United States affected. Adderall and Vyvanse are two popular prescription medications used for the treatment of ADHD and other medical conditions, but when it comes to Adderall vs. Vyvanse, what’s the difference?

Overview

Adderall and Vyvanse both fall under the category of central nervous system stimulants. 

Adderall is composed of two primary ingredients, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, both of which are central nervous system stimulants. The primary ingredient of Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine. 

Both drugs work by balancing brain neurotransmitters that cause issues associated with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.Adderall was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1996 as an instant-release tablet. A longer acting version of the medication, known as Adderall XR, was introduced in 2001. 

Vyvanse was introduced to the market in the United States in 2007 following FDA approval. A generic version of Adderall is available on the market, which has helped to lower the cost of the drug. Vyvanse is available in brand-name form only, as the brand name manufacturer’s patent does not expire until 2023.

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are considered Schedule II controlled substances by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), meaning they have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Schedule II is the highest level of risk that can be given to a prescription drug, so patients using Adderall and Vyvanse must be carefully monitored.

Conditions Treated

Adderall and Vyvanse are both used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. In addition, Adderall can be used to treat narcolepsy, while Vyvanse is also approved for the treatment of binge eating disorder.
 
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental disorders in children. Most people are diagnosed with ADHD during early adolescents, and while the condition may continue into adulthood, some people find that their symptoms improve as they age. Other people are not diagnosed until adulthood. 

There are three different kinds of ADHD, each of which presents with slightly different signs and symptoms. The hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD causes the symptoms of what most people think of when they think of ADHD, while the inattentive form was previously called Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). The third form of ADHD is a combined presentation, in which patients exhibit symptoms of both hyperactivity and inattention. Symptoms may change over time throughout a person’s lifetime. 

Common signs and symptoms of the developmental disorder include: 

  • Daydreaming
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficult controlling impulsive behaviors
  • Talking excessively
  • Squirming or fidgeting
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Difficulty resisting temptation
  • Difficulty getting along with others
  • Forgetting or losing things regularly

Adderall is approved for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults, and the medication is most commonly used for the treatment of the condition in children aged 3 years and older. Vyvanse is used for the treatment of ADHD in adults and children between the ages of 6 and 17.
 
Narcolepsy
Adderall is also used for the treatment of narcolepsy in adults. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes symptoms such as sleep paralysis, excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden loss of muscle tone, changes in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and hallucinations. 

While most people think of narcolepsy as causing people to fall asleep standing up or nod off in social settings, these popular representations of narcolepsy actually occur quite rarely. While scientists have yet to discover a cure for narcolepsy, some medications, including Adderall, can help manage the symptoms. 

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Binge Eating Disorder
Vyvanse is approved for the treatment of moderate to severe binge eating disorder in adults. Binge eating disorder was added to the DSM-V in 2013 as one of the newest eating disorders recognized by medical professionals and mental health professionals. 

People who suffer from binge eating disorder will eat abnormally large quantities of food, often feeling out of control during a bingeing episode. These episodes are recurring and often cause feelings of distress, shame, or guilt. 

Binging usually causes the patient to eat until the point of discomfort, but no purging behaviors occur, such as vomiting or laxative abuse, which separates binge eating disorder from bulimia.

Cost

Adderall and Vyvanse are notoriously expensive medications. 

Adderall is available in a generic version for both immediate-release and extended-release versions, and an average monthly prescription of either form of the generic drug can cost 10 dollars or less. 

By contrast, the brand-name version of Adderall XR, the extended-release version of the drug, costs approximately 230 dollars for a monthly prescription; the instant-release version is priced similarly. 

The generic version of Adderall is covered by most insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare. However, it’s possible to save money on Adderall with pharmacy discount card programs like USA Rx regardless of your insured status.

Because no generic version of Vyvanse is available, this medication is considerably more expensive than Adderall. A 30-day supply of Vyvanse costs approximately 373 dollars regardless of the strength of the drug, and some insurance companies may not cover the drug. 
If you are worried about being able to afford our medication, consider using a pharmacy discount card to help lower the cost of your medication. Pharmacy discount cards help you save money on all FDA-approved medications, including both brand name and generic drugs, and you can use one regardless of your insured status.

Side Effects

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are associated with numerous side effects, some of which may require medical attention. 

Adderall 

Common side effects of Adderall that normally do not require medical attention include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pain
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness

Common serious side effects of Adderall that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Bladder pain
  • Fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat or pulse
  • Lower back or side pain
  • Frequent urge to urinate
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Difficult, burning, or painful urination

Less common side effects of Adderall that may require immediate medical attention include:

  • Vomiting
  • Shivering
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Hoarseness
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness
  • Allergic reactions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sweating

Side effects are commonly experienced when a patient first begins taking Adderall or after a patient increases their dose of the medication. Most people find that their side effects diminish as their bodies adjust to the medication. 
If you experience these side effects and your symptoms continue or worsen, make sure to contact your doctor for medical advice, or seek medical attention immediately. 

Vyvanse

Side effects of Vyvanse range from common to less common and may differ depending on the medical condition that is being treated. Common side effects associated with treatment of ADHD include:

  • Anxiety
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Upper stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss

Common side effects associated with treatment of moderate to severe BED include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation
  • Feeling jittery
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety

Less common side effects associated with Vyvanse include:

  • Libido changes
  • Agitation
  • Rapidly changing moods
  • Depersonalization
  • Rash
  • Trouble breathing
  • Sleepiness or unusual drowsiness

Warnings for Use

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are Schedule II controlled substances based on their high potential for abuse and addiction. Adderall and Vyvanse are more likely to be abused by people who do not have a prescription for either drug but who use the medications while studying for a test in school or during a stressful time at work. 

When taken on a regular basis or over a long period of time without a medical need, it is common for people to develop a physical or psychological dependence on Adderall and Vyvanse. 

Symptoms of dependence may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression 
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting 
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nightmares
  • Body aches

Common signs of an Adderall or Vyvanse addiction include:

  • Feeling unable to cut back on substance use
  • Not being able to work without taking the medication
  • Not feeling alert without the medication
  • Expending significant time and money to obtain and use the medication
  • Needing larger doses to achieve the desired effect

People who have been using Adderall or Vyvanse for an extended period of time may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the medication suddenly. 

Therefore, people who have been using either medication for two weeks or more should only stop taking their medication or reduce their dose under the supervision of a medical professional. 

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Changes in mood
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Increased appetite
  • Strange dreams

Damage to the heart and cardiovascular system can occur as a result of Adderall or Vyvanse abuse. Long term Adderall or Vyvanse abuse can result in the following: 

  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling jittery or on edge
  • Trouble breathing/shortness of breath
  • Hyperactivity
  • Heart disease
  • Tremors
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth

Some people may not be able to use Adderall or Vyvanse safely depending on their medical history. Others may need to exercise extreme caution. 

Make sure to tell your doctor if you have experienced any of the following:

  • Heart problems, heart defects, high blood pressure, or family history of these problems, as sudden death has occurred in people with these issues taking stimulant medications.
  • Hyperthyroidism or other thyroid problems
  • Glaucoma
  • Allergic reactions to amphetamines
  • History of taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) such as phenelzine, isocarboxazid, and selegiline
  • Psychiatric issues or a family history of suicide, bipolar illness, or depression.
  • History of drug or alcohol addiction

Summary

Adderall and Vyvanse are central nervous system stimulants that are both used for the treatment of ADHD in children and adults. 

Both medications have similar side effects and carry a high risk of dependence and abuse, so they are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the DEA. 

Adderall is available in a generic form and is considerably less expensive, while Vyvanse is only available in a brand name form and may not be covered by insurance. 

Regardless of which medication you are prescribed, you can receive significant cost savings regardless of your insured status by using a pharmacy discount card from USA Rx.
 
Sources:
https://www.addictioncenter.com/stimulants/adderall/ 
https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adderall/long-term-effects 
https://americanaddictioncenters.org/adderall/vs-vyvanse 
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

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