Adderall vs Vyvanse: A Comprehensive Comparison

Adderall and Vyvanse are prescription stimulant medications that are both used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children. However, there are some key differences between them. Please continue reading to learn about Vyvanse vs Adderall.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is the brand name of a prescription central nervous system (CNS) stimulant medication that is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It helps to increase attention and focus and decrease hyperactivity and impulsiveness in people with this condition.

How to take Adderall? What is the recommended dosage?

You should take Adderall exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Follow the dosing instructions carefully. Your provider may adjust your Adderall dose based on your response. The first dose of Adderall is usually taken in the morning after you wake up. You can take Adderall with or without food.

Adderall IR

Adderall comes in the form of an immediate-release tablet (Adderall IR) in strengths of 5 mg, 7.5 mg, 10 mg, 12.5 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, and 30 mg. The usual starting dose is 2.5 mg or 5 mg once daily depending on the patient’s age. The dose can be increased by 2.5 mg or 5 mg at weekly intervals until the optimum response is achieved. The maximum recommended dose of Adderall IR is 40 mg daily; however, this is rarely required. You should take the first dose of Adderall IR upon awakening and additional doses as needed at 4- to 6-hour intervals.

Adderall XR

Adderall also comes in the form of an extended-release capsule (Adderall XR) in strengths of 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 25 mg, and 30 mg. The dose of Adderall XR is individualized according to the needs and response of the patient. Your doctor will prescribe this medication at the lowest effective dose. They may occasionally interrupt treatment to assess whether behavioral symptoms are still present and whether you need to continue Adderall therapy.

You can swallow the Adderall XR capsule whole or open it and sprinkle the contents on a small amount of applesauce. Make sure you swallow the beads inside the capsule whole without chewing them. Take the entire contents of the Adderall XR capsule at one time – do not divide the contents into multiple doses. It is best to take your dose of Adderall XR in the morning. Taking this medication later in the day may cause insomnia at night.

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is the brand name of a prescription stimulant medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adults and children. This medication is used, along with behavior therapy, to treat ADHD symptoms such as impulsiveness, hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and problems focusing.

How to take Vyvanse? What is the recommended dosage?

Vyvanse comes in the form of capsules to take by mouth with water. The dosage strengths are 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg, 60 mg, and 70 mg. The usual starting dose of Vyvanse is 30 mg once daily in the morning. This initial dose can be increased by 10 mg or 20 mg at weekly intervals. The maintenance dose of Vyvanse is individualized based on the patient’s needs and response. The maximum recommended dose of Vyvanse is 70 mg once daily in the morning.

You can take Vyvanse with or without food. You can swallow the capsule whole or open it and dissolve the contents in a glass of water (this solution should be consumed immediately and not stored for later use). Do not divide the contents of one capsule into multiple doses. Avoid taking this medication in the afternoon as it may cause insomnia at night. Your provider may interrupt Vyvanse therapy periodically to assess the need for continued treatment.

What’s the Difference Between Vyvanse and Adderall?

Here are the key differences between Adderall vs Vyvanse:

Active Ingredients

The key difference between Vyvanse vs Adderall is that they contain different active ingredients. Adderall contains four amphetamine salts, namely dextroamphetamine sulfate, dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine aspartate. The active ingredient in Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, which is a prodrug of dextroamphetamine (it is converted to dextroamphetamine in the body).

Year Approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Adderall in the year 1996. Vyvanse received FDA approval in 2007.

Additional Uses

In addition to ADHD, Adderall is approved for the treatment of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder characterized by excessive drowsiness and falling asleep suddenly during the day.

In addition to ADHD, Vyvanse is approved to treat binge eating disorder, a mental health condition characterized by regularly eating larger quantities of food than most people.

Age Range

Adderall is approved for use in adults and children 3-17 years of age for the treatment of ADHD. It is approved to treat narcolepsy in people 6 years of age and older.

Vyvanse is approved for use in adults and children 6 years of age and older for the treatment of ADHD. It is approved to treat binge eating disorder in people 18 years of age and older.

Controlled Substances

Both Vyvanse and Adderall are classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This means that while Adderall and Vyvanse have acceptable medical uses, they also have a high potential for abuse and addiction. Misusing or abusing these drugs can lead to severe psychological and physical dependence. Adderall abuse or Vyvanse abuse may require professional addiction treatment.

Mechanism of Action

Both Vyvanse and Adderall help to control ADHD symptoms by blocking the reuptake of neurotransmitters called norepinephrine and dopamine in the central nervous system. These are natural chemicals that play a vital role in improving focus and attention and reducing impulsiveness and hyperactivity. By blocking their reuptake, amphetamines make more of these neurotransmitters available, thereby improving the symptoms of ADHD.

Dosage and Dosage Forms

Adderall is available as an immediate-release tablet to be taken 1-3 times a day and an extended-release capsule to be taken once daily. The dosage ranges from 5 mg to 30 mg daily.

Vyvanse is available as an extended-release capsule to be taken once daily in the morning. The dosage ranges from 10 mg to 70 mg daily.


The cost of prescription Vyvanse and Adderall without insurance can range anywhere from $150 to $400 for a month’s supply, depending on the dose and dosage frequency. Adderall costs $11 per tablet on average for the 20-mg dose without insurance. Vyvanse costs $15 per capsule on average for the 70-mg dose without insurance. Generic versions of these drugs are considerably less expensive than the brand names. Some insurance plans may cover the generic forms but not the brand names.

Absorption Speed

A major difference between Vyvanse vs Adderall is the speed at which the medication is absorbed in the body and the onset of action of the ADHD medication.

Adderall takes effect about 30 minutes after you take a dose. In contrast, Vyvanse starts working about 2 hours after you take a dose (this is because Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, a prodrug that must be converted to the active drug dextroamphetamine in the body).

Therefore, many people find that Adderall produces a more immediate boost of energy while Vyvanse has as a more subtle, slower, and smoother action.

Duration of Effects

The effects of Adderall IR (immediate release) last for 4-6 hours while those of Adderall XR (extended release) last for around 12 hours. Vyvanse effects can last up to 14 hours.

Medication Rebound Symptoms

Medication rebound refers to the re-emergence of ADHD symptoms when the effects of an ADHD medication wear off. Adderall is available in immediate-release and extended-release formulations, offering more flexibility to people taking this ADHD drug. For instance, Adderall IR allows you to dose the medication such that the effects wear off by bedtime. Vyvanse offers a smoother transition in terms of medication rebound when the effects wear off.

Side Effects of Adderall and Vyvanse

Adderall Side Effects

The most common side effects of Adderall are insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, dry mouth, nervousness, emotional lability, depression, dizziness, fast heartbeat, headache, and fatigue.

Vyvanse Side Effects

The most common side effects of Vyvanse are insomnia, decreased appetite, weight loss, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, fever, dizziness, drowsiness, irritability, fast heartbeat, tics, high blood pressure, headache, anxiety, and rash.

Risks, Warnings, and Precautions

Adderall Risks

Adderall can cause serious side effects. Some of the risks of taking this medication include:

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  • Abuse, misuse, and addiction (substance use disorder) with a risk of overdose and death.
  • Sudden death in people with cardiac defects or serious heart disease.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • New or worsening behavioral problems, bipolar illness, or psychotic symptoms.
  • Slowed growth (height and weight) in children.
  • Seizures.
  • Circulation problems (cool, numb, blue/red, painful fingers and toes).
  • Serotonin syndrome (a life-threatening condition associated with too much serotonin in the body which can occur if you take Adderall with certain other medications).
  • New onset or worsening Tourette’s syndrome (tics or involuntary movements).

Seek emergency medical attention if you develop chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting during Adderall treatment. Also seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of serotonin syndrome such as fast heartbeat, changes in blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, muscle stiffness, flushing, agitation, confusion, hallucinations, and loss of consciousness. This is a medical emergency.

Vyvanse Risks

Vyvanse is associated with some serious side effects. Some of the risks of taking this medication include:

  • High potential for abuse and drug dependence.
  • Serious cardiovascular events, including heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. People with serious heart problems, such as structural cardiac abnormalities, abnormal heart rhythms, and cardiomyopathy, are at an increased risk.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • New or worsening behavioral problems or thought disorders including aggressive behavior, bipolar disorder, or psychotic symptoms, such as delusions, hallucinations, or mania.
  • Seizures.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Motor and vocal tics (Tourette’s syndrome).
  • Long-term growth suppression in children.

Can Adderall or Vyvanse cause liver damage?

Amphetamines have been implicated in severe and even fatal acute liver injury. This risk is highest after intravenous use of amphetamines by drug abusers, especially when they take a single large dose. The synthetic illicit amphetamine MDMA (also called “ecstasy”) is the most implicated drug in acute liver failure and death. However, abuse of prescription stimulants such as Vyvanse and Adderall may also potentially cause liver damage, especially at high doses.

Adderall vs. Vyvanse: Which One Is More Effective for ADHD Symptoms?

There are no head-to-head studies directly comparing the effectiveness of Adderall vs Vyvanse. However, many studies have shown that both medications are effective in treating ADHD symptoms such as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Controlled clinical trials have found that medical management with stimulant drugs and combined treatment with medications and behavioral therapy produce the greatest improvements in ADHD symptoms.

Vyvanse or Adderall: Which is Right for Me?

Every individual’s response to ADHD medications varies. You may find either that Vyvanse vs Adderall controls your ADHD symptoms better than the other. Your doctor will help you choose the right medicine, Adderall vs Vyvanse, based on your symptoms, dosing preferences, tolerance and side effects, and other factors like co-existing conditions.

For example, if you have co-occurring ADHD and binge eating disorder, Vyvanse may be the preferred ADHD drug. People who struggle with narcolepsy and ADHD symptoms may benefit from Adderall treatment.

Many people report Adderall to be more effective, but Vyvanse tends to cause less severe side effects. Therefore, if you experience side effects such as insomnia, appetite loss, or anxiety on Adderall, your doctor may try switching you over to Vyvanse or some other ADHD medication such as methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta).

It may take some time to find the right ADHD medicine and dose. Your doctor will work with you to find an ADHD treatment that works best and causes minimal side effects.

Are Adderall or Vyvanse Addictive?

Adderall and Vyvanse are addictive. They are Schedule II controlled substances with a high potential for misuse, abuse, and drug dependence.

Some people who don’t have ADHD obtain these stimulant medications from street dealers and take them to improve concentration and exam or work performance. However, these drugs can be habit-forming when abused and may lead to a physical and psychological dependence (Vyvanse or Adderall abuse and addiction).

When used as prescribed to treat ADHD, stimulant medications are less likely to be habit-forming. However, the risk of addiction is always there with stimulant medications, especially in people with a history of substance use disorders.

To lower your risk of Vyvanse or Adderall addiction, always take these stimulants at the prescribed dose. Do not take a larger dose or more frequent doses without your doctor’s approval. Never obtain Vyvanse or Adderall from friends, family members, or street dealers. Always store your prescription stimulants securely and out of reach of others.

Which Drug is More Likely to be Abused: Adderall vs Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is less likely to be abused than Adderall. This is because Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, a prodrug that must be processed and converted to an active drug by the body. This gives Vyvanse an extra layer of safety in terms of misuse and abuse. Moreover, Vyvanse cannot be crushed and snorted or injected intravenously, while Adderall can be abused in this manner. Studies have shown that the most abused stimulants are Adderall, Adderall XR, and Ritalin.

Do Adderall and Vyvanse build up in your system?

Vyvanse and Adderall do not build up in your system. They are eliminated from the body by the kidneys through urine. In people with reduced kidney function, removal of these drugs from the body can be impaired or slowed. Your doctor may prescribe a lower dose of stimulant ADHD medication if you have kidney problems.

Do ADHD drugs show up on drug tests?

Adderall, Vyvanse, and other stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD show up on drug tests. Adderall is detectable in your body for 20 to 96 hours after the last dose, depending on the type of drug test done (urine test, blood test, or saliva test). It can be detected in a hair sample for up to 3 months. Vyvanse is detectable in your body for 8 to 72 hours after the last dose on a blood test or urine drug test and for up to 1 month from a hair sample.

Which is Cheaper: Adderall or Vyvanse?

Prescription Adderall is generally more affordable than Vyvanse. However, the out-of-pocket cost for your ADHD medication will depend on prescription drug coverage under your health insurance plan and which medication is in your plan’s formulary. Most insurance plans cover both Vyvanse and Adderall at least partially. However, some plans may cover only the generics and not the brand names.

Street prices of Adderall can range anywhere from $2 to $35 per pill, depending on demand and supply and other factors. A 20-mg pill of Adderall typically costs $10 on the street. A 70-mg pill of Vyvanse typically costs $10 to $12 on the street.

What Are the Risks of Stopping Adderall or Vyvanse Cold Turkey?

People who misuse or abuse Vyvanse or Adderall can develop a physical dependence on these drugs. This is called Adderall addiction or Vyvanse addiction. Over time, such individuals need larger doses to get the same effects. Also, when they attempt to quit using Adderall or Vyvanse, or if they don’t have access to these drugs, they can develop uncomfortable and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

Quitting Adderall or Vyvanse cold turkey (abruptly) is not recommended. It can lead to severe symptoms with rapid development of a severe withdrawal syndrome.

Symptoms of stimulant withdrawal may include fatigue, aches and pains, depression, agitation, unpleasant or vivid dreams, sleep difficulties, increased appetite, slowed thinking, mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia, psychosis, and drug cravings.

Vyvanse and Adderall withdrawal symptoms are most severe in the first 3-5 days after the last dose. However, some psychological withdrawal effects can linger for weeks or even months. An addiction treatment center can manage stimulant withdrawal symptoms safely and comfortably. Undergoing stimulant withdrawal without medical supervision can be dangerous. For example, a person experiencing psychosis or hallucinations can be a danger to themselves and others.

How to Recover from Vyvanse Addiction or Adderall Addiction

Recovery from prescription drug addiction requires a multi-pronged approach, including detoxification, counseling, and medications, if available. It can take multiple courses of treatment to make a complete recovery from Adderall addiction or Vyvanse addiction.

There are no FDA-approved medications for treating an addiction to stimulants, although research is ongoing. Specialists at a professional addiction treatment center can manage the withdrawal symptoms that occur when you attempt to reduce and stop the use of Adderall or Vyvanse. The mainstay of long-term treatment for addiction to prescription stimulants like Adderall and Vyvanse is behavioral therapy.

Behavioral therapies, such as contingency management and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are proven to be effective in treating substance use disorders such as Adderall addiction and Vyvanse addiction. These treatments help you change unhealthy behaviors and thinking patterns and teach you coping strategies to deal with triggers and drug cravings. Behavioral therapy can be offered in individual, family, and group settings.

Vyvanse and Adderall Addiction Treatment at Discover Recovery Treatment Center

At Discovery Recovery Treatment Center in Washington State, we offer holistic treatment programs for prescription stimulant addiction. Our model of care is based on looking at the person as a whole and not just their drug use. The goal is to heal the body, mind, and spirit with tailored programs that include multiple levels of care. We create individualized treatment plans to address the specific needs of each client battling Adderall abuse or Vyvanse abuse.

Our luxury facilities are designed to support your recovery during substance abuse treatment in the most comfortable way possible with assured confidentiality.

If you or someone you love is struggling with Vyvanse or Adderall misuse or abuse, call us today. We will be happy to discuss addiction treatment plans for Vyvanse or Adderall abuse.

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