Vyvanse and Adderall – What Are the Differences?

Vyvanse and Adderall are stimulant medications that affect the central nervous system. Both drugs are approved to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Additionally, they are both classified as Schedule II controlled substances by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which is the highest level of control for medications that a physician can prescribe. Vyvanse and Adderall have a high potential for physical dependence, abuse, and addiction. 

While both Vyvanse and Adderall are stimulants from the same family of drugs (amphetamines) used to treat some of the same conditions, they are two different medications. Here are some key facts about both medications, their similarities, and their differences. 

What is Vyvanse? 

Vyvanse is the brand name of a medication called lisdexamfetamine. When taken, the body converts lisdexamfetamine to dextroamphetamine. Vyvanse comes in only one formula, which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007 for individuals aged six and over. It is approved for the treatment of ADHD and binge eating disorders

What is Adderall? 

Adderall is the brand name for a medication that contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is available in two formulas, immediate-release (Adderall IR) and extended-release (Adderall XR). The FDA approved the use of Adderall in 2001 for individuals six years and older. It’s used for the treatment of ADHD as well as narcolepsy. 

Similarities and Differences of Vyvanse and Adderall

Both Adderall and Vyvanse are effective for the treatment of ADHD. There isn’t any comparative research that shows one to be more effective than the other overall. They do differ in how long their effects last, which is often a deciding factor for patients trying to manage the symptoms of ADHD. 

Adderall IR typically lasts for about three to four hours and is usually taken two or three times daily. Adderall XR is a once-a-day medication, but it lasts for 10 to 12 hours. Some individuals who take the extended-release Adderall find that they need additional medications to control symptoms. Vyvanse is also taken once a day and may last up to 14 hours. 

Side Effects of Vyvanse and Adderall

Because both Vyvanse and Adderall are amphetamine-type stimulant drugs, their possible side effects are much the same. Common side effects include: 

  • Appetite loss
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Nervous feeling
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss 

Rarer and more serious side effects include: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Erectile dysfunction in men


Individuals with specific conditions shouldn’t take Adderall or Vyvanse. Those conditions include: 

  • High blood pressure
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Glaucoma
  • Liver problems
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hyperthyroidism 

Additionally, both medications may be unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Finally, because these medications have the potential for physical dependence and addiction, people with histories of substance abuse should not take Vyvanse or Adderall. 

It’s also important to know that some other medications can have adverse effects when taken with Vyvanse or Adderall. Medications that shouldn’t be taken with these two ADHD drugs are: 

  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Antacids
  • Blood pressure medicines
  • Antihistamines or decongestants
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)
  • Opioid painkillers

Caffeine, alcohol, and food or drinks that have ascorbic acid can also impact the efficacy of Adderall and Vyvanse. 

Rate of Absorption

One of the biggest differences between Adderall and Vyvanse is that Vyvanse is a prodrug. That means that it has to be taken orally to be properly metabolized by the body’s enzymes to work. Adderall begins to work within half an hour, while Vyvanse takes longer – one to two hours. As a result, Vyvanse is described as smoother than Adderall because of the slower rate of absorption. Adderall may have more of a kick when it starts working. 

Dosages and Forms

Vyvanse comes in various strengths from 10mg to 70mg and may be chewable tablets or capsules. Adderall IR and Adderall XR come in tablets of various strengths, from 5mg to 30mg. Usually, the medications are prescribed in low doses and then gradually increased until the proper therapeutic dose is reached. 


As Schedule II drugs, Adderall and Vyvanse have the potential for dependency and abuse. Because Vyvanse has to be taken orally to be converted and work and can’t be crushed and inhaled or injected to get high, it’s less likely to be misused than Adderall. 


Vyvanse and Adderall, both brand names, cost about the same, from $150 to $400 for a month’s supply without insurance. The range accounts for differences in the dose and frequency. Vyvanse isn’t available in generic forms, but Adderall is, which can make it significantly less expensive. As a result, this may make some individuals, especially those without insurance, lean more toward a generic version of Adderall if there is a choice. 

Making the Right Choice – Adderall or Vyvanse

Adderall and Vyvanse are both effective treatments for ADHD. The major differences between the two are their forms, the frequency they are taken, and the potential for misuse and abuse. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to determine which one of the medications is right for your individual situation. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right drug, dose, and frequency. Trial and error and adjustments are to be expected. 

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Stephen White - True Life Recovery

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