Skip to main content

Adderall vs Vyvanse - What's the difference between them?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Pope, BPharm. Last updated on Feb 16, 2024.

Official answer


The main difference between Adderall and Vyvanse is that Adderall is a mixture of four different kinds of amphetamine salts while Vyvanse only contains one type of amphetamine salt, called lisdexamfetamine.

Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) is a prodrug that gets converted into dexamphetamine once it is in the body. The four amphetamine salts that Adderall contains are dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate.

One advantage of Vyvanse is it may be less likely to be abused; however, there are no head-to-head trials that compare the abuse potential of Vyvanse to Adderall. One small study (n=24)14 that compared Vyvanse to d-amphetamine (a component of Adderall) reported the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) were similar to d-amphetamine administered 1 hour later, and that lisdexamfetamine was likely associated with a similar risk of oral abuse as d-amphetamine.

Because both drugs contain amphetamines, they work in a similar way. Studies have shown that Vyvanse is just as effective as Adderall, and side effects are similar.

The risk of dependence (this means how likely you are to become dependent or addicted to the drug) appears similar for both Adderall and Vyvanse.

See also: Compare Tool - Adderall vs Vyvanse

What is in Adderall and Vyvanse?

Adderall is a brand name for a combination drug that contains four different types of amphetamines (dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate). It's easier to call these mixed amphetamine salts, or MAS for short.1

Vyvanse is the brand name for lisdexamfetamine. Once lisdexamfetamine is inside the body it gets converted into dextroamphetamine (its active form) as soon as it touches red blood cells.2

Because Adderall and Vyvanse both contain amphetamines they work in a similar way, and that is by blocking the re-uptake of two neurotransmitters (chemical substances that help nerves talk to each other) in the body. These neurotransmitters are called norepinephrine and dopamine. By blocking their re-uptake, levels of these neurotransmitters between nerves are increased, which helps relieve symptoms of inattention and agitation in children and adults with ADHD.1

Are there any studies that directly compare Adderall to Vyvanse?

Unfortunately, few studies have looked at how Adderall compares to Vyvanse in humans. One study did look at the effect both drugs had on classroom-based behavior in a group of children with ADHD, and reported that both seemed equally effective at improving attention-span, rule following and interactions with peers and adults. Both were well tolerated and no significant differences were noted in their side effects.3,4 Similar results were reported in a trial of 18 adults with ADHD. It took about two hours for Adderall to start working and three hours for Vyvanse, and the effects of each drug lasted for approximately 16 hours. 5,6

Another study found similarities in their pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, but there was a lag time of about an hour for d-amphetamine (a component of Adderall).14

Many other studies have compared Adderall or Vyvanse to placebo (an inactive pill) or to other medications used for ADHD and confirmed that both Adderall and Vyvanse improve various symptoms of ADHD.7,8,9,10,11 Researchers did not find one type of drug more effective than another and side effects such as decreased appetite, insomnia, and abdominal symptoms were common but similar among different preparations. However, it is worthwhile noting that most trials in people with ADHD last less than six months, are poorly reported and fail to include important social outcomes such as parent stress and quality of life.

Which drug is more likely to be abused?

Adderall has more potential to be abused, mainly because it contains free amphetamine salts. Lisdexamfetamine (the ingredient of Vyvanse) requires contact with red blood cells in the body to be activated into dextroamphetamine, which suggests it has inbuilt abuse-deterrent properties4. Unfortunately, no head-to-head trials comparing the abuse potential of Vyvanse to Adderall have been done.4,12

Lisdexamfetamine is still classified as a controlled substance with a high potential for abuse, and those people prescribed Vyvanse and Adderall should take care to store their medicines safely to avoid non-authorized use, as misuse of amphetamine-type medicines can cause sudden death, stroke, heart attack, convulsions and psychotic reactions.1,2,12

Which is cheaper? Adderall or Vyvanse?

Adderall is slightly less expensive than Vyvanse, with the cost for 100 of the 5mg oral tablets at around $1 138 ($11.38 per tablet), depending on the pharmacy you go to. 100 of the 10mg Vyvanse capsules cost around $1,370 ($13.70 per capsule).

Generic forms of both medications are available - these are usually significantly cheaper. A generic form of Adderall has been available since 1996 and in September, 2023, Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced it had received an Abbreviated New Drug Application (ANDA) approval for a generic of Vyvanse. It now supplies lisdexamfetamine 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg, 60 mg, and 70 mg capsules.15 Other generics are also available.

Is Adderall better because it is available as an extended-release?

No. Although Adderall is available in both an immediate-release and extended-release form, an expert review failed to find any differences in effectiveness between immediate and extended-release dosage forms.10

Interestingly, Vyvanse actually "behaves" like an extended-release form once it is inside the body - because the contact with red blood cells and the cleaving off of dextroamphetamine takes time. 4

  1. Adderall (dextroamphetamine saccharate, amphetamine aspartate, dextroamphetamine sulfate, and amphetamine sulfate) [package insert]. Revised 07/2023. Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.
  2. Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) [package insert]. Revised 07/2023. Takeda Pharmaceuticals America, Inc.
  3. Biederman J, Boellner S, Childress A, et al. Improvements in Symptoms of Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in School-aged Children With Lisdexamfetamine (NRP104) and Mixed Amphetamine Salts, Extended-Release Versus Placebo.
  4. Allen SN. Adderall XR® and Vyvanse™. New" psychotropics: New chemical entities and new dosage forms. Mental Health Clinician 2014;4(1):8-10.
  5. Martin PT, Corcoran M, Zhang P, Katic A. Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study of the Effects of Lisdexamfetamine Dimesylate and Mixed Amphetamine Salts on Cognition Throughout the Day in Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Clinical Drug Investigation. 2014;34(2):147-57. doi:10.1007/s40261-013- 0156-z.
  6. Faraone S V, Biederman J. Efficacy of Adderall for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a meta-analysis. Journal of Attention Disorders.2002;6(2):69-75
  7. Maneeton N, Maneeton B, Suttajit S et al. Exploratory meta-analysis on lisdexamfetamine versus placebo in adult ADHD. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2014; 8: 1685–93 doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S68393 PMCID: PMC4199984
  8. Isquith PK, Roth RM, Gioia GA, and PAR Staff. Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function -Adult Version™ BRIEF-A™. Interpretive Report.
  9. Wigal SB, Raja P, Shukla A. An update on lisdexamfetamine dimesylate for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2013 Jan;14(1):137-45. doi: 10.1517/14656566.2013.754013.
  10. Castells X, Ramos-Quiroga JA, Bosch R, et al. Amphetamines for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD007813. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007813.pub2.
  11. Punja S, Shamseer L, Hartling L, et al. Amphetamines for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD009996. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009996.pub2.
  12. Simon K, Worthy SL, Barnes MC, Tarbell B. Abuse-deterrent formulations: transitioning the pharmaceutical market to improve public health and safety. Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety. 2015;6(2):67-79. doi:10.1177/2042098615569726.
  13. Goodman D. W. (2010). Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate (vyvanse), a prodrug stimulant for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management, 35(5), 273–287.
  14. Dolder, P. C., Strajhar, P., Vizeli, P., Hammann, F., Odermatt, A., & Liechti, M. E. (2017). Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics of Lisdexamfetamine Compared with D-Amphetamine in Healthy Subjects. Frontiers in pharmacology, 8, 617.
  15. Amneal Press Release Details. Sept 6, 2023.

Related medical questions

Drug information

Related support groups