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Vyvanse: 6 things you should know

Medically reviewed by C. Fookes, BPharm Last updated on Nov 2, 2018.

1. How it works

  • Vyvanse is a brand (trade) name for lisdexamfetamine, and may be used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or binge eating disorder (BED).
  • Lisdexamfetamine is a prodrug (a biologically inactive drug which is converted in the body to produce an active drug). Red blood cells break down lisdexamfetamine to dextroamphetamine and l-lysine (an essential amino acid).
  • The exact way dextroamphetamine works in ADHD is not known; however, it does block the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, two neurotransmitters, which leads to an increase in their concentrations in the nerve synapse (the space between two nerves). An imbalance in norepinephrine and dopamine is thought to contribute to the symptoms of ADHD.
  • Vyvanse belongs to the class of medicines known as CNS stimulants.

2. Upsides

  • May be used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to reduce symptoms such as impulsiveness and hyperactivity and to increase attention. Should be used in addition to other treatments such as counseling or behavioral therapies.
  • May be used in the treatment of moderate-to-severe Binge Eating Disorder (BED) to increase the number of binge-free days per month.
  • Vyvanse should never be used for weight loss.
  • Vyvanse is ineffective if taken by abusers in any other way other than orally (for example, by inhalation or injection).

3. Downsides

If you are between the ages of 18 and 60, take no other medication or have no other medical conditions, side effects you are more likely to experience include:

  • Insomnia, decreased appetite, stomach pain, irritability, nausea and dry mouth have all been reported. Psychotic thoughts, hallucinations, and manic symptoms have also been reported.
  • High potential for abuse and dependence. Tolerance to the effects of Vyvanse may develop over time (this means that the same dose no longer produces the same effects).
  • Withdrawal symptoms (extreme fatigue, depression) may occur if Vyvanse is abruptly stopped; taper dosage off slowly under medical advice.
  • May cause dizziness and impair judgment and affect a person's ability to drive or operate machinery. Alcohol should be avoided.
  • May cause serious cardiac side effects. The risk is greater in those with preexisting cardiac abnormalities or heart problems.
  • May not be suitable for people with cardiac disease. Your doctor should assess you or your child for the presence of cardiac disease before Vyvanse is prescribed, which requires taking a careful family history including noting any instances of sudden death or ventricular arrhythmia and conducting a physical exam.
  • May not be suitable for people with a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Other adverse effects include an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, exacerbation of preexisting psychiatric disorders, allergic reactions, and peripheral tissue disorders.
  • Interaction or overdosage may cause serotonin syndrome (symptoms include mental status changes [such as agitation, hallucinations, coma, delirium]), fast heart rate, dizziness, flushing, muscle tremor or rigidity and stomach symptoms (including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea).
  • May cause growth suppression and weight loss in children. The height and weight of children taking long-term Vyvanse should be monitored.
  • There is currently no generic version of Vyvanse available in the United States.

Notes: In general, seniors or children, people with certain medical conditions (such as liver or kidney problems, heart disease, diabetes, seizures) or people who take other medications are more at risk of developing a wider range of side effects. For a complete list of all side effects, click here.

4. Bottom Line

Vyvanse is a stimulant used in the treatment of ADHD and BED. It is potentially addictive and there have been reports of serious cardiac side effects in adults and children.

5. Tips

  • May be taken with or without food. Take in the morning and avoid afternoon dosing due to the potential for insomnia.
  • Capsules may be swallowed whole or the capsule opened and the contents mixed with yogurt, water, or orange juice, then drunk immediately. Chew the chewable tablets thoroughly before swallowing. The same dosage capsule may be substituted for the same dosage chewable tablet and vice versa (for example, 30 mg capsules for a 30 mg chewable tablet).
  • Do not attempt to divide a capsule or chewable tablet into smaller dosages.
  • Do not drink alcohol while taking Vyvanse because it may enhance certain side effects.
  • Take exactly as directed by your doctor and do not take more than recommended. Tell your doctor if you think you have become dependent on Vyvanse or if it does not seem effective. Do not stop suddenly. When the time comes to stop Vyvanse your doctor will tell you how to taper it off.
  • Do not drive or operate machinery if Vyvanse affects your judgment or causes dizziness.
  • Tell your doctor if you experience chest pain on exertion, unexplained temporary loss of consciousness, or other symptoms suggestive of heart disease.
  • May precipitate psychotic symptoms even in people with no psychiatric history.
  • May cause circulatory problems in the fingers and the toes, growth depression and weight loss.

6. Response and Effectiveness

  • The peak effects are reached in approximately four hours. When Vyvanse is used in the treatment of ADHD, differences in behavior have been noted two to 12 hours after taking a dose.
  • When Vyvanse is used to treat BED, it may take up to 12 weeks before a reduction is seen in the number of binge days per week.


Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) [Package Insert]. Revised 01/2018. Shire LLC

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Vyvanse only for the indication prescribed.

Copyright 1996-2019 Revision date: November 2, 2018.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.