Adderal and Vyvanse are central nervous system stimulant medications. They are both approved to treat ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Vyvanse is not approved for use for children under the age of 6. Adderall is also approved to treat the sleep disorder narcolepsy, and Vyvanse is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat binge eating disorder in individuals over the age of 18.
Both drugs are classified as controlled substances by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration in the Schedule II category, indicating that they are at the highest level of control for drugs that can be obtained by people with a prescription from a physician. This means that the federal government considers both of these drugs to have a significant potential to produce physical dependence in people who use them and are high-risk potential drugs of abuse.
Both drugs are derivatives of amphetamines. The difference between the drugs is Adderall contains amphetamine salts (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine), whereas Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, which the body converts to dextroamphetamine before it is active, meaning it’s a “prodrug.”
The extra time the body takes to convert Vyvanse to dextroamphetamine tends to make the side effects less pronounced, but the side effects of each of these drugs are very similar. They included anxiety, sleeplessness, digestive issues and some other problems.
Adderall vs. Vyvanse: A Comparison
Based on information from the books Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Handbook: A Physician’s Guide to ADHD and Pharmacovigilance in Psychiatry, a brief comparison follows.
- Adderall was approved for use in 1996; Vyvanse was approved for use in 2007.
- Adderall is listed as a psychostimulant; Vyvanse is also listed as a psychostimulant.
- The approved uses for Adderall include the treatment of ADHD and narcolepsy; the approved uses for Vyvanse include to treat ADHD and binge eating disorder.
- The active ingredients in Adderall are dextroamphetamine (about 75 percent of the drug) and levoamphetamine (about 25 percent of the drug); the active ingredient in Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine.
- Adderall comes in an immediate-release form and an extended-release form; Vyvanse comes in a capsule form that is an extended-release version.
- The duration of action for the immediate-release version of Adderall is about 4–6 hours, whereas the extended-release version lasts about 12 hours. The duration of effects for Vyvanse is about 10–13 hours, though some studies report it is up to 14 hours.
- Both drugs have a very similar side effect profile. However, Vyvanse is a prodrug, which is an inert substance that is metabolized in the body to become an active medication. This means that the side effects from Vyvanse are considered to be less harsh.
- These drugs are considered to be potential drugs of abuse; however, because Vyvanse is a prodrug and takes longer to metabolize in the system than Adderall, it is considered to have a lower risk of abuse.
- Adderall functions by inhibiting the reuptake of the excitatory neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, and releasing dopamine and norepinephrine from storage sites.
- The lisdexamfetamine in Vyvanse is metabolized into dextroamphetamine and then functions by increasing the availability of dopamine and norepinephrine in the central nervous system.
- The half-life of Adderall is about 11–13 hours; the half-life of the Vyvanse is about 10–12 hours.
- Adderall can be obtained in a generic version that can be relatively inexpensive; there is currently no generic Vyvanse available.