Complete Guide to Vyvanse Addiction
Until recently, mental illnesses that interfere with attention and focus were considered a childhood condition. With more attention paid to resolving these behavioral issues for children, so they could do better in school and be more compliant with adult directives, scientists learned more about the duration of attention disorders.
Although many never talk about it, some adults have continued to experience attention deficit since their adolescence. Treating this type of mental disorder in the adult brain is difficult because the medication affects fully developed brains in different ways than adolescents. No doubt recognizing this gap in the pharmaceutical market, the pharmaceutical company New River Pharmaceuticals developed Vyvanse.
Like other drugs that affect behavior and perception, Vyvanse is subject to abuse for recreational purposes. There are also addiction concerns for people who take the drug for medical purposes. The best protection against addiction is to know more about Vyvanse and its side effects and to understand that all drugs have the potential to be dangerous when handled inappropriately.
Vyvanse Addiction Symptoms & Side Effects
Vyvanse is a prescription central nervous system stimulant used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Vyvanse is also under consideration for treatment of depression, binge eating disorder, cognitive impairment and excessive daytime sleepiness. Although this amphetamine is effective when used precisely as directed in people with true symptoms, it’s habit forming and can cause addiction.
What is Vyvanse?
Known generically as Lisdexamfetamine, Vyvanse was first introduced in the United States in July of 2007 to treat ADHD and ADD in adults. Vyvanse received approval from the FDA for these purposes, and has been a popular treatment option ever since. Its popularity has increased since then, and in 2010 Vyvanse gained the additional approval needed for use in adolescents with ADD and ADHD.
Vyvanse is classified as an inactive prodrug, meaning that it’s an inactive pharmaceutical substance when it’s taken. After it’s taken, the body metabolizes Vyvanse into an active substance. The rate of metabolism determines how quickly the active substance becomes available. This mechanism is used to administer a time released affect.
When Vyvanse enters the body, it’s converted into dextroamphetamine. This drug triggers a release of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain and prevents their reuptake. Reuptake inhibiting is an important part of this process. When the brain releases neurotransmitters, they meet up with the appropriate receptors and exchange messages. If there are no receptors available for them, the brain reabsorbs the neurotransmitters, breaking them down and disposing them. For neurotransmitters to be effective, they have to connect with receptors. By preventing reuptake, Vyvanse ensures that the released neurotransmitters exist long enough to find available receptors and exchange their messages.
The time release mechanism of Vyvanse controls the speed at which dextroamphetamine is available to the brain. That, in turn, provides a more steady release of the neurotransmitters. Combined with the reuptake blocker, Vyvanse provides symptom relief all day without any spikes.
How Does Vyvanse Work?
Children affected by ADD and ADHD usually receive their diagnosis by age twelve. Approximately 5.4 million children in the US are diagnosed with ADHD, a form of attention disorder that includes the physical component of hyperactivity. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), close to one third of these children take medication for their disorder.
Theoretically, underdevelopment in certain areas of the brain is the root cause of inattention in children with ADD and ADHD. These children often experience a bombardment of thoughts that are initiated but never completed. The basic theory is that neurotransmitters have trouble bridging the unusually large synapses, and some messages never reach their destination.
Stimulants speed up the activity of the brain, allowing these neurotransmitters to complete their journey. Although the expected effect of stimulants is to increase activity, they have a calming effect in ADHD patients. As the brain is able to function more normally, without so many fragmented thoughts racing around, behavior is better controlled.
In addition to having developmental or structural deficiencies, the brains of people with ADHD have abnormal levels of the dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates behavior through the brain’s pleasure centers. Stimulants affect dopamine levels in the brain, bringing behavior regulation into better balance.
Vyvanse Versus Adderall and Ritalin
Vyvanse was originally developed as a less potent, but more effective, alternative to other amphetamine-based ADHD drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin. Most approved Adderall and Ritalin formulations come with a very potent initial impact, which then subsides. This spike or rush can be uncomfortable and difficult to control, which is one of the reasons why these medications are not so effective for adults.
Those who take Adderall and Ritalin might have to take several doses every day to keep the effects going (this is one reason why Adderall and Ritalin may lead to more teen drug addictions). Taking drugs throughout the day and experiencing a rush each time is not conducive to meeting adult responsibilities. It can interfere with driving, operating machinery and very specific or technical work.
Because of its time-release formulation, Vyvanse is a solution to this dosage problem. Rather than taking several doses throughout the day, Vyvanse releases small amounts of its active ingredients over time, meaning that one can take Vyvanse once in the morning and feel its effects throughout the day. Therefore, there is generally a diminished “rush” and less trouble sleeping because the medication releases slowly throughout the day. This is one reason why Vyvanse is particularly effective in treating adolescents and youths with ADHD and ADD.
Vyvanse and ADHD
Recognizing the addictive potential of incredibly strong drugs such as Adderall and Ritalin, the manufacturers of Vyvanse were looking for a less potent and less addictive — but equally effective — alternative. While no one has concrete evidence of what causes ADHD and ADD, most scientists theorize that there are chemical imbalances in the brain, particularly among neurotransmitters and other areas of physiology.
While amphetamine-based drugs do not necessarily act to balance out those chemicals, they stimulate brain action, providing a greater ability to pay attention. It may seem counterintuitive, perhaps, that the best option for somebody diagnosed as hyperactive is to take a stimulant. But doctors have found that stimulants can balance brain function, making it easier for those who suffer from ADHD and ADD to focus and pay attention for long periods of time.
Even under the proper care of a doctor, Vyvanse may cause several negative side effects. The most common of these side effects is difficulty sleeping, especially if the patient takes the dose in the afternoon. It’s a time-release formula, so most doctors who prescribe Vyvanse advise that it be taken in the morning, because it lasts for up to eighteen hours. Vyvanse may also raise your blood pressure or cause dry mouth, headache, weight loss or irritability, among other side effects.
The vast majority of addiction cases occur when Vyvanse is used for off-label purposes or when it is used outside the supervision of a qualified medical professional. Normally, Vyvanse stimulates the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control, attention span and cognitive function. It balances people who suffer from ADD and ADHD and should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional.
Regardless of the potential side effects, Vyvanse is a worthwhile option for some people suffering from ADD and ADHD.
Is Vyvanse Addictive?
As with many substances, addiction to Vyvanse develops slowly, while symptoms can present themselves quite suddenly. In some cases, Vyvanse addiction arises through the regulated use of the drug to manage the symptoms of ADD and ADHD. It should be noted that it’s uncommon for Vyvanse addiction to occur with regulated use. Vyvanse has a leveling effect and does not typically come with a “high.”
However, amphetamine-based ADHD medications have found an off-label use as a study aid for college students. While this off-label use is exceptionally dangerous, it does little to alleviate trending teen pill addictions. In many cases, students begin taking Vyvanse or Adderall under the impression that it will help them stay up late to study, and in turn improve test scores and overall grades. Many students also note that it’s easier to pay attention when taking Vyvanse. However, this abuse has disastrous consequences.
New River Pharmaceuticals specifically designed Vyvanse to produce heightened attention for those who suffer from ADHD and ADD. However, amphetamine-based substances such as Vyvanse can produce a “high” and eventually, a tolerance, in people without attention deficit disorders. Over time, it becomes more difficult to recreate that heightened state, and subsequently more Vyvanse is required. Dependency soon follows.
Why Addiction Occurs
Broadly, speaking, addiction and dependence occur because of the way the brain is wired to interpret pleasure. In other words, the brain has a “pleasure center,” and when that center is stimulated, it can make the body feel good by releasing a variety of hormones and chemicals. While every addiction is different, the basic mechanism involves the brain becoming dependent on external stimuli to generate those good feelings. That external stimulation becomes less effective with each dose.
The pleasure center of the brain creates habits. The release of feel good chemicals is a reward for positive behaviors that promote survival and evolution. That is why sexual activity is highly rewarded by this part of the brain. It’s meant to be repeated to ensure procreation.
When we insert drugs into this natural behavior-creating mechanism, dangerous behaviors receive the rewards intended for positive ones. Stimulants trigger a release of feel good chemicals that create the behavior of taking them again. Larger doses of stimulants fast track this behavior system, creating dependency and addiction.
In precise terms, Vyvanse addiction can occur for a host of reasons, none of which is mutually exclusive. In some cases, the stimulating nature of the drug provides a slight rush, though New River Pharmaceuticals formulated this “high” to be less potent than Adderall or Ritalin. That rush is the reward that the brain continues to seek. As it gets used to the drugs, the brain requires higher doses to reach the same rush. The pleasure center of the brain can have a very strong hold on behaviors and can overrule the logic centers.
Vyvanse is, after all, an amphetamine-based prescription drug. Amphetamine is the same basic component found in street drugs like speed and meth. By its nature, amphetamines can be very addictive substances, even when tightly controlled and specially formulated, as it is in Vyvanse.
The vast majority of addiction cases occur when people use Vyvanse for off-label purposes or outside the supervision of a qualified medical professional. Normally, Vyvanse stimulates the areas of the brain responsible for impulse control, attention span and cognitive function. It balances people who suffer from ADD and ADHD and should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional.
However, in those who do not suffer from ADD or ADHD, the brain is stimulated beyond normal boundaries, causing a high — and that high is the first step toward dependence. When added to a brain that does not include the abnormal levels of dopamine present in ADHD, stimulants trigger the pleasure center to develop habits even faster.
After prolonged abuse, the brain establishes a new baseline and the body requires a higher dosage of Vyvanse in order to generate the same rush. Users often describe the rush as a sensation of heightened attention and understanding. People who abuse Vyvanse can develop an emotional dependence on the drug, which results in lack of motivation and severe depression, especially when attempting to wean themselves off the drug.
Amphetamine-based drugs used to treat ADD and ADHD are known to be addictive, and this is especially true of Adderall and Ritalin. Vyvanse can be slightly more difficult to develop dependence to, due in part to its time-released nature. In addition, Adderall and Ritalin can provide faster results for those looking for a rush or a study aid. This does not mean, however, that Vyvanse has no addictive potential. In fact, Vyvanse addiction is becoming more common.
Researchers formulated Vyvanse to deliver a regulated release of active ingredients, allowing patients to avoid the highs and lows of dosing. If the drug is taken in larger doses than prescribed, it’s possible to achieve a high that may last longer than other stimulant highs because of the time release formula.
It’s more likely that Vyvanse will produce a high for someone taking it for non-medical purposes. Similar to Adderall and Ritalin, some students use Vyvanse as a study drug. By increasing concentration and avoiding sleep, many students think they can improve their academic performance. Because doctors readily prescribe these drugs for teenagers with ADD or ADHD, they tend to be accessible to unaffected students.
Stimulants have a different result in a brain unaffected by an attention disorder. The outcome is more difficult to control and predict because these drugs are not intended for use in this way. Addiction can happen to anyone, but it’s more likely for people taking these drugs who do not suffer from an attention disorder.
Approximately 1.1 million Americans were abusing prescription stimulants in 2010. Approximately 44.2% of people who abuse prescription drugs get them for free from a friend or relative. About 25% of teenagers who abuse prescription drugs do so because they believe they are good study aids.
A national study published in 2014 claims that 50% of all young adults in this country have abused prescription stimulants to improve academic performance, making it the average way of life for college students. Of the young adults surveyed, 24% used stimulants continued to use drugs on the job to improve their work performance.
After abusing stimulants, a majority of college students attributed the positive outcome to the drugs. Whenever a person perceives a behavior to result in rewards, the behavior is repeated. Whether these students develop a physical addiction, they certainly are starting with an emotional dependence. That dependence may also erode their sense of self-confidence if they truly believe they cannot achieve success without the drugs.
Students who achieve success with the help of prescription stimulants do not perceive the dangers of abusing these drugs. Approximately 73% of the students who abuse stimulants believe the negative side effect is sleeplessness, while 79% of students who do not take stimulants understand abusing these drugs is a risk for addiction.
This statistical evidence shows the habit-forming mechanism at work. People who perceive a reward for a behavior will repeat that action, increasing their risk. What may have started out as a way to get through a tough situation quickly becomes the response to all situations.
Individuals experience psychosis, a detachment from reality, for any number of reasons. People going through a psychotic episode may exhibit strange behaviors, personality changes, difficulty in social interactions and trouble with general daily life activities. Psychosis can affect all levels of thought, and interfere with speech and reasoning.
An overdose of stimulants can cause a stimulant psychosis. Sometimes the initial doses of stimulant trigger this condition, although this is rare. Like addiction, stimulant psychosis has varying causes and triggers for each individual. Influencing factors include:
- Brain chemistry — Neurochemistry differs by genetics and other factors. Levels of certain brain chemicals can make a person more susceptible to stimulant psychosis. The number of receptors available and amount of neurotransmitters present all have to do with creating the conditions that are likely to trigger psychosis. The exact chemicals and amounts needed are not yet known.
- Overdosing — The amount of stimulant introduced to the brain at one time can create psychosis. The specific dose that will trigger psychosis is different for each individual, but everyone has a threshold. By increasing the dosage size, you are likely to reach yours sooner rather than later.
- Time — The amount of time over which drugs are regularly taken will increase susceptibility to psychosis. Again, the specific amounts are not universal, but a combination of amount of stimulant and period of continued dosing.
- Stress — Stress seems to be a factor in everything related to brain function. In the case of psychosis, this is because stress triggers chemical reactions in the brain. Although these reactions were meant to be protective, in modern society and with the addition of pharmaceuticals, they can actually have a negative impact.
- Lack of Sleep — Restorative sleep is a necessary part of healthy living. The brain and body cannot continue to function for long periods without this chance to repair itself. Stimulants often cause sleep deprivation, which can lead to psychosis.
- Mental Illness — Psychosis can be the result of mental illness. That illness may be undiagnosed and unintentionally stimulated by prescription stimulants. When the drugs reach the right threshold, the stimulants will tip the balance of brain chemicals and cause psychosis.
Stimulant psychosis can be serious and requires medical attention. The primary step in relieving the psychosis is to detox from the stimulants. In most cases, the psychosis can resolve itself over time. Reintroducing stimulants may be counter-intuitive, however.
Following stimulant psychosis, stimulants may no longer be safe or effective for the original condition, leaving the user to explore other means of treatment. Studies have found that the number of people who experience stimulant psychosis could be as high as 20% of all stimulant users.
These are the most common stimulants known to cause stimulant psychosis:
Symptoms of psychosis caused by these drugs include:
- Hearing voices
- Delusions of reference
These symptoms can become extreme, dangerous or present a risk to others.
Stimulant psychosis can last anywhere from 10 to 60 days. In rare cases, some of the symptoms do not resolve and continue forever. After stopping the drug, approximately 60% of people saw symptom resolution in 10 days. If the symptoms do not fully resolve within 10 days, they are likely to go away in one month’s time.
Although up to 80% of people with stimulant psychosis see a complete resolution of symptoms in 30 days, some do not. Any amount of stimulant can cause a relapse of the psychosis and delay resolution, possibly forever. There is evidence to suggest that in a small number of people, brain changes caused by the stimulant and precipitating the psychosis are permanent.
Sometimes substance withdrawal triggers stimulant psychosis. This psychosis is not permanent and usually resolves with a small dose of the drug. Using a step down approach to detoxing from stimulants helps avoid these psychosis symptoms.
How to Treat Addiction
Vyvanse withdrawal can generate severe physiological and mental symptoms and generally requires medical supervision to combat dependence. A medical professional will determine the best rate at which to wean someone from the medication. An abrupt stop of Vyvanse could result in severe mood swings, lack of motivation and depression, as well as severe headaches, lethargy and heavy sweating. Furthermore, suicidal thoughts have been reported with those who attempt to abruptly stop taking Vyvanse.
Emotional support is a key factor during the weaning process. A positive emotional environment can help those suffering from Vyvanse addiction recover more quickly because withdrawal from the drug can trigger feelings of disconnectedness and disassociation. Through adequate emotional support, the negative consequences of these disassociated feelings can be diminished.
A medical professional should monitor each step of the weaning process. This way, the dosage can be strictly administered, and the reaction to each dosage level can be intently monitored. This is especially true if the dependence stems from particularly higher doses of Vyvanse. The higher the dose, the longer withdrawal should be managed and the more severe the symptoms may be.
ADHD or ADD sufferers who are addicted to Vyvanse may need an alternative medication, which in turn makes the withdrawal process more complicated. A medical professional should be included in the process.
What Addiction Feels Like
Addiction and dependence are problematic and challenging, not only because of the physiological effects involved. Getting healthy is a trial because mental and emotional changes occur with addiction and dependence, including changes in mindset and perception. When a person is addicted to or dependent on a substance, it can often be difficult for them to understand the dangers of that addiction.
As is the case with many addictive substances, people who become dependent on Vyvanse do not always recognize its negative side effects. Vyvanse creates feelings of euphoria that can feel like an injection of energy. The L-lysine component of Vyvanse can excite endorphins and create a sense of euphoria often associated with vigorous exercise. In these cases, Vyvanse addiction symptoms create a “happy and hyper” feeling.
However, people abusing Vyvanse often have difficulty coming down from the high. They may struggle with impulse control. For example, some Vyvanse addicts feel the compulsion to talk continuously. The high may also cause the pupils to dilate and affect sleep. In other words, Vyvanse abuse usually begins with a period of hyperactivity.
The duration of the excited period diminishes, however, as tolerance is developed. Additionally, the high brings with it a classic “crash,” during which the user might feel depressed and moody if the Vyvanse is not replenished. Other Vyvanse addiction symptoms can include social friction and alienation, especially as the symptoms of addiction become increasingly visible.
The True Effects of Vyvanse
Vyvanse is a new generation treatment for ADHD. Developed by New River Pharmaceuticals and distributed by Shire Pharmaceuticals following FDA approval in 2008, Vyvanse was created as a less addictive and longer lasting alternative to first generation ADHD treatments such as Ritalin and Adderall.
Central nervous system stimulants, such as Vyvanse, are effective in people who truly need help focusing; however, those who abuse Vyvanse and other “study drugs” often receive no true benefit at all, according to Science Daily. People who abuse Vyvanse to study or become intoxicated are at severe risk of developing a life-threatening substance abuse problem.
The body converts Vyvanse into the psychoactive substance dextroamphetamine. Dextroamphetamine breaks down further into an essential amino acid that releases the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine. Stimulants such as Vyvanse also speed up the functions of the brain and body including heart rate and breathing.
Unlike other prescription stimulants, Vyvanse’s capsule form prevents certain kinds of abuse that occur with other ADHD drugs, including crushing and snorting. The symptoms of Vyvanse abuse are typical of the stimulant class and include delusions, paranoia and hallucinations. In the most serious addiction cases, Vyvanse can cause permanent psychosis; as a result, getting help early in the abuse cycle is essential.
Symptoms of Vyvanse Abuse
All stimulants produce certain symptoms of abuse and Vyvanse, despite its reputation for being less addictive than other ADHD drugs, is no different. Vyvanse can reduce appetite, and many people who abuse the drug refuse to eat and lose too much weight. Vyvanse also causes gastric upset, including diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. It increases heart rate to sometimes-uncomfortable levels. It’s no surprise that people who abuse Vyvanse are at increased risk of having a heart attack.
Vyvanse Addiction Symptoms
Stimulant drugs also worsen anxiety, cause dizziness and headache and raise blood pressure. Dry mouth, abdominal pain, insomnia and irritability all commonly occur and worsen as abuse progresses into addiction.
The worst consequences of Vyvanse abuse include addiction, adverse cardiovascular events such as stroke and sudden death. For these reasons, people who have a history of substance abuse or who are sensitive to amphetamines shouldn’t take Vyvanse.
The changes that Vyvanse makes in the brain take time to develop. It also takes time to recover from taking Vyvanse for a prolonged period, even if the drug was taken exactly as prescribed. People who abuse Vyvanse by taking more than the recommended dosage usually have a harder time quitting than those who take the drug as directed. Quitting Vyvanse should never be attempted cold turkey. If you or someone you care about is suffering from Vyvanse addiction, a substance abuse recovery center can help you achieve sobriety safely and thoroughly.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell when a person is addicted to drugs. People who abuse prescription drugs are often experts at hiding abuse. They usually deny that abuse is a problem, because denial characterizes addiction. There are several important differences between dependency and addiction. If you or your loved one take Vyvanse exactly as prescribed and to treat real symptoms relating to ADHD or ADD — and the symptoms return without Vyvanse — then you may be dependent on Vyvanse. This does not mean you or your loved one is addicted, however.
People who suffer from Vyvanse addiction demonstrate several specific behaviors. First, a person struggling with addiction is unable to control how much and how frequently they use Vyvanse. Second, an addict continues to use Vyvanse even though negative lifestyle consequences are growing steadily worse because of abuse. Third, continuing to take a drug even though the original symptoms have disappeared indicates addiction.
If the symptoms of Vyvanse addiction sound familiar, 12 Keys Rehab can help you or your loved one quit safely. Without help, serious depressive symptoms, including suicidal thoughts, can become persistent. Our medically managed detox program helps people relax, sleep and eat. Clients become accustomed to sobriety in a comforting atmosphere, and they prepare to begin a therapeutic journey that will reveal the roots of addiction and how to manage it.
Our staff is well qualified to address all aspects of substance abuse. The holistic approach we employ comprehensively treats every client’s most pressing physical, emotional and spiritual needs. Clients benefit from more one-to-one therapy than is offered by most other rehabs in the world; in these sessions, we uncover the causes of addiction together and learn how to manage cravings and avoid temptation.
As our clients heal, they also begin to rebuild the relationships that matter most. Through 12 Step care, clients create their own design for living using the time-tested approach of Narcotics Anonymous.
Anyone who has ever been addicted to drugs or alcohol knows that living sober in rehab is difficult enough, but living life sober outside of rehab presents its own challenges. People who stay engaged in recovery are more likely to sustain sobriety, which is why 12 Keys Rehab provides personalized aftercare for every client. Once care ends, we stay in touch to provide support to recovering clients and their family members.
You do not have to let a Vyvanse addiction define your future. If you or someone you care about is addicted to drugs, call us now for more information. You can find your path to freedom at 12 Keys Rehab.