Vyvanse for Treating ADHD in Children

It works longer and has less potential for abuse than other stimulants

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Vyvanse is a stimulant medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants (also known as psychostimulants) are the first line of medications due to their effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms. Vyvanse was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2007.

Vyvanse for ADHD

Vyvanse is a once-a-day treatment for adults and children who are six to 12 years old with ADHD. It's also approved to treat binge-eating disorder in adults. The main ingredient in Vyvanse is lisdexamfetamine dimesylate. The drug acts on the central nervous system to boost the levels of two brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. This, in turn, improves focus and attention and decreases impulsivity and hyperactive behavior.

Advantages of Vyvanse

Vyvanse is unique in that it's a prodrug or forerunner of the drug dextroamphetamine, an amphetamine that's one of the main ingredients in Adderall, Adderall XR, and Dexedrine Spansules. This means Vyvanse isn't active in its ingested form but must be metabolized by the body's enzymes to become converted to dextroamphetamine and become an active drug. That delayed action—it can take one to two hours to take effect versus a half hour for Adderall—can stretch out how long the drug works. In studies, Vyvanse lasted up to 14 hours, compared with other long-acting ADHD medicines that tend to last 10 to 12 hours. That delay also means Vyvanse is much less likely to be abused since the drug can't be snorted, smoked, or injected like conventional ADHD medicines.

Research shows that up to 10 percent of high school students and up to 35 percent of college students misuse or divert ADHD stimulant medication.

Because it's released at the same levels over time and produces a slow, steady therapeutic effect throughout the day, Vyvanse is often described as "smoother" than Adderall—there's no "kick" or "jolt" to the system when the medication starts to work. As researchers in a 2014 analysis of studies on Vyvanse reported, this potentially avoids the large and fast increases in dopamine that are associated with the reinforcing effects of drug abuse.

Dosage

Vyvanse is available in seven dosage strengths: 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg, 60 mg, and 70 mg. Although most children will start Vyvanse at the 30 mg dosage, a higher starting dose may be more appropriate if your child is switching to Vyvanse from another ADHD stimulant.

Vyvanse is taken orally once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning; it should be taken at the same time each day for best results. Vyvanse can be taken either with or without food. If your child doesn't like chewable drugs and has trouble swallowing the Vyvanse capsules whole, you can open them and either sprinkle the beads onto a small amount of food or stir them into a few ounces of water or orange juice. This is another benefit over other "beaded" ADHD stimulant medicines, which don't dissolve in liquids.

Side Effects

Side effects of Vyvanse are similar to other ADHD stimulants and most commonly include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability

Precautions

Like other stimulant medications, Vyvanse should not be used by children with the following conditions:

  • Heart disease or hardening of the arteries
  • Moderate to severe high blood pressure
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Glaucoma
  • High state of anxiety, tension, or agitation

Vyvanse should also not be used by kids who have a history of drug abuse, who are taking or have taken within the past 14 days an anti-depression medicine (monoamine oxidase inhibitor or MAOI), or who are sensitive to, allergic to, or had a reaction to other stimulant medicines.

Should Your Child Try Vyvanse?

Vyvanse may be an especially good option if your child's current medication isn't lasting long enough throughout the day, or if you're worried your child may be abusing his or her medicine.

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