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 used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants are often the first line of medications prescribed for this condition due to their effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms. Vyvanse was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007.

What Is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is a once-a-day treatment for adults and children age 6 to 12 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 brain to boost the levels of two neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine. This, in turn, improves focus and attention and decreases impulsivity and hyperactive behavior.

Vyvanse for ADHD

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 Spansule.

This means Vyvanse isn't active in its ingested form; it must be metabolized and converted to dextroamphetamine. That delayed action—which 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.

Because it's released at the same level 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. This smoothness potentially avoids the sudden and dramatic increases in dopamine that are associated with substance abuse.

Vyvanse may be a good option if your child's current medication isn't lasting long enough throughout the day, or if you're worried that they may become dependent on their medication.

Before Your Child Takes Vyvanse

Before prescribing Vyvanse, your child's doctor will look for signs of ADHD. They will also make sure that your child doesn't have any pre-existing health conditions that could prevent them from taking the medication safely, like:

  • Glaucoma
  • Family history of ventricular arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or sudden death
  • Heart disease or hardening of the arteries
  • High state of anxiety, tension, or agitation
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Moderate to severe high blood pressure

Vyvanse should not be used by kids who are taking monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) or have taken one within the past 14 days. Children who are sensitive to, allergic to, or have previously had a reaction to other stimulant medicines should also avoid taking Vyvanse.

Talk to your child's doctor about all medications, supplements, and vitamins that they currently take. While some drugs pose minor interaction risks, others may outright contraindicate use or prompt careful consideration as to whether the pros of treatment outweigh the cons in your child's case.

Dosage

Vyvanse is available as oral capsules and chewable tablets, and it comes in several dosage strengths:

  • 10 milligrams (mg)
  • 20 mg
  • 30 mg
  • 40 mg
  • 50 mg
  • 60 mg
  • 70 mg (only available in oral capsules)

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. Their doctor can increase their dosage in 10 mg increments each week if needed.

Vyvanse is taken orally once daily. The first dose is typically taken first thing in the morning, with or without food, and it should be taken at the same time each day for the best results. This medication can cause insomnia if it's taken later in the day, so try to avoid putting your child on an afternoon dosage schedule.

If your child missed their dose, have them take it as soon as you remember. If it's almost time for their next dose, wait and administer that one.

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.

Like other amphetamines, Vyvanse is a controlled substance. That means it has a high potential for abuse and it could lead to dependence. It should always be stored safely and securely, out of the reach of others.

Side Effects

Common

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

  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Cough
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Respiratory irritation and congestion
  • Weight loss

Severe

Vyvanse can also cause more severe side effects, like:

  • Blood pressure increase
  • Circulation problems
  • Serious allergic reactions that can include anaphylaxis, skin swelling, welts, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • Sudden death in children with known heart problems
  • Suppressed growth
  • Worsened symptoms for children with mental health conditions

Warnings and Interactions

Like other stimulants, Vyvanse can be abused, and it is possible to overdose. If your child has had dependency issues with other stimulant medications, they shouldn't take Vyvanse.

If you believe your child should no longer take Vyvanse, work closely with their doctor to slowly wean them off of the medication. Withdrawal symptoms are possible with stimulants, and stopping Vyvanse abruptly can cause depression and extreme fatigue.

This medication hasn't been tested in children younger than 6.

A Word From Verywell

Medication is just one component of ADHD treatment. Your child may also benefit from learning new behavioral strategies and social skills to help them cope with their symptoms, and you may benefit from a support group for parents or from training programs designed to help you better understand your child's condition.

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Article Sources
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