Vyvanse and Adderall Similarities and Differences

Quick facts: Vyvanse vs. Adderall

 Verywell / Theresa Chiechi

Vyvanse and Adderall are both stimulant medications prescribed to treat ADHD. Stimulants (also known as psychostimulants) are the first line of medications due to their effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms.

Both drugs act on the central nervous system, which boosts the availability of neurotransmitters in the brain. With the increased amounts of dopamine and norepinephrine, it is easier to pay attention and focus. In addition, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior is reduced.

Basic Facts

Vyvanse and Adderall are two different medications. However, because they are both stimulant medications from the same drug family (amphetamine) they may be confused as being the same medication. Here are some facts about the two drugs to shed light on their similarities and differences.


Adderall is a brand name for a drug that contains dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is available in two formulas: Adderall IR (immediate release) and Adderall XR (extended release). Adderall IR is short-acting and lasts for approximately 4 hours. Typically, when a person is prescribed this immediate release version, they would take it two or three times a day.

Adderall XR formula is effective for 10 to 12 hours. It became FDA approved in 1996 and is approved to be prescribed to people 6 years and older. Adderall is also approved to treat narcolepsy.


Vyvanse is a brand name for a drug that contains lisdexamfetamine. When lisdexamfetamine enters the body, it is converted to dextroamphetamine. It is available in one formula and is effective for approximately 14 hours.

Vyvanse was approved by the FDA in 2007 and is approved to treat people 6 years and older. In addition to treating ADHD, Vyvanse is approved to treat binge eating disorder.

Primary Differences

  • Slower absorption rate, starts working in 1 to 2 hours

  • Effects last 14 hours

  • Lower risk of abuse since cannot be inhaled or injected

  • No generic available until after 2023

  • Faster absorption rate, starts working in 30 minutes

  • Effects last 4 hours for Adderall IR, 10 to 12 hours for Adderall XR

  • More potential for abuse

  • Generic available

  • Immediate (IR) and extended (XR) versions for flexibility

Absorption Rate

Perhaps the biggest distinction between Adderall and Vyvanse is that Vyvanse is a prodrug. This means that it needs to be taken orally in order to be metabolized by the body’s enzymes to become effective.

Vyvanse is often described as ‘smoother’ than Adderall. One of the reasons for this is that—because it has a slower absorption rate—there is not a ‘kick’ or ‘jolt’ to the system when the medication starts to work.

Medication Rebound

In addition, there is less medication rebound when Vyvanse starts to wear off. The effects of Adderall start to work within 30 minutes. In contrast, Vyvanse takes approximately one to two hours to take effect.

Since Adderall is available in both intermediate and extended versions, it allows for great flexibility in how it can be taken. For example, a person might be prescribed Adderall XR to take daily and have Adderall IR to take when a more immediate effect is needed or when it is beneficial to have the medication wear off before bedtime.


Vyvanse and Adderall are Schedule II drugs. There is a potential for abuse and dependency. Both are approved to take orally. Since Vyvanse needs to be converted in the body, it can't be inhaled or injected as a way to become high. So it is less likely to be misused than Adderall and other stimulant medications. Always store your medications safely and away from other people.

Forms and Dosages

Adderall IR is available in tablets ranging from 5mg to 30mg. Adderall XR is available in six different doses ranging from 5mg to 30mg. Vyvanse is available in capsules and chewable tablets of several strengths in doses from 30mg to 70mg.

Doctors usually prescribe a lower dose when you first start taking a medication and gradually increase it until they find the right therapeutic dose for you and your symptoms.


Adderall and Vyvanse are both brand names and a month’s supply without insurance can cost from around $150 to $400 depending on the frequency and dose. Adderall is available in generic versions (amphetamine salt combo), which can be considerably cheaper. Some people find that generic versions of Adderall are not as effective for them as the brand version.

Vyvanse is not available in generic form. Online pharmacies might advertise generic forms of Vyvanse but take care: generic Vyvanse has not been approved, giving it the potential to be unsafe.

Side Effects

As Vyvanse and Adderall are both amphetamine type stimulant medications, the side effects of each drug are similar and include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep problems
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

More serious but rarer side effects include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, hallucinations, and paranoia. If you experience these or any other side effects, contact a doctor as soon as possible.

There are some additional side effects that need to be considered for women and men. Men might experience an additional side effect when taking an amphetamine, which is erectile dysfunction (ED). Although you might feel embarrassed to talk about this with your doctor, they will be able to work with you to help resolve this issue.

Adderall and Vyvanse are category C drugs, which means they could be unsafe to an unborn baby. If you are a woman who is pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your doctor.Both drugs have the potential to interact with other medications you are taking.

Some examples include monoamine oxidases inhibitors (MAOIs), acidifying agents, alkalizing agents, antidepressants, antihistamines and high blood pressure medication. Remember to inform your prescribing doctor about other prescription medication, over- the- counter medication as well as any natural supplements you might be taking.

Which Drug Is Best For You?

If you are wondering which ADHD medication is best for you or your child, consult with your healthcare provider. Finding the optimal medication often involves some back and forth with your doctor as each person responds differently. When you start taking a new medication, monitor how it makes you feel, including side effects. Then inform your doctor so they can make the necessary adjustments if needed.

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Article Sources
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