Vyvanse Vs. Ritalin | Which Is Best For ADHD?

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin act as stimulant drugs, which means they increase central nervous system activity, including neurotransmitter levels, heart rate, blood pressure, energy, and wakefulness.

Vyvanse Vs. Ritalin | Which Is Best For ADHD?

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, an estimated 4.4% of adults and 11% of children in the United States have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

To treat and manage this common condition, a variety of medications have been developed, tested, and approved for use by the FDA.

These medications include methylphenidate, sold under the brand names Vyvanse, Concerta, and Ritalin.

Similarities Between Vyvanse & Ritalin

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin act as stimulant drugs, which means they increase central nervous system activity, including neurotransmitter levels, heart rate, blood pressure, energy, and wakefulness.

In adults and children with ADHD, however, stimulant drugs tend to work differently, at least at therapeutic doses.

Because those with ADHD tend to have lower neurotransmitter levels, especially dopamine and norepinephrine, stimulant drugs help to bring them up into normal levels, calming ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, disorganized thoughts, repetitive acts, and impulsivity.

Abuse Potential Of Ritalin/Vyvanse

All stimulant ADHD medications are prone to abuse and have been classified as schedule II controlled substances by the FDA and DEA.

They are only (legally) available with a prescription and should never be given to anyone they were not prescribed to or taken in ways or doses other than prescribed.

This abuse may occur because a person wants to get high, or because a person wants to increase their energy, focus, wakefulness, confidence, or athletic performance over a short or extended period.

In either case, stimulant abuse can be extremely addictive and can have severe short or long-term consequences for a person’s physical and mental health.

Common & Serious Side Effects Of Ritalin/Vyvanse

Stimulant medications used in the treatment of ADHD tend to generate the same common side effects, which often fade as the body adapts to the medication. These side effects are:

  • loss of appetite
  • trouble sleeping
  • jitteriness
  • irritability or moodiness
  • headaches
  • dry mouth
  • stomach aches
  • elevated heart rate
  • high blood pressure
  • weight loss

In addition, both Ritalin and Vyvanse are also associated with certain rare but serious side effects that are reflected in the warnings published with these medications, including:

  • mental health events, including mania or psychosis, especially in those with a personal or family history of conditions like bipolar disorder, psychosis, mania, or severe depression
  • heart problems, which can include chest pain, sudden death, stroke, or heart attack, especially in those with serious heart or blood vessel conditions, or a family history of these issues
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon, which involves tingling, pain, paleness, chills, or a skin color change in the fingers or toes due to poor circulation
  • growth suppression, a reversible side effect that may occur when these drugs are taken by children or adolescents
  • tics, repetitive sounds or movements that are difficult to control

Common Drug Interactions Of Ritalin/Vyvanse

Stimulant ADHD meds should not be taken within fourteen days of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and should be used with caution with certain antidepressants (SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants), alkalinizing agents (including antacids), and certain other drugs and supplements.

Key Differences Between Ritalin & Vyvanse

Ritalin/Concerta (methylphenidate), Adderall/Adderall XR (amphetamine salts), Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine), and Focalin (dexmethylphenidate) are all examples of stimulant drugs that enter the body in their active form.

Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine dimesylate) instead acts as a prodrug that must first be metabolized in the gut to form the stimulant dextroamphetamine.

This key difference changes many effects of Vyvanse relative to these other drugs and Ritalin in particular, including:

Length Of Effect

Ritalin is an immediate-release, short-acting drug with a length of effect of around 4-6 hours. It is also available in intermediate and extended-release versions (Ritalin SR and Ritalin LA).

Vyvanse, in contrast, is a long-acting drug with a length of effect of 10-13 hours.

Approved Uses

While both drugs are most often prescribed to treat ADHD, Ritalin is also prescribed to treat narcolepsy, a sleep disorder. Vyvanse is also sometimes prescribed to treat severe binge eating disorder.

Abuse Potential

While both drugs are officially considered to have a high potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction, Vyvanse does offer certain advantages that reduce its potential for abuse relative to Ritalin.

Vyvanse must be taken orally to have any effect. If ground down into powder and snorted, smoked, or injected, Vyvanse will not get a person high. Ritalin, in contrast, can potentially be abused in these ways to increase the drug’s effect for a methamphetamine-like euphoria.

Vyvanse also takes longer to have any effect, delaying the drug high if a person were to take a larger amount orally.

If you or a loved one struggle with stimulant misuse or addiction, please contact us today.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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