Vyvanse and Adderall: What’s the Difference?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 12, 2023
3 min read

Vyvanse and Adderall are used by many people to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Both are stimulants called amphetamines.

They work by raising levels of chemicals in your brain called dopamine and norepinephrine that help you focus, control your impulses, and pay attention at school or work. About 80% of people notice that their symptoms are better when they take stimulants.

Vyvanse and Adderall aren’t exactly the same, though. They do different things in your body and can cause different side effects. 

You'll work with your doctor to find an ADHD treatment that’s best for you. It might take some time to find the right medicine and dose. If the first one your doctor prescribes doesn't work, you can try a different one.

Adderall is the brand name for a mix of two stimulants called amphetamine-dextroamphetamine. It comes in a capsule full of beads that hold these medicines. A dose of the original form lasts about 4 hours in your body. The longer-acting form, called Adderall XR, can last 8 to 12 hours. This is because half the beads are fast-acting, and the others are slow-acting.

Vyvanse is the brand name for lisdexamfetamine dimesylate. It comes in both capsules and chewable tablets. It also has the stimulant amphetamine, but adds a compound called lysine. Your body has to absorb the lysine to get to the stimulant, so your dose may last up to 14 hours. 

Any stimulant can cause side effects like:

Anyone who has a heart problem shouldn’t take stimulants. And if you have psychosis, bipolar disorder, aggression, or seizures, these medications can make your symptoms worse. They also can cause blurred vision.

Other possible side effects of both Adderall and Vyvanse include:

More rarely, you might have a faster heart rate, heart palpitations, or tremors.

With Adderall, men may have changes in their sex drives, impotence, frequent erections, or erections that last longer than normal. Some people who take it might have hair loss or rhabdomyolysis, when muscle breaks down and gets weaker.

These can vary widely, based on the form and dosage. And pharmacies can have different prices for the drugs, too. Check with your insurance plan to see what’s covered.

In general, generics can cost much less than brand names. Vyvanse is only available as a name-brand prescription drug right now. Adderall, which is older, is available as the generic drug amphetamine-dextroamphetamine. That can cut down on cost.

While it’s possible to abuse or start to depend on any stimulant, that may be less likely with Adderall XR and Vyvanse because they’re designed to release their active chemicals slowly.

That’s especially true for Vyvanse because your body has to process the lysine before it gets to the stimulant part of the drug.