Does Vyvanse Help Treat Binge Eating Disorder?

Medically Reviewed by Jennifer Casarella, MD on August 28, 2022
3 min read

Vyvanse isn't a new drug, but the FDA approved it as a treatment for binge eating disorder (BED) in 2015. It was first used as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Vyvanse is the brand name for the medication lisdexamfetamine dimesylate. It's part of a group of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. They work by boosting the amounts of certain brain chemicals so you feel more alert and aware. They also speed up your heart rate and breathing rate, and they raise your blood pressure.

In your blood throughout the day, Vyvanse slowly changes into another medication, dextroamphetamine. This drug increases dopamine, a chemical that's linked to your brain's motivation and reward systems. When you eat something delicious or hug someone you love, for example, your body releases dopamine and you feel pleasure.

Experts think that when you have BED, food may trigger your brain to make extra dopamine. One theory is that taking Vyvanse could keep your dopamine levels up so you don't try to feel better with food. But it's not known exactly how or why the medicine helps.

In one study, 255 people got different doses of either Vyvanse or a placebo with no medicine. They built up their dosage over 3 weeks, then stayed at their test dose for 8 weeks. Those who took lower doses or the placebo did improve, but people who got either the 50-milligram or 70-milligram doses had fewer binge episodes.

During a 4-week period, about:

  • 2 out of 10 people who took a placebo stopped bingeing.
  • 4 out of 10 who took 50 milligrams of Vyvanse stopped bingeing.
  • 5 out of 10 who took 70 milligrams of Vyvanse stopped bingeing.

The researchers say the results suggest that Vyvanse could treat BED, and more studies should be done to figure out the best way to use it.

For now, doctors don't recommend taking more than 70 milligrams once a day.

The most common side effects people in the study said they had were:

Because Vyvanse is a stimulant, you might also get a headache, an upset stomach, or dizziness.

Vyvanse is a controlled substance, because people who take it can become dependent on it or abuse it.

You need a prescription from your doctor. It's not a diet or weight loss drug, and scientists haven't studied it for that purpose. Vyvanse isn't approved to treat binge eating in children.

If you've ever been dependent on or abused prescription drugs, street drugs, or alcohol, tell your doctor before you start taking Vyvanse. Don't drink alcohol while you're using it.

You shouldn't take Vyvanse if you've used a kind of medication for depression called an MAOI within the past 2 weeks.

Call your doctor right away if you have any heart problems including chest pain, fainting, or shortness of breath. You should also let your doctor know if you see or hear things that aren't real, or if you find any cuts or sores on your fingers or toes that you don't know how you got. Vyvanse can cause circulation problems or make them worse, so tell your doctor if your fingers or toes feel cool or numb, hurt, or change color.