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Adderall vs. Vyvanse: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 28, 2023
Adderall contains amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, prescribed for ADHD; Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, a prodrug activated in the body, also used for ADHD.

Key Differences

Adderall and Vyvanse are both FDA-approved medications primarily prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, which are central nervous system stimulants. In contrast, Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, which is a prodrug and requires conversion in the body to become effective.
The mechanism of action between Adderall and Vyvanse shows differences as well. While both drugs act by increasing the concentrations of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, Adderall starts working more quickly after ingestion. Vyvanse, on the other hand, due to its prodrug nature, needs to be metabolized in the body first, resulting in a more gradual onset of effects and potentially smoother symptom control.
Regarding the duration of effects, Vyvanse tends to have a longer duration of action compared to Adderall. This means that patients might need fewer doses of Vyvanse in a day compared to Adderall. Additionally, because of the way Vyvanse is metabolized, it might be associated with a lower potential for misuse compared to Adderall.
From a prescription standpoint, Adderall comes in both immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR) formulations. Vyvanse, in contrast, only comes in an extended-release form. Both medications, Adderall and Vyvanse, require a prescription and have the potential for side effects, so a healthcare professional must monitor their use.

Comparison Chart

Active Ingredient

Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine

Onset of Effects

Faster onset
Gradual onset due to prodrug nature

Duration of Effects

Shorter for IR, longer for XR
Typically longer-lasting

Potential for Misuse

Possibly higher
Possibly lower due to prodrug metabolism

Available Formulations

Immediate-release (IR) and extended-release (XR)
Only extended-release

Adderall and Vyvanse Definitions


Available in both immediate and extended-release forms.
Depending on the patient's needs, the doctor might prescribe Adderall XR.


A controlled substance with potential side effects.
It's essential to take Vyvanse only as prescribed to avoid adverse reactions.


A medication containing amphetamine compounds.
The doctor prescribed Adderall to help manage the patient's ADHD symptoms.


A medication containing lisdexamfetamine as its active ingredient.
Vyvanse is often used as a first-line treatment for ADHD.


A drug used for treating ADHD and narcolepsy.
Some college students misuse Adderall as a study aid.


A prodrug activated in the body.
The effects of Vyvanse are felt once the body metabolizes it.


A controlled substance due to its potential for misuse.
Possessing Adderall without a prescription is illegal.


Used primarily to treat ADHD and binge eating disorder.
The doctor prescribed Vyvanse to help the patient with their binge eating episodes.


A stimulant affecting the central nervous system.
Adderall can increase focus and decrease impulsivity in ADHD patients.


Known for its extended-release formulation.
Patients usually take Vyvanse once daily due to its long-lasting effects.


Can Adderall be used for conditions other than ADHD?

Yes, apart from ADHD, Adderall can also be prescribed for narcolepsy.

Is Vyvanse an immediate-release medication?

No, Vyvanse is only available in an extended-release form.

How long does the effect of Vyvanse last?

The effects of Vyvanse can last up to 14 hours.

What are common side effects of Adderall?

Side effects can include insomnia, nervousness, and increased heart rate, among others.

Are there non-stimulant alternatives to Adderall for ADHD?

Yes, medications like Strattera and Intuniv are non-stimulant options.

Can Vyvanse cause anxiety?

Anxiety is a potential side effect of Vyvanse, but not everyone experiences it.

What is Adderall primarily used for?

Adderall is primarily prescribed for ADHD and narcolepsy.

Is it safe to take Adderall and Vyvanse together?

Combining them could be harmful. Always consult a healthcare professional before mixing medications.

Are there any dietary restrictions when taking Vyvanse?

Certain foods or drinks, like citrus, might interfere with absorption. Discuss with a doctor.

Can Adderall affect blood pressure?

Yes, Adderall can raise blood pressure and should be used with caution in those with hypertension.

Is there a generic version of Vyvanse?

As of my last update in January 2022, there's no generic equivalent for Vyvanse in the U.S.

How is the active ingredient in Vyvanse different from Adderall?

Vyvanse contains lisdexamfetamine, a prodrug, while Adderall contains amphetamine compounds.

How quickly does Adderall start working?

The effects of Adderall IR can be felt within 30 minutes to an hour.

Can Vyvanse be used for weight loss?

While Vyvanse can reduce appetite, it's not approved for weight loss and should not be used off-label for this purpose.

Can Vyvanse be opened and sprinkled on food?

Yes, the contents of a Vyvanse capsule can be sprinkled on food if swallowing pills is a challenge.

Is Adderall available in extended-release form?

Yes, there's an extended-release version called Adderall XR.

Does Vyvanse have a potential for addiction?

Yes, Vyvanse is a controlled substance with potential for misuse and dependency.

Is Vyvanse more expensive than Adderall?

Prices can vary, but Vyvanse is often more expensive than generic forms of Adderall.

How should Adderall be stored?

Store Adderall in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight.

Is it safe to drink alcohol while taking Adderall?

Mixing Adderall with alcohol can be dangerous and is not recommended.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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