Why Parents Need to Know About Vyvanse

Prescription Drugs

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

If you or a family member has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (often called ADHD or ADD), you most likely have heard about Adderall or Ritalin, both of which have been on the market for decades. And if you have college-age children, you probably have also heard that many students use these medications, sometimes without the proper prescription from a doctor, in an attempt to gain a “competitive edge” in their academic performance. This practice is similar to how some athletes take pharmaceuticals to improve their performance.

Academic Doping  

In fact, some people refer to the use of ADHD medication as “academic doping.” The problem is so widespread that up to 35 percent of college students -- and 10 percent of high school students -- admit to taking ADHD stimulants for performance enhancement rather than for recreation. One indication of how common these medications have become is that health authorities report ongoing increases in the number of ADHD medications prescribed annually.

You Need to Know About Vyvanse

One ADHD medication that you may not be as familiar with, but one that, as a parent, you need to know about is Vyvanse.

Vyvanse is a prescription medicine and stimulant, which was first approved for ADHD treatment in children. It was later prescribed for ADHD in adults and then as a treatment for binge eating in adults. As a matter of  fact, Vyvanse is displacing Adderall and Ritalin as the “drug of choice” for both college and high school students looking to enhance their performance in school.

Vyvanse is a Powerful Drug  

To give you an idea of how powerful this medication is, the DEA categorizes Vyvanse as a Schedule II substance (the same category that includes cocaine and morphine). In other words, even though this drug is legal it is considered to be potentially dangerous because of the high risk for abuse and dependence.

Unlike other ADHD medications, which need to be taken throughout the day, Vyvanse only needs to be taken once a day. In addition to being easier to remember to take, this once per day dosing schedule helps maintain concentration for longer periods of time, which is perfect for students pulling an all-nighter to cram for an exam or finish a paper.

The active ingredient in Vyvanse is a compound called lisdexamfetamine. It is sold under a variety of brand names, including Elvanse, Samexid, Tyvense and Venvanse. Like the active ingredients in other ADHD medications, it is also an amphetamine which, when taken at therapeutic doses, produces modest improvements in cognition such as working memory, information recall and concentration, as well as self-confidence and sense of well-being.

Vyvanse is Easy to Get, Easy to Use, Easy to Hide

Students at both the college and high school levels report that Vyvanse is now very common on campuses, is readily available and affordable. One high school student reported that he and his friends share their medications to study later into the night, than they otherwise could have, and to help them focus during exams. Other students describe having a “tunnel focus tailor-made” for subject and entrance exams such as the SATs.  

Another told of how on the way to classes, she would stop at the water fountain in the hall and take a Vyvanse. She described the “buzz” she would get within about 30 minutes and with this buzz came laser focus, recall and the alertness to “crush” any exam.

Kids are Clever in Their Approach to Getting Vyvanse

What is just as alarming and very disturbing is that many users report that they have learned exactly which symptoms to describe to parents and psychiatrists in order to have ADHD medications prescribed to them.

Sharing is Not Always Caring

They then share them with friends or sell them to make pocket money.

Dire Consequences

As with other stimulants, Vyvanse can have side effects at therapeutic doses.

When taken to help enhance academic performance, the medication can pose very serious health risks. High school and college students taking Vyvanse for reasons other than to treat diagnosed ADHD are literally playing Russian Roulette with their health and even with their lives.

Abuse and overdose of Vyvanse can cause a wide-range of psychiatric and health problems, including:

  • Depression and mood swings that can last beyond when they last took the medication
  • Heartbeat irregularities, hypertension, hypotension (abnormally low blood pressure), stroke
  • Amphetamine psychosis including delusions and paranoia
  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Abdominal pain, appetite loss and nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Convulsions

For some students, using Vyvanse may also become a gateway to other drugs including painkillers and street drugs.  

In addition to the health risks of taking Vyvanse,...

Research shows that while its stimulant effect is undeniable, over the long-term students taking the medication do not do any better than those who do not take it. According to numerous studies, college students who abuse ADHD stimulants have a lower GPA than their counterparts who do not use these drugs. Students who abuse stimulant drugs, such as Vyvanse, for the purpose of study aides also usually procrastinate and then use the medication to stay awake and cram. And over the course of a college career, pulling all-nighters during exams cannot compensate for failing to study and prepare.

(Not to mention, you need good sleep for several reasons).

The net effect is that there is no real evidence supporting the idea that Vyvanse and other ADHD medications improve intelligence.

How to Be Proactive About Making Sure Your Kids Do Not Abuse Vyvanse.

  • Educate yourself. The first thing to do as a parent is educate yourself about Vyvanse and other ADHD stimulant medications, so that you can have an intelligent, nonjudgmental conversation with your children about them. Be sure to pick an appropriate moment and place to have this conversation. If you’re not sure how to go about it, talk with a competent healthcare provider, a spiritual advisor or trusted family member or friend.
  • Encourage your kids to seek help. If your child is taking Vyvanse or other ADHD medications to help bolster their grades, encourage them to talk with and get help from their university health services or another trusted advisor who can give them advice, counsel and medical treatment, if necessary for withdrawal symptoms, to stop using these potentially dangerous stimulants.
  • Ensure your child is nutritionally balanced. If you want to ensure  your kids do well in school, help them become nutritionally balanced and have optimal amounts of those nutrients which will keep their brains healthy and sharp. Vyvanse may suppress the appetite, which in turn could decrease the intake of critical nutrients, like minerals and vitamins, necessary to maintain their brain and mental health. Some of these nutrients that could be depleted may include zinc, magnesium, copper and B vitamins. Make sure you incorporate a variety of healthy foods, like certain fruits and vegetables in their diet from which they can get critical nutrients. 

More importantly, have your child get a comprehensive nutrient test. This is the only way to know where your child stands nutritionally. And if there is imbalance, you can work with a competent healthcare professional and make relevant tweaks to the diet. This may also include taking good quality supplements where appropriate.  

Finally, reiterate to your child that although grades and succeeding in education are important, these things are of no value without good health. Young people face great pressure and competition. It is up to us to remind them that grades are not a matter of life and death but taking risks with your health and abusing drugs is.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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