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Vyvanse Abuse: A Comprehensive Guide

Vyvanse is a popular prescription drug used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and binge-eating disorder in patients who are at least six years old. Although the drug offers a significant number of benefits for patients struggling with ADHD, the drug is often abused by non-patients who take the drug to improve focus and increase their energy levels. If Vyvanse is abused long-term, it can lead to a plethora of health problems for an abuser.

Abuse of Vyvanse for Studying

What is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse, officially known as lisdexamfetamine, is a powerful stimulant drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It is also used off-label to treat conditions such as narcolepsy, treatment-resistant depression, and severe daytime drowsiness/fatigue. Vyvanse belongs to a class of drugs known as amphetamines, and it is a federally controlled substance with a potential for dependence and abuse. Vyvanse becomes active once it is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, and its active component, dextroamphetamine, is released into the rest of the body, its effects will become pronounced.

Vyvanse Abuse and Dependency

As previously mentioned, the distribution of Vyvanse is regulated by the federal government due to its high risk of dependence. In other words, Vyvanse can be habit-forming, which can lead to the abuse of the drug. When a patient is prescribed Vyvanse, they must be closely monitored by their prescribing physician for any signs of chemical dependency.

Amphetamines such as Vyvanse are often abused on the street due to their ability to cause feelings of euphoria and happiness if they are consumed in large dosages. They can also increase focus and alertness, which is why they are often abused on college campuses. When taken under the care of a physician, Vyvanse is typically safe to consume, but when taken in large dosages or misused, dependence and withdrawal symptoms may become noticeable.

Taking Vyvanse for an extended time at high dosages can result in physical or psychological dependence. When a person becomes physically dependent on a drug, they need to drug to feel normal. If they immediately choose to stop taking the drug, they can experience intense withdrawal symptoms. Psychological dependency also causes individuals to crave the drug, and if they cannot get it, they may act out or exhibit different behavior.

Both physical and psychological dependence can be dangerous. They can result in side effects such as mood swings, confusion, anxiety, and in the most extreme cases, hallucinations and paranoia. Consuming Vyvanse or any other stimulant drug in large dosages can also increase your risk of brain damage, overdose, and death.

Vyvanse Withdrawal and Overdose Symptoms

Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms can be unpleasant, and often, they can prevent individuals from living a normal, healthy life. Individuals who abuse Vyvanse on the street can experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking the drug cold turkey, and unfortunately, so can individuals who are prescribed the drug by a doctor. Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms often include:

  • Sweating
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Patients who want to stop taking Vyvanse should speak with their doctor first. Often, patients and those addicted to the drug are advised to slowly taper off the drug instead of stopping it immediately. Withdrawal symptoms can last a few days, or sometimes weeks, depending on how long and often a person has taken Vyvanse.

Stimulants such as Vyvanse are extremely powerful, and if they are taken in large dosages, and if a person takes too much, they can experience an overdose. Individuals addicted to Vyvanse may need more and more of the drug over time to induce a high, and accidentally consume more at one time than their bodies can metabolize. Although the symptoms of Vyvanse overdose can vary from person to person, they often include:

  • A marked increase in blood pressure and heart rate
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irritability, agitation, and other significant mood changes

Unfortunately, if a person does not receive immediate medical attention after taking too much Vyvanse, they can have a stroke or lapse into a coma. Under the most extreme circumstances, those who overdose can even die.

Those who engage in certain behaviors while taking Vyvanse are at increased risk of overdose. Other factors that increase the risk of overdose include using medicine in a manner other than prescribed (ex: snorting), consuming alcohol, mixing Vyvanse with other drugs, and exercising or sweating. The dosage of Vyvanse consumed is also important – the higher the dosage, the higher the risk of overdose. The amount of Vyvanse required to induce an overdose varies from person to person, so for some people, it may not take much to overdose.

Depending on the health status of a Vyvanse overdose patient, they may need one or more of the following treatments:

  • Tests: At the hospital, medical staff will run a variety of tests on an overdose patient to assess for major medical complications and amphetamine toxicity. Depending on the state of the patient, a physician may perform a CT (CAT) scan to check for internal bleeding or an ECG (electrocardiogram) to view the condition of the heart.
  • Sedation: Often, patients who overdose on Vyvanse experience extreme agitation and behavioral problems. Hospital staff or paramedics may need to sedate an overdose patient using a benzodiazepine such as a diazepam. If the patient cannot or will not consume the drug orally, they may be given an intravenous dose.
  • IV Fluids: IV fluids can prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Life-saving treatments: In the most severe overdose cases, doctors may be charged with saving the life of a patient. The doctor may need to treat a heart attack, prevent a patient from lapsing into a coma or administer treatment for a stroke.

If a person exhibits signs of a Vyvanse overdose, it is important to call 911 immediately. The longer an overdose victim goes without medical treatment, the more severe their condition can become.

What is Vyvanse Misuse?

Vyvanse misuse is when a person uses the drug in a manner different than intended by a physician. As previously stated, Vyvanse is prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and binge-eating disorder, as well as some other conditions, and it should only be taken for these conditions under the care of a physician. Signs of Vyvanse misuse include using another person’s drugs, not taking the medication as prescribed, and taking the medicine solely for a rush or high.

Who is at Risk for Vyvanse Addiction?

It is immensely difficult to determine if a person is at risk for abusing Vyvanse or other amphetamines. However, there are some risk factors associated with Vyvanse abuse. Often, individuals who have a family history of abusing amphetamines or other drugs are at increased risk, as are those at certain stages of cognitive development (ex: teenagers, young adults). It is believed that individuals experiencing high levels of stress and those who do not have an emotional support system are at higher risk.

Individuals who have been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused may also turn to Vyvanse to deal with psychological trauma.

Stages of Vyvanse Addiction

Very rarely do individuals immediately develop an addiction to Vyvanse. Addiction is a complex medical condition, and it typically presents itself in stages. In general, there are three stages of Vyvanse or amphetamine addiction – intoxication, withdrawal, and anticipation (often called preoccupation).

At the intoxication stage, a person taking Vyvanse may experience euphoria or increased energy and focus when consuming the drug. Such feelings may drive them to consume more Vyvanse at higher doses over time.

Withdrawal occurs when a person addicted to Vyvanse cannot consume the drug. They may experience a wide range of behavioral and physical symptoms due to their body’s increased dependence on Vyvanse.

The last stage of addiction involves anticipation or preoccupation. Often, a person is so addicted to Vyvanse that at this point they will do anything to obtain the drug. Often, they will only focus on getting their next high. Individuals experiencing anticipation or preoccupation may have difficulty maintaining relationships or concentrating. They may experience difficulties in school or at work. Addicted individuals will also start to notice they need more Vyvanse to achieve a high.

Treating Vyvanse Addiction

For individuals struggling with Vyvanse addiction, asking for help is often the most difficult part of recovery. Often, individuals suffering from substance abuse disorder do not know they have a problem or they may be in denial. Even when others notice or attempt to address their addiction, it may be difficult for them to make a rational decision to seek treatment due to their physical or psychological dependency on the drug.

Consulting a Medical Professional

If you are struggling with Vyvanse addiction, consulting a medical professional should be your first step. Medical professionals, such as psychiatrists, often have extensive experience treating patients suffering from various addictions. These individuals will understand how you feel and know the best way to go about treating your Vyvanse addiction.

When first meeting with a medical professional, you may need to provide intimate details about your life and how you use Vyvanse regularly. Depending on your medical condition at the time, you may be asked to enter a treatment program to better address your addiction. There are no laboratory tests to identify substance abuse disorder, so you will probably be asked a host of questions regarding your use of Vyvanse.

Recovery

The concept of “full recovery” may mean different things to different patients according to their personalities, beliefs, cultures, and methods of recovery. It can take a considerable amount of time to fully recover from Vyvanse addiction and abuse, and it is common for patients to attend therapy programs for years at a time. There is nothing wrong with this, and often, patients can learn a wealth of information by attending therapy with a trusted health provider.

To maintain their recovery and positive outlook on life, a patient will more than likely require:

  • A strong emotional support system from individuals they care about
  • Treatment for any other health conditions they may be suffering from, including mental health conditions
  • Effective strategies for dealing with urges
  • Individuals they can open up to and be honest about their addiction with

It is also important for Vyvanse abuse patients to not be ashamed of seeking help. They must realize they suffer from a medical condition that requires treatment from addiction professionals.

Those struggling with Vyvanse addiction should know they have access to a variety of treatment options that can help them overcome their addiction and reintegrate into day-to-day life. The length and type of treatment you choose should depend on the degree of your Vyvanse addiction. Follow-up care to ensure you don’t relapse is also an important component of recovery. Treatment programs for Vyvanse or amphetamine addiction typically incorporate:

  • Group, individual, or family therapy
  • A strong focus on comprehending the nature of your addiction
  • Techniques to prevent relapse
  • Outpatient, residential, or inpatient care depending on your needs and goals

Patients suffering from Vyvanse addiction typically experience physical and psychological effects when they don’t have access to the drug. The goal of detoxification, also referred to as detox, is to help patients stop taking a drug in the safest manner possible under the supervision of medical professionals. For some patients, it may be possible to undergo detox on an outpatient basis, but for those with more severe Vyvanse addictions, hospital treatment or residential care may be needed.

The process of withdrawal will vary depending on the type of drug you are addicted to. Depending on your degree of dependency, you may be required to reduce your use of the drug over time.

Therapy

An important element of any substance abuse program is behavioral therapy. Behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that addresses the underlying motivation behind human behaviors. This therapy may be carried out by a psychologist, psychiatrist, or licensed counselor, and it may be done on an individual, group, or family basis. Therapists or counselors can:

  • Provide strategies to avoid Vyvanse and prevent relapse
  • Help patients formulate strategies for dealing with drug cravings
  • Address issues regarding a patient’s career, legal issues, and family and platonic relationships
  • Offer advice on how to deal with relapses
  • Address other psychiatric conditions
  • Help patients and their family members develop more effective communication skills and offer support

Of course, every behavioral therapist has their own approach, so you will need to choose a therapist you feel comfortable with.

Self-Help Groups

Many self-help groups employ a 12-step model first utilized by Alcoholics anonymous. Contrary to popular belief, there are many self-help groups available to those struggling with narcotic abuse. These groups exist to help individuals better understand their addiction and to reduce the sense of shame surrounding Vyvanse addiction. Joining a self-help group can also reduce your sense of isolation. If you have difficulty finding a self-help group in your area, your therapist or psychiatrist may be able to recommend one.

When joining a self-help group, it is important to attend meetings regularly. Fellow group members will also help hold you accountable for your actions, so be prepared to be honest about your Vyvanse use when you attend.

Important Questions to Ask Your Provider

Prior to attending your first treatment session, it can help to adequately prepare. Start by talking with your primary care provider, who may be able to help you find a treatment center or a psychiatrist who specializes in substance abuse disorder. It may even be helpful to take a friend or relative along. Before attending your first appointment, you can do the following:

  • Prepare to be honest about your Vyvanse use. Often, patients who use significant amounts of drugs attempt to downplay or underestimate their use and its impact on their lives. No matter how much Vyvanse you use, just be honest with your medical provider.
  • Compose a list of all medications, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you are currently using. You should even include illegal drugs you use on this list.
  • Prepare to ask any relevant questions about your treatment and what it entails.

Some important questions to ask your physician, counselor, or therapist may include:

  • What type of medical professional should I see?
  • What is the most effective approach to treating my Vyvanse addiction?
  • Do I need to go to the hospital or spend time in a residential facility?
  • Are there any alternatives to the approaches you are suggesting?
  • Do you have any printed material available? Are there any helpful websites I should visit?

The previously mentioned questions can help you start a conversation with your medical provider.

Prescription Medication Treatment

Depending on your treatment plan, you may be asked to take other prescription drugs to treat your Vyvanse addiction. Many drugs have proven to be effective in treating Vyvanse addiction and preventing relapse. Some of these drugs include bupropion, sertraline, topiramate, and baclofen. Baclofen has been proven to reduce the frequency of amphetamine use in lab animals by triggering the release of a number of neurotransmitters.

We Understand Vyvanse Addiction

Here at Clean Recovery Centers, we understand the impact Vyvanse addiction can have on your life. That is why we employ a unique and highly effective three-phase approach to treating and managing addiction. We know that overcoming Vyvanse addiction is hard, and that is why our staff of trained addiction specialists will be by your side every step of the way. Contact us to start your journey to sobriety today.

Sources:

  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0376871615000757
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/vyvanse-effects-on-the-body
  • https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-148324/vyvanse-oral/details
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/amphetamine-addiction
  • https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20365113
  • https://archives.drugabuse.gov/sites/default/files/methmeds.pdf
  • https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/adhd/what-is-adhd

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