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ADHD Medications: Vyvanse vs. Ritalin

Introduction

Vyvanse and Ritalin are both stimulants, which are the most widely used ADHD medications. But while Vyvanse and Ritalin are similar in many ways, they have some key differences. Read on for information about similarities and differences that you can discuss with your doctor.

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Use

Use

Vyvanse contains the drug lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, and Ritalin contains the drug methylphenidate.

Treating ADHD
ADHD medications are divided into stimulants and nonstimulants. Nonstimulants seem to have fewer side effects, but stimulants are the most common medication treatment for ADHD. They have been shown to be more effective. Learn more: Other treatment options for ADHD.

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin are used to treat ADHD symptoms such as poor focus, reduced impulse control, and hyperactivity. However, they’re also prescribed to treat other conditions. Vyvanse is prescribed to treat moderate to severe binge eating disorder, and Ritalin is prescribed to treat narcolepsy.

These drugs both work by increasing the levels of certain chemicals in your brain, including dopamine and norepinephrine. However, the drugs remain in your body for different amounts of time.

How they work

How they work

Methylphenidate, the drug in Ritalin, enters the body in its active form. This means it can go to work right away, and doesn’t last as long as Vyvanse. Therefore, it needs to be taken more often than Vyvanse. However, it also comes in extended-release versions that are released into the body more slowly and can be taken less often.

Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate, the drug in Vyvanse, enters your body in an inactive form. Your body has to process this drug to make it active. As a result, the effects of Vyvanse may take 1–2 hours to appear. However, these effects last longer throughout the day. So, you can take Vyvanse less often than you would take Ritalin.

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Effectiveness

Effectiveness

Misuse
Neither Vyvanse nor Ritalin is prescribed for weight loss, and these drugs should not be used for this purpose. These drugs are powerful, and you should take them exactly as prescribed. Only use them if your doctor prescribes them for you.

Very little research has been done comparing Vyvanse and Ritalin directly. Studies that have compared other stimulant drugs with the active ingredient in Vyvanse have found that it is about equally effective.

For reasons that aren't fully understood, some people respond better to Vyvanse and some people respond better to Ritalin. Neither of these drugs has been shown to be objectively more effective than the other. Still, finding the drug that works best for you may be a matter of trial and error.

Dosage

Forms and dosage

Vyvanse

Vyvanse is available as a capsule that comes in doses ranging from 10 to 70 mg. The effects of Vyvanse can last up to 14 hours. For this reason, Vyvanse is meant to be taken once per day, in the morning. You can take it with or without food. The typical dose for Vyvanse is 30 mg.

Also, the contents of Vyvanse capsules can be sprinkled on food or in juice. This might make it easier to take for children who don’t like to swallow pills.

Ritalin

Ritalin is available in three forms. Some forms should be taken with food, while others can be taken without food.

Ritalin is a tablet that comes in doses of 5, 10, and 20 mg. This short-acting tablet may only last in your body for four hours. It should be taken two or three times per day.

Ritalin LA is a capsule that comes in doses of 10, 20, 30, 40, and 60 mg. This extended-release capsule may last in your body for up to eight hours, so it should be taken just once per day.

Ritalin SR is a tablet, and it comes in a 20-mg dose only. This extended-release tablet may last in your body for up to eight hours, so it also should be taken just once per day.

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Side effects

Side effects

Vyvanse and Ritalin can have similar side effects. The more common side effects for both drugs include:

  • loss of appetite
  • digestive issues, including diarrhea, nausea, or stomachache
  • dizziness
  • dry mouth
  • mood disorders, such as anxiety, irritability, or nervousness
  • trouble sleeping
  • weight loss

Both drugs can also have more serious side effects, including:

  • increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • slowed growth in children
  • tics

Ritalin has also been known to cause headaches and is more likely to cause increased heart rate and high blood pressure.

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Warnings

Warnings

Vyvanse and Ritalin are both powerful drugs. Before using them, you should be aware of certain risks.

Controlled substances

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin are controlled substances. This means they have the potential to be abused or used improperly. However, it is uncommon for these drugs to cause dependence, and there is little information on which one might have more of a dependence risk. Even so, if you have a history of alcohol or drug dependence, you should talk to your doctor about it before taking either of these drugs.

Drug interactions

Vyvanse and Ritalin can interact with other medications. This means that when used with certain other drugs, these medications can cause dangerous effects. Before you take Vyvanse or Ritalin, tell your doctor about all other medications you take, including vitamins and supplements.

Also, be sure to tell them if you have recently taken or are taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). If so, your doctor may not prescribe Vyvanse or Ritalin for you.

Conditions of concern

Vyvanse and Ritalin are not right for everyone. You may not be able to take either of these drugs if you have:

  • heart or circulation problems
  • an allergy to the drug or a reaction to it in the past
  • a history of drug abuse

In addition, you should not take Ritalin if you have the following conditions:

  • anxiety
  • glaucoma
  • Tourette’s syndrome
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Takeaway

Talk with your doctor

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin treat ADHD symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. These drugs are similar, but different in a few key ways. These differences include how long they last in the body, how often they need to be taken, and their forms and dosage.

Overall, the most important factor often comes down to personal preferences and needs. For instance, do you or your child need the drug to last all day, such as for a full school or work day? Or are you able to take multiple doses during the day?

If you think one of these drugs could be a good choice for you or your child, talk to your doctor. They can help you decide what treatment plan may work best, including whether it should involve behavioral therapy, medication, or both. They can also help you decide which of these drugs, or a different drug, may be more helpful. ADHD can be a confusing condition to manage, so be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have. These might include:

  • Should I or my child consider behavioral therapy?
  • Would a stimulant or nonstimulant be a better choice for me or my child?
  • How do I know if my child needs medication?
  • How long will treatment last?
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