Get the facts on Dexedrine and Vyvanse and find out which one may be best for ADHD treatment.
Both Vyvanse and Dexedrine are central nervous system stimulants. Experts aren’t sure exactly how they work but know they improve the rate at which messages are sent between the brain and the body.
This may help with symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), like forgetfulness.
Vyvanse is like Dexedrine but its effects last longer. Overall it has fewer side effects and a lower chance of misuse.
If you’re living with ADHD and considering starting or changing medications, it’s a good idea to talk with a doctor or mental health professional about which medication may be best for you.
What’s the difference between Dexedrine and Vyvanse? Is there an advantage to taking one over the other? A side-by-side comparison sheds some light on their similarities and differences.
Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved prescription medication. It’s an amphetamine, which is a central nervous system stimulant.
Vyvanse is a prodrug of Dexedrine. Prodrugs are chemically-modified, inactive versions of their parent drugs. Dexedrine is the parent drug of Vyvanse.
Prodrugs are inactive until your body converts them into their parent drug. This conversion process is intended to improve absorption and reduce toxicity compared to the parent drug, which can result in fewer side effects and less chance for misuse.
Doctors typically prescribe Vyvanse for ADHD in children over 6 years old and adults. They also prescribe it to treat moderate to severe cases of binge eating disorder (BED).
Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine) is an FDA-approved prescription medication. It’s also an amphetamine. It has been around for longer than Vyvanse — the FDA first approved Dexedrine in
Dexedrine works similarly to Vyvanse but it doesn’t need to be converted into an active form. It starts working as soon as the body absorbs it.
You can take Dexedrine orally as a liquid or pill. The FDA also recently approved a Dexedrine skin patch, a helpful option for people who have trouble swallowing pills.
Doctors may prescribe Dexedrine for ADHD and narcolepsy to people over the age of 3.
Both Dexedrine and Vyvanse:
- are FDA-approved amphetamines
- help treat ADHD
- have unclear actions but similar effects
- have the potential for considerable side effects and misuse
Time to take effect
Vyvanse takes more time to work than Dexedrine, up to 2 hours — but it lasts up to 14 hours, which is longer than Dexedrine. Dexedrine may take effect in an hour, but its effects don’t last as long.
Vyvanse is only available under its brand name as chewable tablets or capsules.
Dexedrine is available as a generic drug (dextroamphetamine) or under the following brand names:
- Dexedrine, a long- or short-acting capsule
- Zenzedi, immediate-release tablets
- Spansule, extended-release capsules or tablets
- ProCentra, an oral liquid solution
- Xelstrym, a skin patch
The dose your doctor prescribes will depend on your:
- body weight
- response to treatment
Often, you’ll start on a low dose and gradually increase the dose in 10-milligram (mg) increments.
The dosage for ADHD is usually:
- Vyvanse: 30-70 mg daily
- Dexedrine: 5-30 mg daily in more than one dose
Binge eating disorder
Doctors typically prescribe 50–70 mg of Vyvanse daily to treat BED.
Doctors typically prescribe 5–60 mg of Dexedrine daily to treat narcolepsy.
Common side effects
Both drugs have potentially serious side effects. Consider talking with your doctor about the potential side effects and warning signs to watch for.
Since both drugs work similarly, the side effects are essentially the same. They may include:
To understand which drug might be best for you, it’s a good idea to talk with a medical professional. A primary doctor may be a good place to start.
When making the choice between Dexedrine or Vyvanse, you may want to consider how long each drug will last in your system.
The effects of Vyvanse may last a lot longer, which can be a problem if you have trouble sleeping. On the other hand, you may be able to better control the effects of Dexedrine since it doesn’t last as long in the body.
If you have trouble swallowing pills, you may want to try the newly-approved Dexedrine skin patch or Vyvanse chewable tablets.
Your doctor likely won’t recommend or prescribe either drug if you have the following:
- structural heart abnormalities
- heart arrhythmias
- heart disease
- moderate to severe high blood pressure
- a history of substance use disorder (SUD)
- hypersensitivity or allergy to amphetamines
Both medications have the potential for misuse. A doctor will carefully monitor your dosage to prevent harm and misuse.
Other common ADHD medications include:
- amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall)
- methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Methylin)
- atomoxetine (Strattera)
Additional treatment options for ADHD include:
The main differences between Dexedrine and Vyvanse are the available forms, dosage, time to effect, and duration of effect. Generally, Vyvanse takes longer to work but lasts longer than Dexedrine.
If you have a new ADHD diagnosis or want to change medications, you can talk with a doctor to learn more about your options for managing your symptoms.
Looking for additional information to help you navigate an ADHD diagnosis? Consider checking out these resources: