Adderall XR vs. Vyvanse: Key Similarities and Differences

Julia Ovcharenko, CEO at Numo
May 7, 2024

While some people (maybe your relatives? typical) are still wasting time wondering if ADHD is even a thing (which it absolutely is - as they can read in our blog article on the matter), you went ahead and got an official ADHD diagnosis - or even just accepted for yourself that you have it! That is no mean feat - congratulations 🎉✨The next step for a lot of people is to get prescribed ADHD medication to help deal with the symptoms. Of course, it’s your healthcare provider’s job to assess your specific situation as well as your body’s needs, and prescribe you the right meds! However, we’re more than happy to give you information about Adderall XR vs. Vyvanse to get you started on this journey.

What are Adderall and Vyvanse?

They’re meds! Duh. You already knew this. Stimulant meds. You knew this, too. Adderall and Vyvanse can increase attention, concentration, wakefulness, and executive function by keeping your bloodstream infused with norepinephrine and dopamine.

What? Dopamine? Who said dopamine!?

So real… 

Anyway… Where was I? Ah yes, giving you the general overview of Vyvanse and Adderall XR. Let’s continue, shall we? In addition to the positive effects mentioned above, both these drugs can help battle hyperactivity and improve depression and fatigue. 

However, to get any of these two medications, you need to have a formal diagnosis (if you don’t have it already, we have outlined the possible steps to receive it in this blog article - don’t thank us, that’s what we’re here for!)

It’s also important to keep in mind that while stimulants like Adderall XR, Vyvanse, and others, are considered the first-line treatment for ADHD, not everyone can tolerate them. Luckily, though, there are alternatives such as non-stimulants (like nootropics, which we’ve written about here) and behavior therapy (CBT) - so you can also consider those options 😊

What Is the Difference Between Adderall IR and Adderall XR (ER)?

Now, what about those strange abbreviations? Basically, there are two varieties of Adderall: IR (which stands for ‘instant-release’) and ER aka XR (‘extended-release’). These names are self-explanatory: in the case of Adderall IR, the drug gets released into your bloodstream right after you take it, giving you that instant kick of norepinephrine and dopamine; Adderall XR takes longer to get released and absorbed by your body, making the ride smoother and longer-lasting than its instant-release twin.

In today’s article, we’re covering Adderall XR and its characteristics compared to Vyvanse.

Key Similarities and Differences between Adderall XR and Vyvanse

Vyvanse & Adderall XR Similarities:

  • Both contain D-amphetamine (dextroamphetamine) as their main active component
  • Both get more effective with time - so hold on if you’ve just started Adderall XR or Vyvanse, and it doesn’t quite work the way you hoped it would!
  • Both absorb slowly
  • Both are best taken in the morning after you wake up, as afternoon doses may cause drowsiness
  • Both Adderall XR and Vyvanse tend to cause more appetite issues (compared to other stimulants like Concerta/Ritalin or Focalin)
  • Both can cause a slight increase in mood instability (unlike other stimulants)
  • Both can be addictive. But, as the meme goes…

Now let’s dive into the distinguishing features of each drug!

Vyvanse & Adderall XR Differences:


  • Comes in capsules and chewable tablets
  • Duration: generally 10-12 hours, but many patients say up to 16 (for the therapeutic dose of 30-70 mg per day)
  • Takes 2 hours to kick in
  • Withdrawal symptoms (like extreme fatigue, anxiety, and depression) can occur
  • It’s a prodrug, which means that the body (namely the red blood cells) has to do some work to produce it
  • Smoother effect curve, slower absorption (because it only happens in the gastrointestinal tract🤓), longer-lasting effects
  • Better tolerated than other stimulants
  • Harder to abuse than other stimulants (although it CAN be addictive, is categorized as a controlled substance, and CAN lead to tolerance and dependence)

Adderall XR:

  • Available in capsules
  • Duration: 10-12 hours (however, Jezel Rosa, a certified psychiatric nurse, says it’s 8-10 hours)
  • Takes 1-2 hours to kick in
  • May cause a rollercoaster effect (although not as drastic as Adderall IR)
  • If taken with food, peak action is delayed for 2-3 hours
  • It’s advised to take breaks: for example, you can skip it on 1-2 weekends in a month, or, if you’re a student, on summer break) to avoid tolerance and dependence
  • Withdrawal symptoms can be very serious (they include severe agitation, anxiety, severe fatigue, and depression) - so whatever you do, DON’T QUIT COLD TURKEY!

Vyvanse vs. Adderall Dosage

Let’s say you’ve been prescribed Vyvanse, but it didn’t work out for you, so you got re-prescribed Adderall instead. Now riddle me this: what is 40 mg of Vyvanse equal to in Adderall? To know for sure, study the information below! Please note that the doses are given for adults.

Vyvanse Dosage

According to various sources, the therapeutic dose may start as low as 20-30 mg and can be increased in increments of 10 mg or 20 mg at approximately weekly intervals not to exceed 70 mg a day.

Adderall XR Dosage

The dosage can start at 5 or 10 mg daily and can increase incrementally up to a maximum dose of 30 mg a day. In adults with ADHD who are either starting treatment for the first time or switching from another medication, the recommended dose is 20 mg/day.

Not sure if you can keep on taking those meds when you need to take them? 

Say no more! Here’s our ADHD apps article featuring a free app that’ll help you take meds without ever skipping a dose! 

Side Effects of Adderall and Vyvanse

Ah yes, the dreaded side effects… Some of these are pretty wild, so stay tuned!

Common Side Effects

Common side effects for both of these drugs include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling jittery
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased weight
  • Anorexia
  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Apart from that, Adderall XR has its own side effects, which include:

  • Emotional instability
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Asthenia (muscle weakness and lack of energy)
  • Urinary tract infections (surprising, I know!)

The full list of side effects and precautions can be found online, as well as in the patient package insert, and should be communicated to you by your healthcare provider; however, we will note just a few more important things: 

  • Before taking Vyvanse or Adderall XR, you must be assessed for the presence of cardiac disease, motor or verbal tics, or Tourette’s syndrome 
  • Pregnant people must not take any of these drugs
  • Do NOT drink alcohol if you take Adderall or Vyvanse!

Which Medication Should YOU Take to Treat YOUR ADHD?

First of all, consult your mental health practitioner/healthcare provider, as they’re the person who’s going to prescribe you anything! 

Secondly - it’s all highly individual! No two bodies are the same… Be sure to learn as much as you can about all of the options, weigh the risks vs. the benefits, monitor how any given drug is impacting you, and share your questions and concerns with your trusted medical practitioner 🙂

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to try something else if your medication of choice doesn’t seem to do you much good! According to Mark Faber, M.D., with any stimulant medication, the chance of success is 70%, and if one doesn’t work, it’s worth considering another. 

And lastly - you may actually find that medication is not for you, be it due to other meds that you might be taking and can’t get off of, or to your individual preferences! Don’t be sad though - you can still get help with managing your ADHD symptoms even if you’re not considering taking meds, and we’ve outlined some nice alternative options in this blog article just for you 💛 

Hope that helped, and see you next time 😊


  1. Rapid Review: The Different Amphetamines (Adderall XR, Dexedrine, Vyvanse, Mydayis, etc)
  2. Vyvanse: Adderall XR
  3. Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine) for ADHD: What you NEED to Know!
  4. Adderall: Everything you NEED to Know!

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