Vyvanse (Lisdexamfetamine) is a psychostimulant medication that was developed by the company Shire. It is primarily prescribed for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and works well to improve cognitive function. In addition to treating ADHD, many doctors have used the drug to help individuals with excessive daytime sleepiness and binge eating disorders.
Some would say that in terms of popularity, this drug is beginning to eclipse that of Adderall (as an ADHD medication) within the medical community. The fact that it is a relatively new medication and a “prodrug” means that many doctors consider it safer, with less potential for abuse. The way Vyvanse works is by entering your body as an “inactive” chemical (dextroamphetamine) with an attached molecule of lysine.
When ingested, the lysine molecule is removed by the small intestine and the “d-amphetamine” becomes activated and you feel the stimulant effects of the drug. Many users of Vyvanse regard it as being very effective and having a smoother absorption than other psychostimulant medications. Although most people take the drug to manage their ADHD, others take it off-label for nootropic benefit, or with an ulterior motive to lose weight.
Vyvanse and Weight Loss
An effect that many people notice from Vyvanse is that after using the drug consistently, they start to lose weight. It is well known that dextroamphetamine is capable of suppressing appetite, increasing energy levels, and speeding up the metabolism. When the CNS (central nervous system) becomes stimulated from Vyvanse, a surge of the neurotransmitter dopamine is released.
It is believed that the increase in dopamine is responsible for making people feel “satiated” without having eaten. The appetite suppression when compounded with a quicker metabolism is a quick recipe for weight loss. As of February 2015, this drug was actually approved by the FDA for the treatment of binge-eating disorder. Although it can help control certain eating disorders, using Vyvanse solely for the purpose of weight loss is generally an unhealthy long-term strategy.
How Vyvanse Causes Weight Loss
There are many ways by which Vyvanse is capable of causing weight loss. For most people it increases metabolism, reduces appetite, and increases motivation. This generally leads to weight loss, especially over a relatively short-term (e.g. months).
- Appetite suppression: Most people that have taken Vyvanse are aware of the fact that it can eliminate your appetite. Some people may have to force themselves to eat while on this drug because they simply don’t get the urge to eat. This is a common problem, especially among individuals taking high doses.
- Cognitive improvement: It is proven that people get a cognitive boost from taking this drug. It improves clarity of thinking, memory functions, and in some circles is considered a nootropic. While most people are happy with their cognitive improvement at work and school, improving cognition in general helps people become more aware of the food that they’re consuming. This leads some people to make healthier food choices and eat healthier diets.
- Dopamine boost: When dopamine levels increase, you become more motivated, more self-aware, and feel satisfied without having eaten. Those with low levels of dopamine tend to be more susceptible to obesity than those with higher levels. This is because when levels remain low, you feel less satisfied and have more urge to seek out food.
- Fight-or-Flight response: The sympathetic nervous system becomes activated when taking Vyvanse, which leads to a “fight-or-flight” (stress) response. Activation of the sympathetic nervous system causes the body to burn excess energy stores (e.g. glycogen stores and fat cells), resulting in weight loss. Your sympathetic nervous system plays a pivotal role in metabolic regulation, which may also help you lose weight.
- Increased energy: Since this is a psychostimulant, it increases both mental and physical energy. This means that you may feel like moving around more than usual and/or getting exercise. When you have an increase in overall energy, you’re more likely to go to the gym, go for a walk, or lift weights compared to if you feel fatigued.
- Motivation increase: As this drug increases cortical arousal and dopamine levels, you’re motivation to complete tasks also increases. With heightened motivation, you may be more inclined to eat a healthier diet, work out more often at the gym, or set some type of health and fitness goal.
- Physical activity: Those that have increased energy levels are more likely to engage in some sort of physical activity. If you start working out or notice that you like moving around more now that you’re on Vyvanse, it’s a result of the increased energy. The physical activity that you’re getting on the drug will further enhance weight loss by keeping your metabolism high and burning calories.
- Self-control: This drug improves mental performance and could indirectly improve your health as a result of self-control. Those that have ADHD tend to lack some self-control – when dopamine levels increase, self-control and awareness increase. This may mean that you now are able to resist eating a chocolate cake, whereas before taking the drug, you may have been unable to resist the impulsive urge.
- Speeds up metabolism: The stimulating nature of this drug ultimately leads to a quicker metabolism. A quicker metabolism will lead you to burn more calories while resting, with less overall exercise. This means that even if you maintained the same diet you were eating pre-Vyvanse as during your treatment, you’re going to lose some weight.
- Side effects: Although unwanted side effects are relatively uncommon on Vyvanse, they can induce additional weight loss. Examples of side effects that may promote weight loss include: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting. If you have diarrhea and/or vomit when you take this drug, you’re going to lose weight. If you are nauseous, you’re going to be less likely to eat.
Note: It is believed that many of these factors are reason as to why people lose weight while taking Vyvanse. It is important to understand that for some people, specific factors may play a more prominent role in influencing weight loss compared to others. For example, one person may experience more of an energy increase to workout, whereas another person may not have a lot more energy, but may have less of an appetite.
Dangers of using Vyvanse to lose weight…
Over the long-term, using Vyvanse specifically for the purpose of weight loss should not be considered healthy. It is not medically approved for weight loss and using it specifically for this purpose could lead to abuse, addiction, dependence, and ultimately the rebound effect of severe weight gain upon discontinuation.
- Abuse: Once people realize how this drug makes them feel and look (in regards to weight loss), they may resort to abusing it. This may involve taking higher than medically recommended doses with ulterior motives such as to lose weight or experience pleasure. Abusing the drug can have detrimental effects, especially when done over a long-term.
- Addiction: Despite the fact that the drug may be less addictive than Adderall (amphetamine mixed salts), some people actually report the contrary; that Vyvanse is more addictive. It is considered a “Schedule II” controlled substance for a reason – taking it can lead to addiction. People can become easily attached to the pro-cognitive benefit as well as weight loss that they experience.
- Dependence: Some individuals take Vyvanse for a prolonged period of time and/or at high doses and experience dependence. In other words, they may be unable to function without the drug. They may come to rely on the drug to produce results in all facets of life including: relationships, school/work, and physical fitness.
- Diminishing returns: If you’ve been taking this drug for a long period of time, you may notice that weight loss slows, or in some cases, you can weight. This is due to the fact that you’ll experience diminishing returns from the drug with prolonged usage. When your physiology becomes tolerant to the drug, its effects are lessened.
- Dopamine depletion: Some have argued that dopamine stores in the brain become depleted with consistent, long-term usage of psychostimulants. This is often evidenced by the fact that during withdrawal periods, people often “crash” and experience dysphoria and low energy. Low levels of dopamine and/or depleted levels may lead to weight gain and overeating.
- Illegal: It is considered illegal to take this medication specifically for weight loss. While the FDA has approved it to help manage binge eating disorder, it has not been approved for weight management among those with obesity. If you are taking this drug, it is important follow your doctor’s instruction.
- Muscle loss: For many people, metabolism can speed to such a point that they experience muscle loss. This means if you aren’t eating enough food and end up losing weight on Vyvanse, some of that weight may have been from your muscles. While you may not care how you lose the weight, this isn’t considered healthy.
- Side effects: For some people the side effects of the drug can become difficult to deal with on a regular basis. These effects can include: headaches, an increase in blood pressure, insomnia, and other sleep disruptions. While the side effects are generally tolerable, some people still experience difficulty in dealing with them.
- Tolerance: Even though it can take awhile to develop tolerance to varying doses of this drug, once you become tolerant to its effects, the weight loss may subside. This could lead you to remain “weight neutral” and/or even gain some weight. If you are constantly increasing the dose to help offset the development of tolerance, you will eventually hit the maximum recommended dose – to which you will eventually build tolerance. The more tolerance you develop, the more difficult it will be to lose weight.
- Unrealistic body: The body that you get as a result of taking Vyvanse can be a confidence boost while taking the drug, but when you stop taking it, you may be unable to attain this body. This is because Vyvanse contributes significantly to weight loss and may help you surpass your genetic limits. It can be highly depressing and discouraging to someone if they are constantly comparing their appearance to their figure as a result of the drug.
- Withdrawal: Going through Vyvanse withdrawal can be an incredibly difficult experience for some people. The withdrawal period is characterized by weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, metabolic slowing, and low-dopamine induced depression. Most people end up gaining back most of the weight that they lost once they stop using Vyvanse.
- Rebound effect: It is also important to note that a “rebound effect” is commonly experienced until homeostatic functioning has been reset within the physiology. In other words, since you had become used to the effects of the drug, your body must readapt to functioning without it. During this period, you may end up gaining significantly more weight than you lost throughout your treatment; which can be problematic. Additionally, you may get depressed at the fact that you are now unable to maintain the “idealized body” that you once achieved.
Factors that influence weight loss on Vyvanse
There are several factors that play a key role in determining the degree of weight loss you experience while taking this drug. These factors include: your dosage, how frequently you take Vyvanse, how long you’ve been taking it, other lifestyle habits, genetics, and whether you are on other medications.
The amount of the drug that you take regularly can influence how much weight that you lose. The greater the dosage, the greater the overall effect of the drug. If you aren’t keen on experiencing weight loss, you should attempt to take the “minimal effective dose.” For those that don’t care if they lose weight, taking a higher dose may give them more energy and further speed metabolism.
Specifically the ratio of your dosage to your current BMI may be a more accurate for determining the degree to which you experience weight loss. Take a short, small-statured person and compare them with a big-boned, tall person, the bigger person is likely going to require more of the drug to feel the effects. Therefore higher doses for a smaller individual may lead to amplified weight loss.
How often do you take Vyvanse? Most people that are prescribed this drug take it every single day to cope with ADHD. That said, there are some individuals that limit their usage to times when they need to really focus such as: at work and/or for school-related functions. Those that take Vyvanse on an “as-needed” or infrequent basis are less likely to experience profound weight loss than those who take it on a daily basis.
3. Time Span / Tolerance
The time span over which you’ve taken Vyvanse can play a role in determining how much weight you’ve lost. Those that take this drug for a moderate term (i.e. a year or two) may notice substantial weight loss. Others notice more substantial weight loss in the early phases of treatment. Once you develop a tolerance to your current dose, chances are that weight loss will start to slow (or stop).
If you don’t become tolerant to your current dose, the weight loss will likely continue until you reach the point of tolerance. Some people take the drug for years, but eventually they’ll hit a brick wall: they develop tolerance to the highest recommended dose. In this case, they may start to gain back some weight, and if they discontinue, they’ll rapidly pack on poundage.
So for those that have used the drug for an extended period, it will result in diminishing returns in regards to weight and cognitive enhancement. Tolerance to the highest doses generally takes years of consistent usage, but can occur quicker in the event that a person is abusing the drug.
4. Lifestyle / habits
Your individual lifestyle and daily habits play a big role in determining whether you’re going to lose weight while medicated. If you are pounding unhealthy foods and eating in a caloric surplus consistently, you may not lose much weight.
People that are already within a healthy weight range who eat clean diets and get plenty of exercise are more likely to experience weight loss while taking this drug. Individual sleep patterns, hormones, physiological factors and other supplements may also influence the amount of weight lost while on Vyvanse.
There is an array of evidence suggesting that genetic variation is responsible for determining individual reactions to drugs. Newer tests such as “GeneSight” analyze your genetic code to determine how effective and tolerable certain psychotropic drugs will be on an individual basis. Although Vyvanse is likely to trigger some weight loss in most people, the degree of weight loss experienced may be based on unique genetic factors.
6. Other drugs
If you take other medications and/or other drugs (i.e. alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, etc.) – this may have an impact on the amount of weight loss you experience on Vyvanse. Certain drugs may be synergistic in promoting weight loss, whereas other substances may offset the weight loss effects of Vyvanse. Examples of drugs that would work with Vyvanse to promote weight loss include stimulatory medications like Wellbutrin, nicotine products, etc.
Examples of drugs that may offset weight loss from Vyvanse include: antipsychotics and various SSRI antidepressants. These drugs are known to slow the metabolism and decrease overall energy. Taking them with Vyvanse may result in you remaining “weight neutral” and/or experiencing less weight loss than you would’ve had you solely been on Vyvanse.
How much weight will you lose from Vyvanse?
There’s no telling exactly how much weight you’re going to lose from Vyvanse. Assuming you aren’t on any other medications and are taking a moderate to high dose of Vyvanse, you’ll likely lose some weight. Most people report losing anywhere from 5 lbs. to 10 lbs. within the first few months of treatment, while others have reported more extreme weight loss exceeding 50 lbs.
A lot of the weight loss will be based on individual factors such as whether you exercise, the foods you eat, etc. Understand that the goal of taking this medication is not to lose weight, and also keep in mind that some people actually hate the weight loss associated with this drug. If you are getting too thin while on Vyvanse, your doctor may start to think twice about refilling your prescription.
Does everyone lose weight from Vyvanse?
It is impossible to make the claim that everyone will lose weight from Vyvanse. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find a consistent user that hadn’t lost a few pounds within their first 6 months of treatment. This is because the drug speeds up the metabolism, minimizes appetite (and cravings), gives you more energy, and may make you more aware of your food choices. Therefore nearly everyone ends up losing some weight throughout their treatment. Whether the amount of weight loss is considered “significant” is up for individual interpretation.
Comparing therapeutic effects vs. unwanted weight loss
Among those that are already skinny, extra weight loss may be unwanted and highly problematic. Therefore, you may want to take the time to compare the therapeutic benefit associated with taking the drug to the amount of weight that you lose (as well as other side effects).
If you are losing a ridiculous amount of weight from taking the drug and hate it, you may want to talk to your doctor about pursuing other options. Always take the time to assess how well the drug is treating the condition for which it was prescribed and compare the benefit you’re getting with the drawbacks (e.g. unwanted weight loss).
Did you lose weight while taking Vyvanse?
If you have experience taking Vyvanse, feel free to share whether you experienced weight change in the comments section below. Discuss how much weight you ended up losing, the amount of Vyvanse you take, how long you’ve been on the drug, as well as other factors that you believe may have contributed to the weight loss.
Also mention whether you are taking other medications that may be influencing your weight. By sharing your experience, you may be helping someone who is currently in your same situation. Consider mentioning whether you specifically took this drug to lose weight and whether you were pleasantly surprised vs. upset with the weight that you lost.