Have you ever experienced Vyvanse withdrawal? Have you ever stopped using Vyvanse only to be left feeling depressed, fatigued, irritable, brain-fogged and generally less-than-well?
The experience of Vyvanse withdrawal can stir up a lot of internal doubts, neuroses, and unpleasantness. You might be wondering when you'll feel like yourself again. You might be thinking that you should reinstate Vyvanse immediately to, well, end these symptoms. To feel energetic again.
There's no doubt that Vyvanse withdrawal can be tough to cope with. Rest assured that with time, good nutrition and exercise you will beat Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms and recover 100%.
If you plan to continue using Vyvanse, you may also want to take a look at this discussion about how to protect your brain from the potentially neurotoxic effects of amphetamines.
How Vyvanse Affects the Brain
Vyvanse is comprised of lisdexamfetamine, which is dextroamphetamine conjugated to the amino acid lysine. This formulation results in the gradual, more controlled (rather than instant) release of amphetamine.
Amphetamines are catecholamine releasing agents. That is, they promote the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the synapse.
Norepinephrine plays a role in the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) response to perceived danger or stress, and therefore can increase heart rate, blood pressure and affect other vital signs.
By enhancing catecholamine release, Vyvanse increases urgency and task salience, making it easier for patients with ADHD to concentrate.
Vyvanse Withdrawal Symptoms
The intensity and duration of Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms varies from person to person. No surprise here - different people are different.
Vyvanse withdrawal symptoms also depends on the duration of your treatment with Vyvanse, average dosage, age, genetics, and the condition of your overall health.
The symptoms of Vyvanse withdrawal closely match Adderall (mixed amphetamine salts) withdrawal, since the active agent in both Vyvanse and Adderall is the same–dextroamphetamine. (Though Adderall also contains levoamphetamine in addition to dextroamphetamine.)
You may experience increased hunger, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and low mood after discontinuing Vyvanse.
Weathering Vyvanse Withdrawal
How can you best weather Vyvanse withdrawal?
There are a few time-tested strategies. Not all of them will be appropriate for you - that's why you should consult a physician.
If Vyvanse Withdrawal Symptoms Are Severe
If withdrawal symptoms are severe and you're committed to not reinstate Vyvanse, then I recommend substituting in a drug that has similar effects but is less potent or addictive.
The following drugs have Vyvanse-esque effects but they're not habit forming and aren't as harsh on your brain:
- Modafinil (Provigil) or armodafinil (Nuvigil)
- Bupropion (Wellbutrin)
- Desipramine (has major drawbacks)
All of these drugs are stimulating, but they're not psychostimulants per se. They don't carry the same risk of dependence and neurotoxicity that's linked to Adderall.
If Vyvanse Withdrawal Symptoms Are Tolerable
Let's say your symptoms are tolerable and you're not interested in substituting a different drug for Vyvanse.
In this case, there are still steps you can take to hasten recovery and feel 100% again. Let's dive in.
Lower Your Expectations
During recovery it's important to coddle yourself and lower your expectations about how you should be functioning while you recover.
If you experience a mild concussion, most neurologists will tell you to avoid screens, rest your brain, and limit mental work1. Their reasoning is that your brain needs to rest and studies suggest that pushing yourself too hard after a concussion can backfire.
Recovering after chronic Vyvanse use works similarly.
While you're in recovery mode, do the bare minimum to skirt by at work and try to minimize your responsibilities. Ignore non-urgent emails, etc.
Eat Like Food Is Medicine
Food is medicine.
A number of foods promote cognitive health. There are even studies showing that specific foods can help regenerate dopaminergic neurons. These are the type of neurons that are negatively affected by amphetamines.
Some of my favorite brain foods are:
- Dark chocolate (cacao). Increases cerebral blood flow; improves cognitive function is older adults.
- Blueberries - countless studies demonstrating cognitive benefit. (Tip: eating frozen blueberries are a way to control costs).
- Turmeric (curcumin) - The cognitive benefits of turmeric have been investigated ad nauseam. One thing to watch out for is that curcumin has poor oral bioavailability, which means you may need to take a special formulation (and take it with piperine).
- Salmon - salmon contains astaxanthin, which is responsible for the fish's pink color. (Something to note: some vendors add food coloring to enhance the pinkness of the fish).
I write a lot about supplements because they're fun to research, but only take a few things myself.
In general, many supplements are snake oil - especially proprietary blends or supplements that combine multiple ingredients.
These are some supplements that I do think are worth taking:
- Vitamin D. people forget that vitamin D is a potent neurosteroid2 that's vital for healthy brain function.
- Magnesium. Magnesium is a dietary mineral that protects against excitotoxicity. It tends to reduce depression and anxiety, and even reduces the intensity of drug cravings.3
- Vitamin C. Linus Pauling got a lot of flack for overselling the benefits of vitamin C. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1954), but went on to do some dubious research on the benefits of vitamin C. For example, he believed that a host of psychiatric disorders could be cured with megadoses of vitamin C (e.g., schizophrenia) which turned out to be just plain wrong. However, for recovery from psychostimulants, vitamin C does seem to be beneficial4.
Groves NJ, McGrath JJ et al. Vitamin D as a neurosteroid affecting the developing and adult brain. Annu Rev Nutr. 2014;34():117-41 ↩
Nechifor M. Magnesium in drug dependences. Magnes Res. 2008 Mar;21(1):5-15 ↩
Huang YN, Wang JY et al.. L-ascorbate attenuates methamphetamine neurotoxicity through enhancing the induction of endogenous heme oxygenase-1. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2012 Dec 1;265(2):241-52 ↩
Kulkarni SK, Deshpande C et al.. Ascorbic Acid inhibits development of tolerance and dependence to opiates in mice: possible glutamatergic or dopaminergic modulation. Indian J Pharm Sci. 2008 Jan;70(1):56-60 ↩