Child Development

Vyvanse vs Ritalin: Which Is Best?

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ADHD can come with a range of symptoms that affect a person's life. Medication for ADHD can help with symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity, and it can be valuable for individuals who live with any presentation of ADHD, whether that's primarily inattentive ADHD, primarily hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, or ADHD with a combined presentation.

When families explore medication options for their children, they may choose to examine the contrasts between specific treatments recommended by their child's doctor. Vyvanse and Ritalin are both well-known, popular medications used for ADHD, but which is best? Let's observe the differences and similarities between the two.

What Is Vyvanse?

Vyvanse is a prescription medication that is used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, teens, and adults who are aged 6 or above. Vyvanse is a stimulant medication, and it is sometimes prescribed off-label for other concerns in addition to ADHD.

For example, it is sometimes prescribed for Binge Eating Disorder. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007.

What Is Ritalin?

Ritalin is a prescription medication that is used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children, teens, and adults who are aged 6 or above. Like Vyvanse, Ritalin is a stimulant medication and is sometimes prescribed off-label for concerns other than ADHD.

For example, it is sometimes prescribed for a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. Ritalin is one of the oldest ADHD medications and has been FDA-approved since the 1960s. 

Vyvanse vs Ritalin

While these medications may sound similar based on the information above (IE, both are stimulants), they do differ in some ways. Here is a table that highlights some of the differences between Vyvanse and Ritalin.

Vyvanse Ritalin
Is a generic version of this medication available? No. Yes.
What are the other names for this medication? Lisdexamfetamine dimesylate. Methylphenidate.
How long is it safe to use this medication to treat ADHD? People use this medication for ADHD long-term. People use this medication for ADHD long-term.
How often should this medication be taken? Vyvanse should be taken once daily in the morning. Ritalin may be taken 2-3 times daily. Ritalin LA, however, should be taken once daily in the morning.
Active ingredient Lisdexamfetamine Methylphenidate
In what form do people take this medication? Tablets and capsules. Tablets and capsules.

Other key differences and similarities you may notice when you look at Vyvanse vs. Ritalin relate to cost, potential side effects, risks and interactions, and even the effectiveness of the medications.

Cost 

For those who take medication of any kind, the cost is a common concern. Here’s what we know about the cost of Vyvanse in comparison to the cost of Ritalin.

Vyvanse

Vyvanse is often more costly than Ritalin. It is a newer medication, and as you can see based on the table above, there is not yet a generic version of Vyvanse. That said, the cost of this drug may vary based on a number of different factors, such as your insurance coverage.

Some individuals may see a bill of just over $200 per month, as indicated by the standard wholesale price, but others, such as those who take the highest dose at 70 mg, may pay up to around $460.55/month without insurance. However, a decrease in the cost of Vyvanse may come soon. Sources say that a generic will be available as soon as the year 2023, which may make it easier for individuals who take Vyvanse to cover the cost of their prescription. 

Ritalin

Ritalin has been around for longer than Vyvanse, and because generics are available, the cost is often lower. Ritalin can cost around $18.00 to $53.00/month, depending on the dosage. If you or your child takes Ritalin LA, you may see a price tag of $165.00-$173.00/month. Similarly, the wholesale price for Ritalin SR is $80.00/month.

Manufacturer coupons and health insurance coverage are two ways that you can decrease the cost of ADHD medication, including both Vyvanse and Ritalin.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of Vyvanse? What about Ritalin? Here's a breakdown of the side effects we see most frequently. 

Vyvanse

Common side effects of Vyvanse may include:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability 
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Jitteriness 
  • Restlessness 
  • Higher blood pressure

Ritalin

Common side effects of Ritalin may include:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fast or abnormal heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Jitteriness
  • Restlessness  
  • Higher blood pressure

ADHD medications like Vyvanse and Ritalin are often taken in the morning to avoid insomnia. While these side effects are common, they aren't the only potential side effects that can occur with Vyvanse or Ritalin.

Serious side effects and risks can come with both medications. The correct dosage and medical monitoring from a doctor can prevent many of the possible serious side effects and risks. If you notice anything that may be a cause of concern, discuss it with your child's doctor. 

Dosage

The correct dosage for both Vyvanse and Ritalin will differ based on factors such as age, body size, and whether or not one has taken the medication before. Your child's prescribing doctor will determine the correct dosage for your child and may adjust their dose or medication regaining as needed. One of the ways that Vyvanse and Ritalin differ is that the medications are available in different doses.

Vyvanse

Vyvanse is available in doses of 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 50 mg, 60 mg, and 70 mg. The 70 mg dosage of Vyvanse is available in capsule form only. 

Ritalin

Ritalin is available in doses of 5 mg, 10 mg, and 20 mg immediate-release tablets, 20 mg sustained-release tablets (Ritalin SR), and 10 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, and 40 mg extended-release capsules (Ritalin LA). 

Warnings and Risks

Vyvanse and Ritalin share similar risks. Here are some of the primary warnings and risks you may see affiliated with both:

Vyvanse

  • Slowed growth in children
  • Heart problems
  • Dependency or misuse 
  • Drug and other interactions
  • Serotonin syndrome

Ritalin

  • Slowed growth in children
  • Heart problems
  • Dependency or misuse
  • Drug and other interactions
  • Serotonin syndrome

It is crucial to speak with your child's doctor about the possible warnings, risks, or medication interactions that are affiliated with Vyvanse and Ritalin. Some of the medications that can lead to medication interactions for those who take Vyvanse or Ritalin are common.

For example, those who take MAOIs should discuss this with their doctor before starting Vyvanse or Ritalin. Some drugs will be avoided entirely due to these interactions, while others may simply require a lower dose to avoid serious consequences, such as serotonin syndrome.

Other medical or mental health conditions, too, such as seizure disorders and Bipolar disorder, might be something you discuss with your child's doctor if they get a prescription for Ritalin or Vyvanse.

Due to the potential for misuse and addiction, it is vital that an individual does not share Vyvanse or Ritalin with others. Only the individual who receives a prescription for these medications should take them, and they must be taken as directed by their prescribing doctor. 

Effectiveness

Around 80% of children who live with ADHD and take stimulant medications such as Vyvanse or Ritalin are said to experience an improvement in their ADHD symptoms. Both Vyvanse and Ritalin have been shown to improve ADHD symptoms through a large body of research, and both medications are widely recognized as sufficient ADHD treatments. Is one more effective than the other? Here's what we know. 

Vyvanse

Vyvanse is proven effective by research, both for children and adults who live with ADHD. Some experts suggest that Vyvanse is more effective than Ritalin. However, few studies have compared the two medications at this time.

Ritalin

Like Vyvanse, Ritalin is proven effective by research, both for children and adults who live with ADHD. Individuals are more likely to discontinue Ritalin due to lack of efficacy, whereas one may be more apt to stop taking Vyvanse due to side effects. This doesn't mean that Ritalin is an ineffective treatment. 

It is always crucial to remember just how much everyone responds to medication differently. For some, a medication could be incredibly effective or show no side effects. The opposite could be completely true for another person with the same medication.

Both Vyvanse and Ritalin are often used alongside other forms of treatment and support for ADHD. These can include but aren't limited to behavior therapy, parent training, individualized education plans (IEPs), routines and lifestyle interventions, and apps or games created to help individuals with ADHD. Together, these modes of support and treatment can build a valuable whole-person care plan for individuals with ADHD.

Takeaway

When it comes to Vyvanse vs. Ritalin, which is best? The bottom line is that everyone's body and mind respond to medications and other treatments differently. One individual may have a preference for one over the other, but it does not necessarily mean that one is best across the board. Both Vyvanse and Ritalin come with different advantages, and some individuals require trial and error to find the most suitable plan for treatment.

This article is for informational purposes and is not a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. Please consult with your or your child's prescribing doctor before changing, starting, or stopping a medication routine.