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ADHD Definition and Facts

Here is a list of essential ADHD information you may find helpful and talk to your doctor for more information.
  • ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Some people call it ADD, but ADHD is the correct name for it.
  • There are 3 main types of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, and combined type.
  • Anyone can have moments of being inattentive, impulsive, or hyperactive. Adults with ADHD, however, experience these symptoms repeatedly and in a way that is severe enough to have an impact at home, at school/work, or in social situations.
  • Symptoms must be present for at least 6 months in two or more settings (eg, home, school/work, with friends). In addition, symptoms must also have been present before the age of 12 and not be better explained by another mental disorder. See additional diagnosis information.
  • ADHD is a treatable medical condition. The exact cause of ADHD is unknown but it may be caused in part by an imbalance in chemical messengers that affect the brain.
  • These are not the only criteria used to diagnose ADHD. Diagnosis should be based on a complete history and only a doctor or trained health care professional can accurately diagnose ADHD. Find a doctor near you
  • Only a doctor or other health care professional can accurately diagnose ADHD.

ADHD is commonly referred to as AD/HD and ADD, although the correct term is ADHD

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What Causes ADHD?

The exact cause of ADHD is still unknown. Here’s what we do know:

Is ADHD genetic?
Research suggests that ADHD tends to run in families. However, this does not mean that all children in a family will have the disorder.

Neurotransmitter function could be involved.
The brain uses various chemicals called neurotransmitters to help send messages across the nervous system. An imbalance of these chemical messengers may result in the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD.

Certain environmental factors may play a role, too.
Certain external factors, such as smoking during pregnancy or complications from pregnancy, delivery, or infancy, may contribute to ADHD.

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ADHD Statistics

ADHD can affect adults, kids, and teens. Here are some ADHD statistics:

It is estimated that nearly 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. Need some context? The state population of New York is just over 19 million. ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders in children. 11% of US school-aged children, or 6.4 million have been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime.* (*Based on the 2011/2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, in which parents were asked if a health care practitioner had ever told them their child has ADD or ADHD.) 4.4% of US adults, or 10.5 million have ADHD.* (*Based on a survey of 3,199 adults ages 18 to 44 conducted from 2001-2003 and applied to the full US population ages 18 or over.) It is estimated that nearly 17 million Americans are affected by ADHD. Need some context? The state population of New York is just over 19 million. ADHD is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders in children. 11% of US school-aged children, or 6.4 million have been diagnosed with ADHD in their lifetime.* (*Based on the 2011/2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, in which parents were asked if a health care practitioner had ever told them their child has ADD or ADHD.) 4.4% of US adults, or 10.5 million have ADHD.* (*Based on a survey of 3,199 adults ages 18 to 44 conducted from 2001-2003 and applied to the full US population ages 18 or over.)

Drug treatment may not be appropriate for all people with ADHD.

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IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION

Vyvanse is a federally controlled substance (CII) because it can be abused or lead to dependence. Keep Vyvanse in a safe place to prevent misuse and abuse. Selling or giving away Vyvanse may harm others and is against the law.

Vyvanse is a stimulant medicine. Tell the doctor if you or your child have ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines, or street drugs.

Who should not take Vyvanse?

Do not take Vyvanse if you or your child are:

  • taking or have taken an anti-depression medicine called a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) within the past 14 days.
  • sensitive or allergic to, or had a reaction to other stimulant medicines.

Serious problems can occur while taking Vyvanse. Tell the doctor:

  • if you or your child have heart problems, heart defects, high blood pressure, or a family history of these problems. Sudden death has occurred in people with heart problems or defects taking stimulant medicines. Sudden death, stroke and heart attack have happened in adults taking stimulant medicines. Your doctor should check you or your child carefully for heart problems before starting Vyvanse. Since increases in blood pressure and heart rate may occur, the doctor should regularly check these during treatment. Call the doctor right away if you or your child have any signs of heart problems such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or fainting while taking Vyvanse.
  • if you or your child have mental (psychiatric) problems, or a family history of suicide, bipolar illness, or depression. New or worse behavior and thought problems or new or worse bipolar illness may occur. New psychotic symptoms (such as seeing or hearing things that are not real, believing things that are not true, being suspicious) or new manic symptoms may occur. Call the doctor right away if there are any new or worsening mental symptoms or problems during treatment.
  • if you or your child have circulation problems in fingers and toes (peripheral vasculopathy, including Raynaud’s phenomenon). Fingers or toes may feel numb, cool, painful, sensitive to temperature and/or change color from pale, to blue, to red. Call the doctor right away if any signs of unexplained wounds appear on fingers or toes while taking Vyvanse.
  • if your child is having slowing of growth (height or weight). The doctor should check your child’s height and weight often while on Vyvanse, and may stop treatment if a problem is found.
  • if you or your child have symptoms of serotonin syndrome: agitation, hallucinations, coma, or changes in mental status; problems controlling movements or muscle twitching, stiffness, or tightness; fast heartbeat; sweating or fever; nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if symptoms occur. Serotonin syndrome may occur if Vyvanse is taken with certain medicines and may be life-threatening.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Do not breastfeed while taking Vyvanse. Talk to your doctor about the best way to feed your baby if you take Vyvanse.

What are possible side effects of Vyvanse?

The most common side effects of Vyvanse in ADHD include:

    • anxiety
    • decreased appetite
    • diarrhea
    • dizziness
    • dry mouth
    • irritability
    • loss of appetite
    • nausea
    • trouble sleeping
    • upper stomach pain
    • vomiting
    • weight loss

The most common side effects of Vyvanse in adults with moderate to severe B.E.D. include:

    • dry mouth
    • trouble sleeping
    • decreased appetite
    • increased heart rate
    • constipation
    • feeling jittery
    • anxiety

For additional safety information, click here for Prescribing Information and Medication Guide and discuss with your doctor.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.
  • if you or your child are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. It is not known if Vyvanse may harm your unborn baby.