Adderall and Alcohol
In This Article
What is Adderall?
Adderall is a stimulant medication commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s also prescribed for narcolepsy.
The medication is often the first-choice treatment option for ADHD. Adderall improves attention and focus while reducing impulsive behaviors. The medicine is also effective in boosting daytime wakefulness in people with narcolepsy.
Adderall comes as an oral tablet or an extended-release oral tablet. The medicine increases neurotransmitter activities and dopamine in the brain to speed up processing.
When used as prescribed, Adderall can help people concentrate and focus on performing daily tasks and functions. However, when Adderall is misused or combined with other substances like illicit drugs or alcohol, the effects can be dangerous.
The primary reason people abuse Adderall is due to the energizing effects that it delivers. Adderall makes users experience boosted feelings of confidence, euphoria, and concentration. The drug also suppresses appetite.
Consuming the drug without a prescription, or not as directed by a doctor, is considered Adderall abuse. This includes snorting Adderall pills or taking large quantities to achieve a stronger effect. Adderall abuse is most common among college students who want to study for longer periods, lose weight, or for social reasons.
Can You Mix Adderall and Alcohol?
No, you shouldn’t mix Adderall and alcohol.
Both Adderall and alcohol have specific side effects that affect a person’s behavior and mental state. Because of these reasons, the two should never be combined. While Adderall speeds up the central nervous system (CNS), alcohol slows down the brain’s electrical activity.
Alcohol is known for its sedating effects. Drinking alcohol can make people feel more relaxed and content. This helps them to release inhibitions and produces a ‘buzzed’ or fuzzy mental state. However, too much alcohol has adverse health effects, such as an increased heart rate and blood pressure.
These physical changes become even more dangerous with ADHD medications like Adderall. Adderall can mask specific symptoms of intoxication, leading people to drink more than intended. This increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.
Some symptoms and side effects of alcohol poisoning include:
- Pale skin
- Slowed or irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
Taking Adderall and alcohol together is never a good idea. Alcohol interacts with most types of medications, and the effectiveness of the medication is reduced when mixed with alcohol. This can lead to an overdose.
The combination of Adderall and alcohol can also result in an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. These conditions can occur even if a person does not have underlying cardiovascular risk factors.
Effects of Alcohol on ADHD
People with ADHD may have issues in the areas of the brain that are linked to self-control, impulsivity, and critical thinking.
Symptoms of ADHD include:
- Difficulties concentrating and staying on task
- Easy distraction
ADHD also relates to lower levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. These chemicals are known as "feel-good" neurotransmitters. They are part of the body’s reward system.
Both chemicals kick in when you experience something positive. For example, receiving a promotion, falling in love, or winning a competition or prize.
To manage symptoms better, many people with ADHD drink alcohol or use other substances. In the short-term, alcohol can boost dopamine levels which may appear to lessen ADHD symptoms.
Over time, alcohol depletes dopamine. This can make ADHD worse in the days following a drinking session. People with ADHD should be careful when consuming alcohol due to this effect.
Does Adderall Mask the Symptoms of Alcohol?
Yes, Adderall can mask the effects of alcohol use.
When Adderall and alcohol are taken together, it’s extremely easy for people to drink too much without realizing it. Because of this, people who mix alcohol and Adderall have an increased risk of developing substance abuse issues.
Adderall abuse can reduce a user’s sense of being intoxicated and hungover. This can lead someone to consume large quantities of alcohol. Eventually, a dangerous cycle of Adderall and alcohol abuse forms as the individual becomes dependent on both substances to function.
This dangerous substance use can often sabotage the user’s initial intentions of using Adderall to boost concentration and productivity. In some cases, this behavior turns into drug and alcohol addiction.
The Dangers of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol
Adderall and alcohol are both substances that a person can become dependent on. The side effects of the two substances can combine and amplify each other.
Here are some side effects and symptoms showing the dangers of mixing Adderall and alcohol:
- Lowered inhibitions, making users prone to risky behavior
- Decreased concentration
- Decreased appetite
- Pupil dilation
- Fast pulse
Health Risks of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol
Consuming Adderall with alcohol negatively affects the brain. Long-term abuse can even result in damage to the central nervous system. This includes a noticeable decline in your short-term memory and the ability to problem-solve.
What’s unique about combining Adderall with alcohol is that an addiction to one of the drugs fuels the other. Adderall allows people to drink more alcohol than they usually would. By making heavy drinking easier, Adderall can drive alcohol dependence.
Alone, Adderall carries an increased risk for heart problems, including high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Combine Adderall with alcohol, and the risk factors for these side effects are heightened.
When combined, the severe health risks of Adderall and alcohol include:
- Mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression
- Heart problems, including high blood pressure and increased heart rate
- Uncontrollable vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Psychotic episodes
As Adderall and alcohol are both addictive drugs, combining the two can significantly increase your risk of substance use disorder When Adderall is consumed at an unprescribed dose, users naturally build up a tolerance. This tolerance builds until the user becomes dependent or addicted.
Treatment for Substance Abuse
There are various treatment programs available for those battling an addiction to alcohol and Adderall.
There are three types of medication-assisted therapy for alcohol use disorder:
Medication-assisted therapy is most effective when combined with other treatments.
Inpatient programs are the most intensive addiction treatment options.
These programs guide you through:
- Medically supervised detoxification
- Behavioral therapy
- Other services like medication-assisted therapy
They typically last 30, 60, or 90 days. However, they may be longer if necessary.
Intensive outpatient programs are the next level of addiction treatment. These programs provide similar services to inpatient programs such as detoxification and behavioral therapy.
The difference is that the patient will return home to sleep. Some programs also include transportation and meals.
PHPs are ideal for new patients and those who have completed inpatient treatment but still need intensive care.
Outpatient programs provide well-rounded treatment for people with a high motivation to recover. These programs are flexible and can be made around your schedule. They can also be customized to work best for you.
These programs work for new patients and those that complete an inpatient or partial hospitalization program.
If you or a loved one has a history of excessive alcohol and Adderall use, this suggests polysubstance use that requires professional addiction treatment.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
- "Label for Adderall," Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2017.
- "Label," Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Lakhan, Shaheen E, and Annette Kirchgessner. “Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects,” Brain and behavior vol. 2,5, 2012.
- "The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome," The Department of Health, Australian Government, 2004.
- "Principles of Effective Treatment," National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 29 May. 2020.
- "Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts," National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 6 Jun. 2018.