Adderall and Alcohol

Evidence Based
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What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug containing amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. It belongs to a type of medication known as stimulant drugs. Adderall is most 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 for boosting daytime wakefulness in people with narcolepsy.

Adderall

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.

These effects make Adderall attractive for individuals hoping to boost their physical or mental performance. 

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 from 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 sets of 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 reduces 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 drugs like Adderall. This is because the drug can mask specific depressant intoxication indicators, which can lead individuals to drink more alcohol than intended. This increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Some symptoms and side effects of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Pale skin
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Hypothermia

The combination of Adderall and alcohol can also result in an increased risk of severe and potentially devastating cardiovascular events, including heart attack and stroke. These conditions can occur even if a person does not have underlying cardiovascular risk factors.

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 alcohol without realizing it. Because of this, people who mix alcohol and Adderall have an increased risk of developing substance abuse issues. This means they are more likely to experiment with drug use.

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.

Side Effects of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Adderall and alcohol are both substances that a person can become dependent on. When drug and alcohol use is stopped, combined withdrawal symptoms can occur. Those with moderate to severe symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal should seek medical assistance. Drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening.

Side effects and symptoms of mixing Adderall and Alcohol include:

  • Lowered inhibitions, making users prone to risky behavior
  • Decreased concentration
  • Impulsivity
  • Anxiousness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Nightmares
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Pupil dilation
  • Tremors
  • Fast pulse

Health Risks of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Consuming Adderall with alcohol negatively affects the mind. 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.

Continual mixing of Adderall and alcohol can also lead to mental health problems, such as depression and increased anxiety.

As Adderall and alcohol are both addictive drugs, combining the two can significantly increase your risk for a substance use disorder (SUD). When Adderall is consumed at an unprescribed dose, users naturally build up a tolerance. This tolerance builds until the user becomes dependent or addicted.

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 heightens. 

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
  • Stroke
  • Tremors
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Paranoia
  • Malnutrition
  • Psychotic episodes

Treatment for Substance Abuse

If you or a loved one has a history of excessive alcohol and Adderall use, this suggests polysubstance use that requires professional addiction treatment.

There are various treatment programs available for those battling an addiction to alcohol and Adderall. 

Those with moderate to severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may require inpatient treatment. Inpatient treatment occurs at a hospital or another facility that provides professional detox from alcohol and substance abuse. Patients are watched closely for severe health developments arising from withdrawal, such as seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens.

A detox facility offers expert medical care 24 hours a day to help patients remain safe and comfortable. In some cases, medicines may be used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 

For those with a severe drug and alcohol addiction, detox alone may not be enough to ensure sobriety. Following detox, many patients benefit from continued treatment. This may include treatment programs such as inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation. As part of a broader treatment plan, patients may attend individual and family counseling, group therapy, and support meetings.


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Resources

Label for Adderall, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2017, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2017/011522s043lbl.pdf 

Label, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/021303s034lbl.pdf 

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, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3489818/ 

The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome, The Department of Health, Australian Government, 2004, https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-toc~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7~drugtreat-pubs-modpsy-3-7-aws 

Principles of Effective Treatment., National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 29 May. 2020, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment 

Prescription Stimulants DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), 6 Jun. 2018, https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-stimulants

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Updated on: October 5, 2020
Author
Ellie Swain
About
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Medically Reviewed
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Annamarie Coy,
BA, CADACII/ICADC, ICPR, MATS
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