Adderall and Alcohol: Can You Drink While Taking It?

At some point in our lives, we’ve all enjoyed a drink or two. In college, it’s common to indulge in excessive drinking at parties or have a beer with friends after a long day of studying. In some cases, students may drink alcohol to help them sleep at night after a long day of using a stimulant drug like Adderall to get through their work. Unfortunately, using these two drugs together is not safe or recommended. 

You wouldn’t believe it by how heavily it’s marketed and how many people drink, but alcohol is one of the most dangerous drugs in the world, yet it somehow manages to remain legal. If you’re a recovering alcoholic, you can attest to the unique challenges as you navigate your road toward recovery. You have to deal with TV commercials, radio advertisements, billboards, walking down the drink aisle at grocery stores, and be around it no matter where you go. Despite these dangers, many people still mix it with other drugs like Adderall.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) backs up these figures. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) released a study in 2019 that found 85.6 percent of people age 18 and older reported drinking at one point in their lives, while another 69.5 percent admitted to drinking in the previous year. Another 59 percent reported drinking in the past month. 

Adderall is another drug commonly used by high school and college students. The medication is prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), affecting one in 10 children in the United States. Although it serves a therapeutic purpose, many people abuse the drug for its stimulant properties, but it can leave you feeling “tweaked out” and unable to sleep. This is where alcohol comes in. 

Adderall is a Schedule II drug, meaning it’s a controlled substance with a high potential to be abused and cause addiction. Like alcohol, it comes with various risks, so combining the two can lead to disastrous results. Continue reading to learn more about how alcohol and Adderall affect the body. 

Is It Safe to Use Adderall and Drink?

The short answer is no; you should never combine drugs and abuse them. When used in moderation, alcohol is a reasonably safe drug. When Adderall is used as prescribed, it produces therapeutic effects for those who have ADHD. However, when you abuse either drug and use them together, it becomes dangerous. 

Alcohol is a depressant, and Adderall is a stimulant, which doesn’t equate to the two substances canceling each other out. It has the opposite effect, and the two drugs will compete with each other in the body, leading to potentially severe problems. 

Alcohol Poisoning

Since Adderall will dull the symptoms alcohol produces, people who use the two drugs together are unaware of the amount they’ve consumed. Since you’re feeling elevated from the stimulant, you’ll continue drinking to reach your desired effect. Once the Adderall wears off, you’ll realize how drunk you are. Overdrinking can lead to alcohol poisoning or other risky behavior, including operating a motor vehicle or engaging in unsafe sexual behavior. 

Heart Problems

Stimulant drugs like Adderall increase the chances of developing heart problems, and the risk increases significantly if you take a higher dose than what your doctor prescribes. The risk becomes even greater when you ingest Adderall in conjunction with alcohol. When you use these two drugs together, it can lead to the following:

  • An increase in your heart rate
  • An increase in your body temperature
  • An increase in your blood pressure
  • An irregular heart rate

Behavioral Problems

Alcohol consumption alone can lead to reduced inhibitions and aggressive behavior. When you add Adderall into the mix, it can cause a dramatic spike in both of these effects. The stimulant side effects will make you feel like you’re on top of the world, and the alcohol will balance this out, causing you to feel great as well, which can be dangerous. In some cases, a person will feel invincible and take on challenges they wouldn’t dare if they were sober.

How Does Alcohol Affect ADHD?

Those diagnosed with ADHD have problems in the part of their brain that’s linked to critical thinking, self-control, attention, and impulsivity. When you add alcohol and lowered inhibitions, you lose any self-control you might have had and give in to impulses. The most common symptoms of ADHD include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Impulsivity
  • Inability to concentrate or stay on task
  • Forgetfulness
  • Impatience
  • Easily distracted
  • Disorganization

ADHD has also been linked to lower levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in our brains, known as feel-good neurotransmitters. These are part of the body’s reward system, and these chemicals kick in when you have a positive experience, including getting promoted at work, falling in love, or winning a prize. 

Because of these symptoms, many people will turn to alcohol and other substances to self-medicate. Alcohol will produce an increase in dopamine in the short term and alleviate ADHD symptoms. However, over time, prolonged alcohol use will deplete dopamine and cause ADHD to get worse. Those with ADHD should not consume alcohol because of this effect. 

Why Do People Mix Adderall and Alcohol?

Adderall abuse occurs across all age groups, but the most common abusers are males between the ages of 15 and 30. As was mentioned above, Adderall abuse is widespread on college campuses among those who aren’t enrolled in college. Most of the time, someone who abuses Adderall is not prescribed the drug, and they often get it in the following ways:

  • From a friend or family member who has a legitimate prescription
  • Stealing the drug from someone who has a prescription for Adderall
  • Buying it illegally off the black market without a prescription
  • Under the guise that misusing or abusing prescription drugs isn’t dangerous

Although most people with a prescription don’t end up abusing Adderall, the dramatic increase in stimulant prescriptions for ADHD has caused an increased availability of these drugs for abusers. However, those who abuse prescription stimulants do so with alcohol on occasion, but the reasoning behind this is varied. 

  • One reason a person abuses both drugs is to negate the effects of the stimulant drug by consuming alcohol. 
  • College students who abuse Adderall admit to how it helps them study during finals. They use it to increase concentration or study for a prolonged period. However, since large amounts of Adderall will cause jitteriness and hyperactivity, alcohol will help them come down and unwind. 
  • Others admit to using Adderall because it allows them to “party longer.” Drinking too much alcohol can lead to drowsiness, so using Adderall alongside it will negate the drowsy effects and keep the party moving. 
  • Others drink alcohol while taking Adderall because they assume a prescription is less dangerous than using an illicit drug with alcohol. 

Short- and Long-Term Risks of Mixing Alcohol and Adderall

Numerous studies indicate the specific dangers associated with abusing Adderall in conjunction with alcohol. Although a person primarily drinks alcohol when using Adderall to decrease the effects of the stimulant, it’s more likely they’ll overdose on alcohol or experience alcohol poisoning because of the stimulant negating the effects of alcohol. Alcohol poisoning is potentially fatal. 

There are specific problems with rational thinking and judgment exacerbated by using both drugs at once, and the potential for adverse side effects is enhanced when used together. These include nausea and vomiting that causes dehydration, or cardiovascular problems, aggressiveness, and failing to inhibit behaviors that lead to taking risks. 

Although it may not feel like your reflexes or motor coordination are affected at the moment when combining the two drugs, you’re significantly impaired with regards to visual perception, motor coordination, and reaction time, which can lead to dangerous scenarios. 

Long-term Adderall and alcohol abuse can also cause severe cognitive issues that lead to damage in the central nervous system. The problems come in the form of learning and memory, attention and concentration, and complex problem-solving. A person can also endure emotional effects, such as depression, loss of motivation, apathy, and psychosis.

If you’ve been using alcohol and Adderall, it’s time to stop. The sooner you admit to having a problem and take the necessary precautions to stop it, the sooner your body can begin to heal from the damage it’s sustained.

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