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The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol with ADHD Medications 

There are different negative effects that mixing alcohol and Adderall (or any other ADHD medication) can have on the body. It is recommended on every single prescription drug on the market that medications should never be combined with alcohol under any circumstance. 

The Food and Drug Administration has made multiple public warnings to deter the combining of medication and alcohol. This is because of the dangerous effects it can have on the user regarding physical and mental stressors when combined. 

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. 

Typically, ADHD is diagnosed at an early age but can continue through adulthood. It is also possible to be diagnosed in adults later as well. Some of the common symptoms of ADHD in adults are: 

  • Frequent impulsiveness 
  • Difficulty focusing and follow through with things 
  • Disorganization 
  • Restlessness 
  • Poor time management and planning 
  • Mood swings 

Common ADHD Medications

One of the most commonly prescribed medications for ADHD is stimulant drugs. Stimulant drugs have been used for decades to treat ADHD in children and adults. They usually last for 4 to 12 hours and come in the form of a pill, capsule, liquid, or skin patch. 

The main goal of these medications is to help the individual focus more and perform better in school and work for a better quality of life down the line. Like most prescription drugs, these medications have some side effects such as headache, stomachache, decreased appetite, and other symptoms. 

Some of the more common stimulant drugs for ADHD include the following: 

  • Adderall 
  • Ritalin 
  • Concerta 
  • Daytrana 
  • Metadate 
  • Dexedrine 
  • Focalin 
  • Vyvanse 

There are also some non-stimulant drugs that are occasionally prescribed as alternatives to traditional stimulant drugs such as Strattera and Intuniv. 

Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Infographic on mixing ADHD and alcohol

As a primary drug for ADHD, Adderall is a highly intense stimulant that works well when taken in the correct doses, unfortunately, when abused, Adderall can be extremely dangerous for the user. 

As a schedule II-controlled substance, Adderall is the highest schedule that a physician can prescribe to a patient. This truly puts into perspective the dangers of addiction and dependency when Adderall is used non-medically. 

On the other side of the spectrum, Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that has a completely different effect than that of a stimulant. Alcohol is commonly abused and causes many physical and mental issues on its own. Combining alcohol with a stimulant drug like Adderall can cause a wide range of dangerous effects, some even leading to death – this applies to not only Adderall but all ADHD drugs. 

Reasons for ADHD Drugs and Alcohol Abuse

Why do individuals mix ADHD medication like Adderall with alcohol? The answer to this question varies, but there are a few trends that can be used to answer it. 

Research shows that Adderall is very common on college campuses, and while most of these are prescribed for ADHD medication, there are a few in the minority that seem to gain access to the drug and thus misuse it by combining it with alcohol. They usually get it through a friend or relative, some even stealing or buying Adderall illegally without a proper prescription. 

One of the major reasons individuals abuse drugs together is to deter some of the side effects that come with stimulant drugs with alcohol. Many college students use Adderall to improve their concentration and focus on studying. Large amounts of Adderall can cause hyperactivity and jitteriness, which can lead to the use of alcohol to undermine these effects. 

On the contrary, some use Adderall to counteract the depressant effects of alcohol (usually used to ‘party’ for longer periods of time). 

The Risks of Mixing Alcohol and ADHD Drugs

Mixing alcohol and medication tends to reduce the overall effectiveness of the medication. When you mix the two together the individual perceives the effects of both to be less noticeable instead of when using them alone. 

This perception can lead to dangerous outcomes since the medication contents are unaltered even though the user isn’t feeling the true effects of the drug. This can lead to an overdose on either the stimulant or the alcohol when mixed. 

There are unpredictable effects that can occur when combing a drug like Adderall and alcohol. These events wouldn’t have occurred if either was consumed alone. Potentially dangerous side effects like seizures can occur. 

If continuously large amounts of Adderall and alcohol are combined, the user can begin to experience extremely problematic disorders. These include polysubstance abuse and co-occurring behavioral disorders. 

Short Term Risks

There are many intense short-term risks that come with combining ADHD medications like Adderall and alcohol, some of which can be fatal to the user in time. Some of the more common short-term risks include: 

  • Impaired judgment and rational thinking when under the influence of both medications and alcohol 
  • High likelihood of overdose from alcohol (or alcohol poisoning) because of the stimulant negating the effects of alcohol intoxication, which can be fatal. 
  • The enhancement of negative side effects from both drugs when combined such as dehydration, cardiovascular problems, aggressiveness, nausea, and vomiting. 
  • Intense stress on the cardiovascular system, which can lead to symptoms such as hypertension, and long-term cardiovascular diseases that can lead to strokes. 
  • Extremely impaired vision, reaction time, and motor functions when under the effects of both stimulants and alcohol. 
  • Significantly increased chance of suffering neurological effects, more specifically seizures. 

Long Term Risks

If a person continues to combine and abuse stimulants and alcohol together, they will inevitably experience potentially fatal long-term effects. The negative long-term effects of both alcohol and ADHD medication are severely heightened because of the negating and intense effects of both of them. 

Long-term abuse can include severe cognitive issues and damage to the central nervous system. These problems can reside with issues of attention, concentration, learning, and memory. 

Emotional effects on the central nervous system are also common. This is especially true when the individual combines the two drugs for a long period of time. This can include long-standing problems with depression, loss of motivation, potential psychosis, and apathy. 

As mentioned before, many individuals in college who mix Adderall (or other stimulants) and alcohol do so to help with concentration and cognitive function while studying. However, research shows that these individuals end up doing worse. They achieve lower academic success than those who don’t abuse the drugs. 

Mixing Other ADHD Medications and Alcohol

While Adderall is one of the more common ADHD medications, there are others that can be just as deadly if mixed with alcohol. Under no circumstance should you ever mix any kind of medication with alcohol. 

Ritalin is a stimulant that works similarly to Adderall and can have very dangerous effects if mixed with alcohol. Some symptoms may include dangerously increased heartbeat, high blood pressure, problems with mood, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. 

Individuals may attempt to combine Ritalin and alcohol to counteract some of the side effects of the drug. This can lead to potentially fatal circumstances like alcohol poisoning and other health complications. 

Concerta is a form of methylphenidate that’s usually used to treat ADHD. When mixing this stimulant with alcohol the individual will experience a severe decrease in attentional abilities, decreased impulse control, poor judgment, and possible blackouts. 

As with all ADHD medications, many people combine the two to negate the side effects of both the alcohol and the drug which can lead to overdose and death. 

In addition to some of the short-term effects come the long-term dangers of mixing Concerta and alcohol. Mixing the two can potentially cause organ damage, liver damage, cardiovascular issues, the burden on the immune system, and high risk for potential cancers. 

Focalin is a mild stimulant to the central nervous system that affects chemicals in the brain that interact with hyperactivity and impulse control. Combining Focalin with alcohol can cause significant cardiovascular impairment, hypertension, serious arrhythmias, coronary disease, and other issues. 

Vyvanse is a common stimulant medication used to treat some cases of ADHD. As a schedule II medication, there is a high potential for harmful use and development with Vyvanse. 

Combining Vyvanse and alcohol can be extremely dangerous and can have a lot of short-term and long-term risks. Vyvanse is a time-release medication that’s meant to be taken once a day. When abused it can cause changes in blood pressure, chest pains, hyperactivity and aggression. In some cases, heart attacks or seizures will occur. 

Daytrana is another common drug taken for ADHD. When combined with alcohol it can cause increased nervous system side effects like drowsiness, anxiety, seizures, and depression. 

When To Seek Help

Under no circumstance should an individual ever mix ADHD medications (or any kind of medication) with alcohol. The consequences could be fatal in the long run. 

Sana Lake Recovery has various addiction treatment programs and a continuum of care that can meet you where you are. These programs include medical detoxification, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, recovery supportive housing, and more.

If you or a loved one is suffering from co-misuse of alcohol and stimulant medications, Sana Lake Recovery Center is the best alcohol rehab in St. Louis to help you. Visit our admissions page for more information or give us a call. 

WENDER, P. H., WOLF, L. E., & WASSERSTEIN, J. (2001). Adults with ADHD. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 931(1), 1-16. 

Rech, R., Vomachka, M., & Rickert, D. (1978). Interactions between depressants (alcohol-type) and stimulants (amphetamine-type). Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 8(2), 143-151. 

Linnoila, M., Mattila, M.J. & Kitchell, B.S. Drug Interactions With Alcohol. Drugs 18, 299–311 (1979). 

Picture of Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry LCSW
Ashley Murry, LCSW, is the Chief Clinical Officer at Sana Lake Recovery. She oversees clinical operations, ensuring effective treatment strategies and compliance. Before this, she was Program Director at Gateway Foundation, managing care programs and collaborating with state departments. Ashley has also served as Director of Clinical Services at Treatment Management Company, improving staff retention and clinical standards. She holds a Master's in Social Work from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor's in Social Work from Saint Leo University. She is licensed in Florida, Arizona and Missouri.
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