Adderall and alcohol: What you need to know
Doctors most commonly prescribe Adderall to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As with many prescription medications, a person should not take Adderall with alcohol, as doing so can pose several health risks.
Adderall is a brand name for the combination of dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It is a drug doctors prescribe primarily to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Mixing alcohol and Adderall can be dangerous. The stimulant effects of Adderall can counter the sedating effects of alcohol, which may prompt a person to drink more due to noticing alcohol’s effects less.
Despite these risks, young people in the United States often simultaneously consume alcohol at the same time as Adderall and other stimulants.
A 2014 study found that 48.7% of high school seniors who recreationally used prescription stimulants, such as Adderall, had simultaneously used alcohol at least once within the past year.
A 2019 study of students primarily preparing to enter college but also some in college or graduate school reported that those who took prescription stimulants recreationally were more than three times more likely to have consumed alcohol in the previous 14 days than those who took no medication.
Is it safe to drink while taking Adderall?
A person should not take Adderall in combination with consuming alcohol. This applies to people who have been prescribed the drug and those that misuse it for recreation.
Examples of misusing Adderall include:
- using their own medication in a way not prescribed, such as more frequently or in larger doses
- taking the drug in a different form than prescribed, such as smoking, snorting, or injecting it
- taking someone else’s Adderall
- using their own prescription for solely recreational purposes
Why is it dangerous?
There are several potential reasons why mixing alcohol and Adderall is not safe.
Adderall and alcohol contain chemicals that affect the central nervous system differently. Adderall contains amphetamine salts that increase the effect of the neurotransmitters in the brain. This can improve focus and alertness.
In contrast, alcohol decreases the effects of transmitters in the brain. This can slow down bodily and mental functions. When taken together, Adderall can mask the sedative effects of alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant, but in small doses, it can act as a temporary stimulant. Adderall may elongate this period of stimulation. It may also delay the sedating effects of larger doses of alcohol. This may cause people to drink more than they would do otherwise.
Consuming large quantities of alcohol can overwhelm the liver, leading to an alcohol overdose.
Additionally, alcohol and Adderall require the same liver enzymes for digestion. People who drink after having taken Adderall may also feel the effects of one of the two drugs more than usual, depending on which drug is processed quicker by the liver.
How long after taking Adderall can I drink alcohol?
Various factors will influence how long Adderall stays in a person’s system. The time taken to metabolize the drug fully will depend on a person’s age, weight, and the drug’s dosage and form.
Some guidance states that the immediate-release Adderall version will last 4–6 hours per dose, while the extended-release Adderall X can last a full day.
Given those variables, a person should consult their doctor or pharmacist to confirm how long after taking Adderall they should wait before drinking alcohol.
What to do if you have taken Adderall with alcohol
If a person is concerned that taking alcohol and Adderall may be causing themselves harm, or if they are feeling any side effects from combining the two, they should contact emergency services immediately.
If another person is showing signs and symptoms of an Adderall overdose but is not able or willing to seek medical attention, someone else must seek emergency help for them.
Symptoms and side effects
Adderall and alcohol cause very different symptoms.
Upon drinking alcohol, a person may experience a temporary uplift in mood. This feeling may be similar to taking small doses of Adderall. However, if a person continues to drink more they may experience symptoms that can include:
- stumbling, unsteady movement, or poor coordination
- slurred speech
- reduced reaction time
- reduced ability to think rationally
- distorted judgment
Symptoms can depend on a person’s body weight, medical conditions, and history of alcohol usage.
If someone continues to drink alcohol, they will experience increasingly severe symptoms. Symptoms associated with heavy alcohol consumption include:
- loss of control over body movement
- inability to feel pain
- inability to make rational decisions
- total lack of judgment
- loss of consciousness
If someone misuses Adderall repeatedly they can develop adverse symptoms. This may happen even if they have a prescription for the medication. Adderall can also cause different symptoms in people who are not using it for medical purposes or not taking it as prescribed.
Symptoms and side effects of repeated Adderall misuse can include:
- anger and aggression
Symptoms associated with using high doses of Adderall over the short term include:
- stomach cramps
- dry mouth
- difficulty sleeping
- headaches and dizziness
- changes in mood
- restlessness or anxiousness
- loss of appetite
- nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
Symptoms associated with long-term use of high doses of Adderall include:
- irregular heartbeat
- weight loss
- very high body temperature
- abnormally high or low blood pressure
- chest pains
- difficulty breathing
- nerve issues that can cause seizures
There is little research on the effects of mixing alcohol and Adderall. However, a 2012 study claimed that combining the two drugs tends to increase the risk of experiencing symptoms including:
- heightened or lengthened period of euphoria while drinking
- delayed onset of the sedating symptoms related to alcohol
- altered perception of being drunk
- intensified or exaggerated symptoms of Adderall or alcohol use
Further clinical studies into the effects of combined alcohol and Adderall consumption are needed to come up with firmer conclusions.
A major risk associated with drinking alcohol while taking Adderall is alcohol poisoning.
A person who drinks more alcohol than their liver can process may experience alcohol poisoning. This is where alcohol blood levels are so high they become life-threatening.
Prescription stimulants such as Adderall can lessen the perceived sedative effects of alcohol. However, despite this altered perception, a person’s body will still be affected by alcohol consumption. This can lead to physical damage.
Alcohol poisoning can result in:
- uncontrollable vomiting, often when a person seems unconscious
- organ failure
Adderall itself has associated risks, especially at high doses. Risks associated with very high doses or overdoses of Adderall include:
- heart attack
- heart and circulation failure
The full extent of outcomes and effects linked with the combined use of Adderall and alcohol is not fully understood yet. However, reviews have suggested that the simultaneous use of alcohol and prescription stimulants may be associated with:
- increased risk of substance abuse
- greater likelihood of using illegal drugs or misusing other prescription drugs
- lowered grade point averages
- increased or prolonged symptoms of alcohol and stimulant use
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration classifies Adderall as a Schedule II drug, meaning it carries a high risk of abuse and severe physical and psychological addiction.
The long-term use of Adderall can cause some people to develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning they need higher or more frequent doses to get the same effect.
Adderall misuse is also associated with substance use disorder (SUD), which can develop into addiction. People with SUD also experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop taking the drug or greatly reduce their dosage.
Symptoms of Adderall withdrawal include:
- difficulty sleeping
- unexplained sleepiness
It is dangerous to combine Adderall and alcohol and people should not do so.
Adderall can mask the effects of alcohol intoxication, making it much easier for individuals to consume too much alcohol. People who mix alcohol and Adderall may also be at an increased risk of developing substance abuse problems and are more likely to experiment with other prescription and illegal drugs.
However, more research is required to fully assess the combined effects of alcohol and Adderall consumption.
A person should consult their doctor or pharmacist to confirm how long after taking Adderall they should wait before drinking alcohol.
Category: adhd awareness