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Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: October 2nd, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

For many, it can be tempting to mix prescription and recreational drugs. Many people enjoy having a drink after a long week at work, even those who take medications as prescribed by their doctors. However, alcohol often isn’t a good mix with common prescriptions. It can be a bad idea to mix Adderall and alcohol.

Understanding Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant. In fact, it’s an amphetamine, chemically closely related to methamphetamine. Adderall is prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sometimes narcolepsy. Adderall can have some fairly serious side effects, even when used as prescribed. These can include painful urination or bloody-looking urine. Other side effects can include lower back pain, stomach pain, and dry mouth.

Adderall works by regulating the level of stimulation in the brain. Amphetamine and dextroamphetamine work by mimicking neurotransmitters that occur naturally in the brain. Adderall works like chemicals such as dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine in the brain. In narcoleptics, they have a low level of these neurotransmitters. Taking Adderall gives them enough of a boost to get through the day without falling asleep.

ADHD and Adderall

In patients with ADHD, the opposite is true. It replaces the chemicals that naturally over-stimulate the brain. At the right level and with the right supporting therapies, Adderall helps people with ADHD achieve the right level of stimulation to function well in society.

Adderall is not meant to be mixed with alcohol. This is indicated on the packaging for the product. Users are warned not to combine the two substances. Unofficially, some doctors believe that it can be okay for people to have a drink or two, especially late in the day when their Adderall dose has mostly dissipated. Other doctors feel differently and are very by-the-book in their recommendations. Deciding whether or not to drink while taking ADHD medication is a personal choice. It’s important to be informed about the potential consequences of mixing Adderall with alcohol before doing it.

How Alcohol Acts in the Body

In contrast to the stimulant Adderall, alcohol is a depressant. Depressants aren’t named based on how they make people feel emotional. The name comes from the way they affect the body’s central nervous system. Basically, depressants cause activity in the brain to move at a slower pace. Apart from alcohol, depressants include drugs like Ambien, Rohypnol, Valium, and Xanax.

When alcohol is absorbed into the body, it has several very specific effects on bodily systems. It causes the release of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Alcohol also reduces the amount of glutamate in the body. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that helps send signals throughout the brain. In fact, it’s located in almost all synapses in the brain. Glutamate is excitatory and helps activate transmissions in the brain. Finally, alcohol also induces more GABA, which has the opposite function to glutamate. GABA causes things to slow down.

Depressants like alcohol can cause longer reaction times. It decreases reflexes and can cause slurred speech. Too much of a depressant will go so far as to depress necessary bodily functions like breathing. Barbiturates were depressants that were commonly used in the mid-20th century. People quickly developed tolerances to these and would increase the amount they took to dangerous levels. Overdoses sometimes led to comas or even deaths. Safer classes of drugs have largely replaced them. Depressants can still have serious effects when they’re used to excess. In fact, this is one of the reasons that Adderall and alcohol shouldn’t be combined.

Combining Stimulants and Depressants

It might seem like using Adderall and alcohol together could provide balance. Based on their names and how they work in the body, it can sound like stimulants and depressants help to even each other out. However, that’s not really true. These drugs interact in a more complicated way than their names and effects would suggest. One of the most dangerous aspects of combining Adderall and alcohol is that it can cause people to drink more than they otherwise would.

When someone has a drink while they’re using Adderall, the stimulant medication dulls the effects of the depressant. This means that people don’t get the buzz they expect from alcohol. This can motivate them to drink more than they otherwise would in a search for pleasant feelings. At the same time, these people may also feel the Adderall is not working as well as it should. Basically, the combination makes each drug feel less effective and potent in the body. People may up their dose of one or the other because they want to feel good. This increases the chance of adverse effects like an overdose of either or both drugs. Alcohol overdose is more commonly called alcohol poisoning.

Side Effects of Combining Adderall and Alcohol

Mixing Adderall and alcohol can cause serious side effects. Together, these drugs can have detrimental consequences for the cardiovascular system. An increased risk of heart attack and stroke is seen in people who mix alcohol with Adderall. This is true even when the patients have no history of prior heart trouble. These cases of myocardial infarctions, or heart attacks, have even been seen in adolescents and young adults who were using Adderall. When mixing drugs, there is also always the chance of issues like a seizure. Adderall is known to lower what’s known as the convulsion threshold in the body. This means that seizures may be more likely while taking Adderall.

The Role of Addiction

Alcohol is well-known as an addictive substance. The truth is that Adderall is addictive, too. That’s one reason it’s classified as a Schedule II drug in the US. People often start taking Adderall as children. When they get older, these patients sometimes make unwise decisions about their medication. For example, some people will deliberately mix alcohol with their Adderall. They feel that this could make it easier for them to socialize longer and have more fun. Sometimes, people drink simply to take the edge off because Adderall makes them feel uncomfortable. A better idea is to speak with a doctor about these feelings. They may be able to adjust the dosage or prescribe a different medication.

Recreational Use and Abuse of Adderall

Adderall is also becoming popular among people who don’t have prescriptions for it. While many people take this drug for a legitimate reason, it’s also popular among young people because of its stimulant properties. Some students will buy Adderall from their friends who have prescriptions to stay up later to study. In competitive fields like finance, young professionals will seek uppers like Adderall to increase their focus and provide them with greater energy. In today’s competitive atmosphere, many people think their best isn’t good enough. They want to use a drug that they feel can enhance their performance and help them level up in the world.

Adderall and alcohol effects

This kind of Adderall use is concerning for many reasons. These individuals are missing two crucial elements that their friends with prescriptions have. The first is that they haven’t been given a dose determined by a doctor. Instead, they’re using a dose meant for a friend, which may or may not be the same as what they would be given. Adderall is a controlled substance, and the doses are carefully titrated.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they haven’t been counseled about the side effects of the drug. They may not understand anything about the dangers of mixing Adderall with other substances. This means they’re taking on a level of risk that they’re unprepared for, especially given the potential for serious side effects. Adderall is an amphetamine, a serious upper that can cause issues like a rapid heartbeat.

Legal issues

Finally, being caught with Adderall without a prescription for it can lead to legal issues. It can lead to being charged with possession of amphetamines. In some jurisdictions, especially for a first offense, it may be possible to enter a diversion program instead of facing a criminal charge. But Adderall is a controlled substance, and the justice system can pursue charges against people who possess and use it recreationally.

Concerns Regarding Chemical Dependence

People can become physically and mentally dependent on drugs like Adderall and alcohol. Some people will start to take their Adderall in ways that it wasn’t prescribed. For example, there have been cases of individuals crushing their Adderall and snorting it. When they approach a drug in this way, it’s a sign that someone is becoming addicted to a substance. There can also be other warning signs of abuse, including going to several doctors and getting more of the drug from each of them.

When someone takes too much Adderall, they can start to show some of the same effects as methamphetamine abuse. They might start to talk very quickly, and they may have difficulty sleeping and lose track of self-care. Physical symptoms can include dry mouth. If someone is dependent on Adderall and experiencing these symptoms, they may try to self-medicate with alcohol to mitigate them. This, of course, can cause other problems.

Adderall Withdrawal and Quitting

Combining drugs can have serious consequences. It can lead to problems, physically and mentally. People who use alcohol with Adderall may feel more anxious, depressed, and have symptoms like a rapid heartbeat. Both alcohol and Adderall can produce symptoms of withdrawal when people try to quit them. Alcohol withdrawals can be particularly dangerous. It can cause seizures that may lead to death. It’s essential to detox from alcohol in a supervised, medical setting. That way, professionals can monitor vital signs, and medical help is on hand if anything starts to go wrong.

Anyone who is struggling with substance use disorder should understand that there’s always help available. At Granite Recovery Centers, we’re able to provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment. We use several treatment modalities. 12-step work is important to us. However, we also make evidence-based, scientific treatments. We aren’t opposed to people taking medications prescribed by their doctors during recovery. In fact, we even offer medication-assisted treatment as an option.

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcohol addiction, Adderall misuse, or a combination of the two, contact us today. Our goal is to offer the highest quality services to people who need help. We understand that substance use disorders are multi-dimensional. We’ve had success in helping people rebuild their lives. We’d love to have the opportunity to help you on your journey, too.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.