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Dangers of Mixing Concerta and Alcohol

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: August 27th, 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.

Concerta is a brand name for an extended-release version of methylphenidate, a nervous system stimulant used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. Methylphenidate is a potent psychostimulant commonly listed as a controlled drug under the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Schedule II classification system.

Many psychostimulant drugs like Concerta work quite similarly. They have therapeutic benefits by raising the firing rates of neurons in the brain and spinal cord, which comprises the central nervous system.

When stimulants are abused in massive doses, users also encounter elevated degrees of euphoria, sensations of invulnerability, giddiness, excess vitality, appetite loss and a reduced desire for sleep. This increases the likelihood of the drugs being abused. Dopamine, norepinephrine and glutamate are the primary neurotransmitters impacted by most central nervous system stimulants although other neurotransmitters are often affected.

Neurotransmitter Release

When a neuron is triggered and releases its neurotransmitter, it does so in an all-or-nothing manner; all of the neurotransmitter retained is released, or none of it is discharged. Once a neuron sparks, it will not fire again for a brief period . It will then fire again when the neurotransmitter is reabsorbed into the cell and other neurotransmitter packages are prepared. Individual neurons do not emit more or fewer neurotransmitters after a single stimulation, but these drugs activate the rate at which they fire or release neurotransmitters.

The release of neurotransmitters causes the individual to experience various forms of activation, sensations and behaviors. As a result, central nervous system stimulants predominantly increase neuron firing rates while central nervous system depressants essentially decrease neuron firing rates.

Neurons fire in clusters or bunches, and the rate at which they fire affects vision and behavior. This means that when a person takes these substances, they have a compounding effect. They may be reinvigorated and excited or peaceful and quiet.

In contrast to stimulants, alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system. Alcohol thus has the opposite influence as stimulant medications. It causes a decrease in the firing rates of neurons in the central nervous system when consumed. Alcohol has several effects, but the most important is that it enhances the release of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, while decreasing excitatory neurotransmitters’ production of N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, which is a subset of the neurotransmitter glutamate.

According to study findings looking at the consequences of combining various drugs, it is not unusual for people with substance use challenges to combine alcohol with stimulant medicines. It seems that combining alcohol with a stimulant drug is often used to modulate the stimulant’s effects to create a form of combined euphoria in which an individual feels mildly stimulated while still feeling calm.

Concerta is often used by college students, working adults and even high school students to increase their focus to prepare for tests. It’s not uncommon for people to combine Concerta use with alcohol. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration registered a 76% surge in emergency department poisoning reports, including combining alcohol with a prescription drug, from 1999 to 2008. This trend shows that combining alcohol with prescription drugs is quite typical.

When Concerta Is Mixed With Alcohol, the Results Can Be Disastrous

When taken in combination with a stimulant, alcohol naturally reduces the stimulant’s impact. This means that you’ll need to take more of the stimulant drug to feel more therapeutic effects. Since the stimulant drug’s effects are reduced, an individual can inadvertently consume dangerously high doses of the stimulant drug when intoxicated.

Alcohol’s symptoms are also reduced by stimulant drugs like methylphenidate. This means that if people are on stimulant drugs, they can begin to drink alcohol to the point of overdosing.

When people misuse alcohol and Concerta, they’re most likely to crush the tablets, snort the drug, blend the powder with water or inject the solution. This eliminates the drug’s time-release effect, and the person receives a massive dose of methylphenidate.

As alcohol and Concerta in tablet form are combined, the methylphenidate is released all at once, potentially leading to an overdose.

Mixing methylphenidate with alcohol can have a wide range of cognitive effects, some of which are potentially harmful:

  • The ability to pay attention deteriorates.
  • The ability to regulate one’s impulses is weakened.
  • A person’s judgment is severely hampered.
  • A person’s chances of experiencing blackouts are increased.

When both medications are mixed, users may become enraged, depressed, angry, threatening or nervous due to the medication.

Mixing methylphenidate with alcohol has a wide range of physical effects as well that can be harmful. These include the following:

  • Response and reaction times bear the brunt.
  • The ability to coordinate one’s movements is harmed.
  • Problems with equilibrium are pervasive.
  • Vision may get hazy.
  • The person would become unwell as blood pressure and pulse rhythm will be affected.
  • The rate of breathing can be impaired.

This mix of medications affects several other organ systems, including the gastrointestinal tract, liver and kidneys.

The severe risk of long-term damage is reduced when Concerta is mixed with alcohol only occasionally; however, there have been cases where combining a stimulant drug with alcohol has resulted in deaths in individuals who did not do so routinely.

The use of Concerta in conjunction with alcohol may have a variety of long-term consequences, such as the following:

  • Organ harm, such as ulcers in the gastrointestinal tract, liver damage and kidney failure
  • Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and erratic heartbeats
  • Increased pressure on the immune system, leading to an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease
  • Increased risk of developing a variety of cancers

In addition, neurological disorders may arise, ranging from disruption caused by a stroke or seizure to alterations in brain processes that raise the likelihood of developing motor problems, long-term memory difficulties, and psychiatric or psychological symptoms such as addiction, drug misuse or even psychotic behaviors.

Furthermore, tolerance to stimulant medications often develops quickly whereas tolerance to alcohol develops over time. This means that anyone who abuses these medications daily would soon discover that they require more of each drug to produce the same results as they did before with lower doses. In the long term, this will lead to the initiation of a drug use disorder. Both medications can result in withdrawal, which often fuels addiction as people use substances to relieve the painful withdrawal symptoms from alcohol and methylphenidate.

Granite Recovery Centers

At Granite Recovery Centers, certified physicians deliver evidence-based behavioral psychotherapies closely integrated into a 12-step program led by trained facilitators.

Evidence-based therapy is a collection of clinically validated psychotherapeutic methods that assist participants with identifying, dissecting and reprogramming unhealthy thoughts and habits. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, trauma therapy, and grief and loss therapy are some of the clinical treatments utilized at Granite Recovery Centers.

These therapies are used among our professional therapists to help drug-dependent individuals address complex and stressful problems relevant to their drug usage. These therapeutic treatments will help people heal when used in conjunction with our formal 12-step program.

Extended Care

Our extended-care facilities provide clients more organized assistance and counseling during recovery, helping them work toward a life of fulfillment. Extended care is a follow-up level of the process for people who have successfully completed a residential primary recovery program. It allows clients to work on ideas and skills gained in primary treatment when planning for future independence.

Intensive Outpatient Drug Rehab Program

Outpatient recovery services offer therapy for mild addictions, and they correlate with complete reintegration back into society. Clients who visit our extended-care facilities and undergo intensive outpatient services will be evaluated so that professionals can tailor a program for their needs. The level of care and programming provided by outpatient programs can vary. Clients in these programs are often required to attend psychiatric, holistic and 12-step courses for a minimum of 10 hours per week.

Sober Living

Our sober living homes are serene settings that provide clients in early recovery with a healthy, caring and structured atmosphere. Sober living is usually followed by extended care in the recovery spectrum. Clients who are beginning college or school and learning how to manage their addiction in the “real world” benefit from sober living as a temporary buffer. Clients will learn responsibility, life skills and sober principles in structured yet independence-focused homes.

Holistic Therapies

When the mind, body or spirit is sick, holistic therapies help heal and unify them. Yoga, meditation and exercise are examples of body-centric techniques that tend to calm the mind, improve the body and emotionally center the whole individual. Our holistic treatments supplement our blended 12-step drug and alcohol treatment model, assisting participants in resolving physical and emotional imbalances and finding recovery through mindfulness and self-acceptance.

Detox and Withdrawal

Prescription drug detox facilities are available at several drug and alcohol recovery centers where you can be carefully treated for the drug you are addicted to. If detox is needed, medical services will help you through the process. Note: Not all clients are expected to detox under medical supervision, but, in some situations, supervised detox is required to prevent potentially fatal effects depending on the extent of use and particular drug. Before starting inpatient rehab for Concerta or alcohol misuse, you’ll want to speak with a rehab team to see if professionally supervised detox is proper for you. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Conclusion

The long-term consequences of mixing both Concerta and alcohol go beyond the effects of the individual substance. When under the influence of these medications, the risk of engaging in dangerous activities or being involved in a significant accident with life-altering consequences increases.

Furthermore, people who mix methylphenidate and alcohol regularly are more likely to have difficulties with their intimate relationships, work, education and other significant aspects of their lives. These issues do not entirely resolve.

These issues include the possibility of getting into trouble with the law due to illegally using a prescription drug or injuries caused by alcohol consumption, such as drunk driving. These situations can lead to long-term problems, including financial difficulties, issues finding work and strained relationships.

The bottom line is that people who use these drugs together regularly are putting themselves and those close to them in danger. Anyone who uses methylphenidate medicines and alcohol daily should seek help to prevent these medications’ long-term effects. It will be a difficult task, but overcoming an addiction is worth it.

A stay at a drug and alcohol recovery facility starts with the detox and withdrawal phase. Through compassionate and therapeutic counseling and workshops, the patient will be forced to confront the history of their addiction. The goal is to prevent relapse and make a commitment to a life of sobriety.

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.