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Adderall has been the go-to prescription medication for people fighting attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While it has a proven record of benefitting this population, it has also been commonly abused in the recent past, particularly for mood enhancement. Many people also combine Adderall with other substances, such as alcohol, to further intensify the euphoria it triggers; however, doing so can be extremely risky and dangerous.
Many people mixing Adderall and alcohol believe both substances will cancel each other’s effects. However, in reality, Adderall only temporarily masks the depressant effects of alcohol, leading to serious, potentially fatal outcomes.
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Despite the obvious risks, the combination of Adderall and alcohol has become a favorite for many. Many continue using it in an attempt to prolong their social drinking behaviors. Such people must familiarize themselves with the possible side effects and risks they constantly put themselves into every time they take the duo together.
What is Adderall? An Overview
Adderall is a prescription-based drug that acts as a stimulant to the central nervous system. It includes two active ingredients: dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. The FDA has approved it as a treatment for both ADHD and narcolepsy and is quite famous for the former due to its paradoxical effect. This paradoxical effect includes its ability to help hyperactive people focus despite being a stimulant. Moreover, it also improves their psychological functioning and cognitive abilities.
While Adderall has many legitimate medical uses, it continues to be widely misused. According to surveys, up to 3.7 million people aged 12 or above have misused prescription stimulants, including Adderall, in 2020. Following are some ways in which people abuse it:
Taking it in doses or ways other than prescribed
Taking someone else’s medication
Combining it with other substances, such as alcohol
Many people choose to use Adderall with alcohol, which severely exacerbates their singular side effects while bringing on additional issues.
What Happens When You Drink on Adderall?
Mixing alcohol and Adderall can lead to the following side effects:
Adderall can mask the symptoms of being drunk. So, people who use it with alcohol may continue drinking without realizing they have had enough of it. Consequently, their blood alcohol levels may shoot up, triggering life-threatening symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
Adderall and other stimulant medications can put a strain on the heart, especially when it is used in higher doses than prescribed. This risk is greatly amplified when a person starts using alcohol with it. The combination often leads to the following side effects:
- Increase in body temperature
- Irregular or erratic heart rate
- Increase in blood pressure
- Elevated heart rate
Drinking alcohol excessively can significantly reduce overall inhibitions in addition to causing aggressive behaviors. Things get worse when Adderall comes into the picture.
Alcohol acts as a diuretic in the body, which promotes fluid loss. Adderall and other stimulant medications also have a dehydrating effect on the kidneys. Hence, the combination can overheat the body, cause a lack of water, and put strain on the kidneys. The prolonged use of both substances can even cause kidney failure in people with pre-existing renal issues.
Mixing alcohol with other medicines, such as Adderall, may increase the risk of a user engaging in different dangerous behaviors and acquiring issues, such as the following:
- Unsafe sexual behavior
- Substance use disorder or alcohol addiction
- Interpersonal issues
- Increased risk-taking behaviors
Miscellaneous Side Effects
People who use alcohol and Adderall due to ADHD are also at an increased risk of the following:
- Committing suicide
- Relapsing in the future
- Increased hospitalizations
- Earlier onset of addictions
- Increased severity and progression of pre-existing illnesses
- Lower rates of treatment compliance
- Increased risk of using other substances
Is it Bad to Drink Alcohol? Effects of Alcohol on ADHD
Most people take Adderall to manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome or ADHD. People with ADHD have a problem in certain parts of the brain that regulate attention, self-control, impulsivity, and critical thinking. The common symptoms of ADHD include the following:
- Easy distraction
- Trouble concentrating
ADHD has been associated with reduced levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain. These feel-good neurotransmitters are a part of the brain’s reward system and kick in when a person feels or experiences something positive. These positive experiences may include getting a promotion, falling in love, or winning a lottery. What this means is people with ADHD may find it troubling to feel good in most instances. Hence, they will likely turn to alcohol or other substances for pleasure or euphoria. However, while alcohol can boost their dopamine levels to make them feel good, the effects are temporary. In the long run, alcohol starts depleting the dopamine reserves even more, leaving the user more miserable than they are. Despite taking Adderall, they may fail to keep their symptoms in control. This is why experts strictly advise against combining both.
Adderall and Alcohol Misuse: Seeking Treatment
People drinking while taking Adderall are at risk of various side effects due to the combination and are advised to stop using it as soon as possible. However, this must ideally take place under specialist supervision to avoid withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms are common in people who have been using alcohol and Adderall for a long and have become dependent on them. Some of these withdrawal side effects include the following:
- Irritability or agitation
- Mood swings
- Intense cravings for alcohol and Adderall
Professional help is recommended while detoxing from Adderall and alcohol safely. This professional help is available at various rehabilitation centers that provide guidance and support to stop using the dangerous combination while avoiding relapses in the future. Following are some proposed treatment plans to overcome the combination of Adderall and alcohol without putting yourself at risk:
- Inpatient rehabilitation programs: These programs include various therapies tailored to fit the needs of each individual. Also known as residential treatment, it provides round-the-clock care to individuals struggling with alcohol and Adderall addiction while helping them prepare for the world outside.
- Outpatient treatment programs: These programs are for people who cannot commit to the inpatient programs due to constraints like jobs, childcare, or other personal responsibilities. Outpatient settings provide them with more flexibility and allow them to continue working or attending school or college while receiving help for underlying abuse.
- Individual therapy: This therapy involves treating Adderall and alcohol abuse while providing patients with one-to-one care in a more direct setting. This therapy helps professionals focus on individual issues and encourage patients to overcome them through healthy coping skills and strategies.
- Medication-assisted treatment: Also known as MAT, this treatment includes the use of prescription medications alongside counseling to help people manage their uncomfortable side effects. This timely management improves the chances of recovery while reducing the risk of a relapse.
- Self-help support groups: These self-help support groups provide patients a platform to discuss their struggles, issues, and recovery journey with others facing similar problems in a non-judgmental environment. People with underlying abuse of alcohol and Adderall may benefit from joining Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Can you drink on Adderall if you have a prescription for it?
The risk of experiencing alcohol and Adderall side effects, as described below, remains, regardless of whether a person uses the latter with a prescription. Having a prescription for Adderall does not guarantee that a person will not misuse it. Many people have reported taking the medication due to ADHD or another medical reason; however, they abused it and mixed it with alcohol to enhance the overall side effects. Hence, experts advise everyone not to combine Adderall and alcohol under any circumstances. Moreover, they must use the medication as prescribed in the amounts needed. Patients must also inform their healthcare professionals about their past alcohol history, if relevant, so that the doctor can ensure their safety.
How long after taking Adderall can I drink alcohol?
Different factors impact the amount of time a person has to wait after drinking to take Adderall. The biggest factor of all is the amount of time the body needs to fully metabolize the drug, and this may vary based on a person’s weight, age, and drug form and dosage. Some sources suggest that the immediate-release versions of Adderall can last up to 6 hours per dose, whereas the extended-release tablets may continue to persist in the body for up to 24 hours. Keeping these variables in mind, a person should talk to their doctor about the abstinence window to practice before using both substances one after the other.
What can I do if I have taken Adderall and alcohol together?
Someone who has been drinking alcohol and is concerned that they may have harmed themselves or feel any side effects happening due to the combination must immediately seek emergency help. The combination may not cause any significant issues in some people, while others may develop serious complications. The side effects severity varies from person to person and is based on the dosage of both substances.
Can you overdose on Adderall and alcohol?
Because Adderall masks the symptoms of alcohol intoxication, a person may keep drinking without realizing that they have surpassed the safe drinking limit. In many instances, such people overdose and require hospitalization and urgent treatment to save a life.