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What Happens When You Mix Adderall and Alcohol?

Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a prescription stimulant medication used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy (a sleep disorder characterized by “sleep attacks”).1 Prescription stimulants are a class of drugs that increase alertness, attention, and energy.1 Because of the effects that prescription stimulants have, some people may misuse Adderall for recreational use or to get high.

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 5.1 million people aged 12 and older reported misusing prescription stimulants in the past year.2

Adderall is not only misused by itself, but it is often misused in combination with other substances such as alcohol. Alcohol is misused even more than prescription stimulants. The 2020 NSDUH found that 138.5 million people aged 12 and older reported using alcohol in the past month.2

People might mix Adderall and alcohol on purpose with the intent to get high, or accidentally, without knowing the effects that these substances can have when mixed.

This article discusses the effects of mixing Adderall and alcohol and how to get help if you suspect this kind of substance use is causing a problem for you or someone you care about.

Adderall Misuse

Adderall is a prescription stimulant in the subclass of drugs known as amphetamines.3   While Adderall can be beneficial when prescribed by a doctor for the treatment of ADHD, people also misuse it as a “study drug” and buy and sell it illegally.3

Adderall is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a Schedule II drug because it has a high potential for misuse or Adderall addiction, and can lead to severe physical or psychological dependence. Dependence is a physiological adaptation of the body to a substance, wherein the body becomes so used to the drug being present in the system that when the individual cuts back on their use or quits, Adderall withdrawal symptoms can emerge.4

Alcohol Misuse

Alcohol is legal to drink and purchase for people aged 21 and older and is not classified as a drug by the DEA. Because it is commonly used and widely available, there is a popular misconception that alcohol use is harmless or without risk; however, alcohol is commonly misused and can potentially lead to many serious short- and long-term health consequences.

While alcohol use in moderation can be safe, alcohol has a powerful effect on the brain and can decrease inhibitions and increase feelings of euphoria, making alcohol a commonly misused substance. Sometimes these feelings can motivate a person to drink again and again.5

Over time, some of the effects of alcohol on the body include damage to the brain, heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs, and can lead to chronic health conditions such as cardiomyopathy, cirrhosis, and increased risk of stroke or certain cancers.6

Alcohol misuse can also lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), which is characterized by an inability to control or stop alcohol use despite negative physical, occupational, and social consequences. This is also commonly referred to as alcohol addiction.5

Why People Mix Adderall and Alcohol

People can mix Adderall and alcohol intentionally and unintentionally.

Recreational use of prescription stimulants like Adderall occurs at a high rate among college students largely due to these being known as “study drugs.” Studies show that up to 20% of college students misuse prescription stimulants, primarily by taking medications that aren’t prescribed to them.7 Students and non-students alike might use their prescription or take Adderall that they got from someone else as an “enhancement” to get better grades, pull all-nighters to “cram” for upcoming exams, or to enhance their performance at work.

People might also mix Adderall and alcohol because they believe it will get them more intoxicated or allow them to party longer. In a 2013 study of college students, 4.9% of participants reported using Adderall and alcohol simultaneously in the past year.8 There is evidence to support that people who misuse Adderall are more likely to misuse alcohol or other substances simultaneously.8

Someone might also be unaware of the potentially serious interactions between Adderall and alcohol. They may drink alcohol after taking their prescription Adderall because they don’t think it is a big deal or may believe that alcohol may counteract Adderall.

Effects of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Research into the interactions between prescription stimulants and alcohol has shown an increased risk of negative consequences.8 The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against mixing drugs due to the risk of potential negative consequences.9 Drug interactions can make a drug less effective, increase its strength, or cause unexpected side effects.9 Mixing some drugs with alcohol can cause you to feel drowsy and have slower reaction times, which can be dangerous.9

Side effects associated with Adderall use can include a decrease in appetite, nervousness, and stomachache, while more serious effects can include:3

  • Serotonin syndrome, which is a potentially life-threatening reaction that can occur when Adderall is mixed with certain medications such as certain antidepressants. It can cause several symptoms including agitation, diarrhea, high or low blood pressure, fast heartbeat, and nausea among others.
  • Adverse psychiatric events (e.g., delusions, hallucinations, mania).
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Serious cardiovascular events (e.g., heart attack).
  • Stroke.
  • Sudden death.

In addition to the more long-term health risks of alcohol use mentioned above, alcohol use can have serious short-term risks, including:10

  • Increased risk of injury (e.g., falling, vehicle crashes).
  • Increased risk of violence (e.g., sexual assault).
  • Increased risk of dangerous sexual behaviors.
  • Alcohol poisoning.

It’s important to note that using prescription stimulants like Adderall and alcohol together doesn’t “balance” or “cancel” them out.11 In fact, mixing the 2 can mask the effects of both, which can make it easier to overdose.11

Both Adderall and alcohol carry a high potential for misuse and addiction, which makes them even riskier to use at the same time.8 Studies suggest that people with ADHD may be more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder (AUD) as well.12

Getting Help

Mixing Adderall with alcohol can be dangerous and even fatal.9 If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use, you should know that Adderall addiction treatment and alcohol addiction treatment is available. If you’re looking for help, contact American Addiction Centers at to speak with an admissions navigator. They can answer your questions about substance use, provide information on treatment, and verify your insurance.

 

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