Adderall is a prescription medication doctors use to treat patients with a common condition known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The drug can help with mild or extreme symptoms of ADHD by increasing attention and focus and controlling behavioral problems. However, over the last decade, Adderall abuse has increased. More concerningly, when paired with the most widely used substance, it can be lethal. Indeed, Adderall and alcohol interaction is common among students and millennials in the workforce. What damage can it cause in the short- and long-term?
Alcohol is known to cause adverse effects, especially when paired with other prescription medications. Tens of thousands of students and employees nationwide are misusing Adderall as a study or work aid, as it reduces the need for eating and sleeping and improves focus and concentration. On the other hand, alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people or about one in every 12 adults suffers from dependency.
Combined, alcohol and Adderall can pose many health risks.
What is Adderall?
First introduced in 1996, Adderall is a prescription medication classified as a stimulant. It contains 75% dextroamphetamine and 25% levoamphetamine. Levoamphetamine can produce suppressed appetite and increase alertness, and it also promotes norepinephrine release, which regulates the heart and blood. Dextroamphetamine, on the other hand, restores cognitive performance, improves memory, and increases alertness. The combination is effective for certain conditions when used as prescribed.
Adderall stimulates the central and peripheral nervous systems. It makes a person more alert and attentive, staying focused for long periods easier. It can also help with narcolepsy, a neurological disorder. When used as prescribed, Adderall can effectively treat ADHD symptoms in the brain long-term.
However, Adderall has adverse side effects, especially for those who misuse it or when obtained without a prescription. Some common side effects include:
- Dry mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent restlessness or agitations
- Body tremors
- Digestive difficulties
In some cases, Adderall can cause high blood pressure and heart palpitations. Its intended use proves to be highly effective, but many users risk developing tolerance and physical and psychological dependence. More concerningly, Adderall can be dangerous, especially when used in high quantities or with other substances—Adderall and alcohol, for example.
Dangers of Alcohol Misuse
The warning labels on medicines are usually very clear, and the interactions between alcohol and other substances is extremely dangerous. Depending on the medication, when mixed with alcohol, it can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, or loss of coordination. It can also increase the risks of internal bleeding, cause heart issues, and difficulties breathing. Alcohol can also make the medication less effective and, in some cases, even useless.
Alcohol, like many other substances, can make you sleepy, drowsy, or lightheaded. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can cause issues with concentration or performance with mechanical skills. Small quantities of alcohol can impair functional abilities like driving, leading to serious injuries. In terms of health, alcohol by itself is one of the most lethal but legal toxins on the market. It’s linked to various diseases and long-term health conditions, such as:
- Liver failure
- Heart Attack
- Various forms of cancer
When used to self-medicate, alcohol can cause irreversible damage.
How does alcohol impact prescription medications?
Mixing alcohol and medications may cause short-term problems like abnormal behavior, loss of coordination, and an increased risk of injury. In the long-term, mixing alcohol and medications also increases the chances of other complications like heart issues, impaired breathing, and liver damage.
Combining prescriptions with alcohol can have unpredictable and unwanted consequences. Depending on the medicine used, alcohol can affect and render the prescription useless. In other cases, it can cause extreme symptoms and overdose effects. Depressants, for example, when combined with alcohol, can produce synergistic consequences. Opiates, when combined with alcohol, can result in slowed or arrested breathing, lowered pulse and blood pressure, unconsciousness, coma, and even death.
Effects of Alcohol and Adderall
Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant. On the other hand, ADHD medications like Adderall are considered stimulants. When taken in combination, stimulants can conceal or mask the effects of alcohol. As a result, it may lead to overconsumption of alcohol, impairing coordination and judgment, blackouts, and potential death caused by binge drinking.
As a central nervous system stimulant, Adderall accelerates neurons’ firing rates in the brain and spinal cord. According to alcohol.org, Adderall and alcohol can produce the following effects:
- Alcohol negates the medicinal effects of a stimulant drug
- Users may experience a dampening of the stimulant effects that can lead to taking more
- Individuals may not feel indicated and may continue drinking to the point of developing serious issues, such as alcohol poisoning or an overdose
Both Adderall and alcohol are highly addictive substances. When stopping use, withdrawal symptoms can occur. Individuals with moderate-to-severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms should seek medical assistance when choosing to quit since alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Symptoms may include anxiousness, tiredness, irritability, depression, headaches, nightmares, decreased appetite, seizures, vomiting, pupil dilation, tremors, and a false pulse.
Symptoms of Withdrawal from Adderall
Adderall helps to boost the level of a brain chemical commonly referred to as dopamine, a key component, among other things, in raising alertness, attention, and focus. When the medication is no longer available or used, dopamine levels drop, and the body and brain need to adjust to the change. This happens commonly among people who use it too often or take too much.
Symptoms of withdrawal from Adderall can include:
- Changes in Mood/Behavior
- Difficulty sleeping
- Stomach aches or cramping
Withdrawal symptoms from Adderall can last a few days to several weeks but can vary from person to person.
Alcohol and Adderall in the U.S.
Adderall is prevalent among the young adult population in America. According to a 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 2.6 million young adults between 18 and 25 misused prescription stimulants. Along with this, a correlation has been found between participation in binge drinking and Adderall abuse, with 89.5% of students report using Adderall and alcohol in combination.
Obtaining Prescription Medication Stimulants
A survey conducted in 2016 by Recovery Brands found that a majority of college-age individuals acquire their doctor-prescribed ADHD stimulant medications from people they know. More than 20% find them through family, 18.5% from acquaintances, peers, or friends, and about 14.8% obtain stimulants from a drug dealer.
Mixing Adderall and alcohol can be very dangerous and may more easily result in life-threatening overdose or negative interaction between the substances. Stimulant drugs like Adderall are extremely addictive, and using them recreationally may increase the chances of developing a psychological and physical dependence on them.
Alcohol and Adderall Treatment
Detox from Adderall and alcohol alone is not sufficient treatment. Detox should be followed with substance abuse treatment programs that help to prevent relapse and provide long-term recovery support for both alcohol and Adderall, individually.
Adderall abuse may begin innocently, with a pill taken recreationally to assist with studying for a test or to stay up a little later. However, with ongoing misuse, it can quickly spiral into an addiction or a stimulant use disorder.
Both outpatient and inpatient rehabilitation programs can be beneficial, particularly programs that offer dual diagnosis support and treatment.
AspenRidge Recovery is a drug addiction treatment center in Colorado offering support to residents in Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins, and Lone Tree. We also offer an online program called REACH for individuals looking to recover from Adderall and alcohol addiction.
We provide evidence-based treatment designed to address each client’s individual needs. Our combination approach addresses substance issues, provides sober group support, and treats underlying mental health conditions that may impact long-term sobriety.
As one of the most addictive and deadly substances in the country, alcohol often requires professional intervention and may require extensive care to prevent a relapse. Our comprehensive programs address alcohol dependency and Adderall abuse. We provide dual diagnosis care within our facility. Our therapists are board-certified and experienced in treating co-occurring disorders.
Treatment options include:
- Day Partial Hospitalization (PHP)
- Day Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP)
- AspenRidge REACH Online IOP
- IOP for Professionals and Working Adults
- Outpatient Program
- Alumni & Aftercare Program
Online Alcohol Therapy Program
Online alcohol addiction counseling is now a Colorado statewide program that is an excellent option for individuals that can help more Coloradans access safe and successful treatment.
AspenRidge’s REACH Colorado online alcohol addiction program has received great results and high customer satisfaction from board-certified counselors and clients. Individual and small-group virtual therapy has been as effective in treating alcohol use disorder and the underlying mental health issues that may impact long-term recovery.
Mixing alcohol and prescription medications can have short- and long-term health effects. It’s important to address both types of substance abuse, as well as co-occurring disorders. Contact our addiction therapists and intake specialists at 855-281-5588 to learn more about options for long-term recovery.