The Risks of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

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Adderall is one of the most common types of medication used to treat symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It’s also prescribed off-label for the treatment of severe narcolepsy. Adderall belongs to a class of drugs called central nervous system stimulants. The generic name for Adderall is amphetamine or dextroamphetamine. 

Mixing alcohol with Adderall is a common occurrence, especially among younger people. In a 2019 study on alcohol and stimulant use, researchers found that college students who had misused stimulants over fourteen days had a higher likelihood of alcohol use within the same period.

When being given prescription drugs, a key piece of advice most doctors mention is not to mix them with alcohol. This is because it’s hard to measure the side effects and consequences of mixing most prescription drugs, even with a bit of alcohol.  With Adderall and alcohol, the combination is hazardous due to the mode of mechanism of both substances in your body.

For some reason, people combining Adderall and alcohol is a common occurrence. One theory suggests that people on Adderall drink alcohol to manage the side effects of using Adderall.

College students also have a high propensity to abuse both alcohol and Adderall. Heavy course load and the pressures of school life cause students to attempt to use Adderall to improve their concentration and focus. This misuse results in side effects like hyperactivity and jitteriness.

A 2012 study revealed that combining alcohol with stimulants is high among undergraduate students. The study also revealed that using both substances simultaneously increases the risk of adverse effects than people who didn’t use or misuse both substances simultaneously. 

This article explains how Adderall works and why mixing it with alcohol can be fatal. 

How Adderall and alcohol work

Adderall is a stimulant which means it has a high potential for abuse. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies it as a Schedule II controlled substance. Adderall boosts the functioning of dopamine and norepinephrine, helping the brain to improve focus and alertness.  

On the other hand, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant with a high potential for abuse. It’s one of the most frequently abused substances in the United States today.

Alcohol enhances the function of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger responsible for slowing down brain activity to calm you when you are stressed or anxious, which is why when you drink alcohol, you sometimes feel sleepy or drowsy and when you drink it in excess, you experience symptoms such as slurred speech and lack of coordination. 

The Risks of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Mixing Adderall and alcohol poses several dangers to a person. The severity of these risks depends on the individual and how much of the substances were consumed. Mixing alcohol with most types of prescription medication can affect its effectiveness and sometimes cause fatal side effects. 

Even short-term use of both substances can cause severe side effects, contrary to what some may think. In a case study published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, a young man with no prior history of heart problems or substance misuse suffered a heart attack after combining alcohol with two tablets of Adderall. 

The effects of mixing alcohol with drugs like Adderall are also often unpredictable. While mixing half a can of beer with Adderall might seemingly have no impact on one person, it may cause severe adverse effects on another person.

Complications that may arise from combining Adderall and alcohol include:

Increased risk of overdose

When alcohol and Adderall are mixed, it gives you the false perception that neither substance works as effectively as it should, which could cause you to keep consuming more and increase the likelihood of an overdose.

It’s also more likely for a person using both to get alcohol poisoning. Alcohol dampens the effects of Adderall and other stimulants, which can cause you to consume more alcohol, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning. 

Polysubstance abuse

Polysubstance abuse is used when a person develops a substance use disorder with multiple substances. The likelihood of developing polysubstance abuse when mixing Adderall and alcohol is high as both substances have a high potential for misuse and addiction. 

Cognitive decline 

Long-term misuse of alcohol and stimulants can cause cognitive decline due to damage to your central nervous system. Experiencing symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, and difficulty paying attention indicate mental issues. 

Enhanced side effects 

Using either substance excessively can result in side effects in some cases. With alcohol, typical side effects include elevated blood pressure, behavioral changes, lack of coordination, nausea, and vomiting. With Adderall, typical side effects include chest pain, slurred speech, fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. While not everyone who uses either substance experiences these side effects. Combining both substances could increase the risk of developing a cocktail of adverse effects. 

Cardiovascular problems 

Combining alcohol and Adderall can result in short and long-term cardiovascular problems. Mixing both substances can put a ton of stress on your cardiovascular system and increase the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular issues.

Can I drink at all while on Adderall?

It’s strongly advisable to avoid alcohol while on Adderall altogether. However, if you must, waiting a few hours after taking your medication may help prevent any side effects. However, this isn’t a blanket rule that applies to everyone.

Other factors such as health, age, medical conditions, and medications you may be on can affect this. To ensure it’s safe to drink while taking Adderall, speak to your doctor first. 

Treatment for Adderall and alcohol addiction 

Mixing both Adderall and alcohol can cause addiction. Common signs of addiction to a substance include memory lapses, lack of coordination, behavioral changes, and difficulty concentrating. If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of addiction, getting help immediately is crucial. When left untreated, addiction can be fatal, even resulting in death. If you begin to experience symptoms after mixing Adderall with alcohol, call 911 or find the nearest emergency room immediately.

A Word from Verywell

Based on the wealth of research on the topic, it’s firmly established that it’s never a good idea to mix Adderall with alcohol. Even doing so occasionally or in small quantities has been proven to have adverse effects. Combining alcohol and Adderall also heightens the risk of developing a dependency on both substances.

Substance use disorder is a severe condition that requires medical intervention. Contact your nearest addiction treatment center if you suspect you or someone you love has developed a dependency on either substance.  

6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Addiction Centers. Mixing Adderall and alcohol - what you need to know.

  3. Egan KL, Reboussin BA, Blocker JN, Wolfson M, Sutfin EL. Simultaneous use of non-medical ADHD prescription stimulants and alcohol among undergraduate students. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2013;131(1-2):71-77.

  4. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the united states: results from the 2015 national survey on drug use and health.

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  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Polysubstance use facts. February 23, 2022

By Toketemu Ohwovoriole
Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics.