One of the most commented upon questions we have gotten here on ADHD Central was from a mom who wanted to know what effects there would be for her son if he drank alcohol while taking a medication prescribed for ADHD, Adderall. You may view this original question right here. The responses we received on this topic were varied and created quite a heated discussion. And this is not the first time this question has been asked on this site. So to clear up any confusion we wish to provide you with information on why mixing alcohol and Adderall is a potentially dangerous combination.
The bottom line: It is recommended that you do not drink alcohol while you are taking Adderall.
First let's give you some general information about Adderall, ADHD medications, and the use of alcohol.
- Here is the official Adderall web site with medication guide and precautions. If you wish to contact the company directly here is how to do so: If you have any questions about Adderall XR, please contact Shire Medical Information at 1-800-828-2088.
- Here is more information about Adderall from Health Central.
- Here are our Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD medications.
- Here is an article by our Eileen Bailey about ADHD and alcohol abuse.
Before taking Adderall it is important that you talk to your physician about any other prescription and over the counter medications or herbal supplements you are currently taking. It is also important that you disclose if you drink alcohol if you are thinking of taking Adderall. Most guidelines advise that anyone who has any history of drug or alcohol abuse should not take this medication.
It is interesting to note that some people report losing an interest in drinking alcohol once they begin taking Adderall as reported by some ADHD forum members. And as our Eileen Bailey reports, there is evidence that the use of ADHD medication can also decrease drug abuse: "In one study, performed at the Boston Hospital and the Harvard Medical School, the use of medication to treat ADHD symptoms decreased the use of illicit drugs by 84%."
So how does it happen that some people are taking Adderall and drinking alcohol?
It is not so difficult to figure out. While some individuals are prescribed Adderall, others are taking it without a prescription. The illegal use of Adderall and Ritalin can be found on any college campus. Some college students turn to using unprescribed ADHD meds as a way to increase their focus and pull all nighters to accomplish many tasks in a short amount of time. One of the trends nowadays is to crush the pill and snort it to get a more speedy effect. Add to this, alcohol is often prevalent and easy to come by on most college campuses. Whether or not one is taking Adderall with a prescription or not, there are some people who are mixing alcohol with this medication in a potentially dangerous combination.
Why do some people mix alcohol and Adderall?
Some people will combine these two intentionally in an attempt to party for a longer period of time. Alcohol is a depressant and Adderall is a stimulant. Some people think that the two substances will magically balance each other out, and that one can then drink without harmful effects. This, of course is not the case, as I will explain shortly. Other people who take Adderall may drink alcohol in the evenings in order to relax and fall asleep because they are feeling too wired. Still others combine alcohol and ADHD medications such as Adderall unintentionally because they simply do not realize that this particular combination can be unsafe.
Okay so what's the big deal? Why shouldn't one drink alcohol while they are taking Adderall?
Here is a potential scenario if one drinks while taking Adderall. Adderall can hinder your ability to tell if you are too tired or too intoxicated. So you end up drinking more. Your internal cues of whether you have had enough are no longer accurate. Although your mind may not be telling you there is a problem, your body is taking the toll of the alcohol without your realizing it. Alcohol poisoning is a real danger in this situation. The Office of Alcohol and Drug Education at the University of Notre Dame validates this concern: "It is important not to mix alcohol and stimulants such as Adderall. The stimulant effect can cause students to prolong use resulting in consuming unhealthy amounts of alcohol which has lead to cases of alcohol poisoning. Stimulants in the system can block the depressant effect shutting off the warning signs to a person's body that they may be drinking too much."
Passing out may be the end result of your body trying to tell you that a potentially toxic level of alcohol is in your bloodstream. This doesn't sound like a very pleasant or safe way to end an evening.
If you really want to know what can happen when you mix alcohol and Adderall just read some of these posts on this very topic on this ADHD forum.
Let's see: Vomiting, depression, anxiety, paranoia, ending up in the hospital. Of course these are subjective accounts and one should read them with a grain of salt. There are also people who claim to be totally unaffected but who knows what they are saying in the morning after the party is over. You have to always ask yourself, "Is this worth the risk?"
If you are not yet convinced that drinking and taking Adderall is not a good idea let me direct you to a case study where a college freshman had a heart attack caused by drinking and taking Adderall. In the March 2009 issue of The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine researchers depict the story of a young man who was in the emergency room with chest pains following an episode of taking 30 mg of Adderall combined with whiskey. He was experiencing a heart attack. The scary thing is that this college freshman had no personal or family history of cardiac problems. The researchers in the study conclude: "...physicians need to be aware that Adderall is contraindicated in patients with known structural heart abnormality, arrhythmia, or hypertension. Inappropriate dosing or taking with alcohol increases the risk of serious cardiovascular side effects like myocardial infarction even without underlying cardiovascular risk factors."
So there you have it. Alcohol and Adderall. Not such a good idea. Why risk your health and safety? But do discuss the risks with your doctor. Be safe out there!
Jiao, Xiangyang, M.D. et al. (2009) Myocardial Infarction Associated with Adderall XR and Alcohol Use in a Young Man, The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine 22 (2): 197-201
Medications Reduce Incidence of Substance Abuse Among ADHD Patients, 1999, Steven Stocker, National Institute on Drug Abuse