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Adderall and Alcohol: A Deadly Combination for Students

Adderall is a drug of misuse, particularly among teens and college students. Adderall misuse can lead to side effects including addiction, cardiac problems or even death. Even more dangerous than the abuse of Adderall on its own is combining Adderall and alcohol, yet this is a growing trend among young people as well.

Sad teenage girl

Adderall is a brand-name, prescription stimulant drug intended for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. When someone uses Adderall, it affects brain neurotransmitters like dopamine.

For people who have ADHD, Adderall can improve focus, concentration and impulse control. With Adderall misuse, the effects include a euphoric high, intense concentration and performance enhancements. Adderall is often misused as a study drug, and also as a way for people to stay awake for longer, or even lose weight because it’s an appetite suppressant.

Why Do Teens Mix Adderall and Alcohol?

A study from 2013 found 46.6 percent of students who misused Adderall used alcohol at the same time within the previous year. A separate study showed 19 percent of surveyed people who were prescribed Adderall intentionally abused their medication while drinking. There are a few reasons for mixing Adderall and alcohol among teens. One is because teens may believe the effects of Adderall and alcohol will cancel one another out. Adderall and alcohol are also mixed in an attempt to increase the effects of both substances.

Mixing Adderall and alcohol is dangerous. Nineteen percent of emergency room visits in 2013 related to ADHD medications in the United States also involved alcohol use.

Mixing Alcohol and Adderall: What Happens in the Body?

Adderall stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the effects of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. Dopamine and norepinephrine are naturally occurring brain chemicals. Alcohol, on the other hand, is a central nervous system depressant that slows down bodily processes and decreases the effects of neurotransmitters in the brain.

Some people incorrectly believe mixing Adderall and alcohol will lead to one canceling the effects of the other. In reality, Adderall and alcohol side effects tend to both be more pronounced when the substances are combined. When someone drinks alcohol while on Adderall, they will typically feel the effects of one or the other more than usual. The substance creating the most significant effect is usually the one being processed fastest by the liver.

Alcohol, Adderall and Heart Damage

Is there a link between Adderall, alcohol and a heart attack? Adderall has the potential to cause cardiac-related side effects. Heart-related side effects of Adderall can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pains
  • High body temperature
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Heart and circulation failure
  • Heart attack

These heart-related side effects are more likely in someone who takes very large doses of Adderall and someone who combines alcohol and Adderall.

Behavioral Effects of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol

Even if someone doesn’t experience heart-related side effects of mixing Adderall and alcohol, the combination of these substances can cause other side effects. For example, when someone drinks while using Adderall, they may not be able to feel how intoxicated they are. This lack of awareness may increase their level of intoxication and can also make serious situations like alcohol poisoning more likely.

Adderall and alcohol behavior side effects may include:

  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Slow reaction times
  • Lack of rational thinking and judgment
  • Loss of control over body movement
  • Vomiting
  • Anger or aggression
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Loss of consciousness

Get Help for Adderall Addiction

Adderall addiction can be a serious, overwhelming problem but help is available. Find help for yourself or if you’re a parent, for your teen. Contact Next Generation Village to learn more about our addiction treatment programs, including programs geared toward the treatment of Adderall addiction.

Sources:

Huizen, Jennifer. “Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol While Taking Adderall?” Medical News Today, April 19, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.

Hom, Elaine J. “Adderall: Uses, Side Effects and Abuse.” Live Science, October 18, 2018. Accessed March 28, 2019.

Morris, Susan York. “Dangers of Mixing Adderall and Alcohol.” Healthline, July 29, 2016. Accessed March 28, 2019.

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