Adderall, scientifically known as Amphetamine/dextroamphetamine, is a medication that helps treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
However, it is being used by some for its ‘stimulating’ effects together with one of the world’s most abused substances: alcohol. Since the latter is a depressant, the antagonizing effects of these two substances may prove detrimental to the body.
What is Adderall?
Adderall is the primary drug used in ADHD. It is a behavioral and developmental condition marked by inattention, hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity.
Adderall is taken to improve the following aspects that are usually compromised in people with ADHD:
- Attention span
- Task organization
- Listening skills
Because of these effects, some students take Adderall to help boost their academic performance. Some people, on the other hand, take it to achieve weight loss.
Adderall is taken 1 to 3 times a day, at 4 to 6-hour intervals. The spacing usually depends on the doctor’s prescription. The first dose should be taken in the morning. The last one, however, should not be taken late in the day. Such action may cause insomnia.
Side effects of Adderall include:
- Sleeping problems (insomnia)
- Dry mouth
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Weight loss
Adderall is a schedule 2 drug, meaning it can be addictive and habit-forming. As such, you shouldn’t increase your dose or take it more frequently as advised. Should the doctor tell you to stop your intake, you should do so accordingly.
Effects of Alcohol and Adderall Use
Concurrent use can lead to several health problems, such as:
While Adderall is known to be effective, it can be addictive. The risk is even higher in people who abuse alcohol. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, alcoholics are 18 times more likely to be addicted to prescription drugs, such as Adderall.
Similarly, having ADHD – the condition treated with Adderall – increases the risk of developing substance addiction.
The behavior that comes with ADHD may explain such a phenomenon. Since diagnosed individuals have a hard time controlling their impulses, they find it difficult to set limits within themselves. As a result, they end up drinking more alcohol than they should.
From a neurological perspective, ADHD is associated with low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Alcohol can help flood the brain with dopamine, which may lead to a temporary reduction of symptoms. This may entice the person to drink more, seeing the positive effects that come with alcohol.
Unfortunately, prolonged alcohol intake can worsen ADHD symptoms. Alcohol, if taken in excessive amounts, can deplete the brain of dopamine. As such, more severe manifestations occur.
Because of these reasons, a WebMD article says that as much as 20% to 50% of people afflicted ADHD develop the tendency to abuse alcohol or drugs.
It is no secret that alcohol can affect one’s behavior. According to a study by Steele and Southwick, alcohol intake can increase aggression, sexual adventurousness, and self-disclosure in most drinkers. That’s because alcohol affects the person’s inhibitory processes. This makes the person more likely to exhibit the above-mentioned behaviors.
Unfortunately, adding Adderall into the mix can worsen the dangerous behaviors brought about by alcoholism. A study by McCabe et al. features people who drink alcohol and abuse prescription drugs at the same time. Results show that they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex and drunk driving.
As has been mentioned, alcohol is a depressant. If taken with Adderall, the medication can mask the sensations and the body’s protective mechanisms that come with being drunk.
After all, stimulants such as Adderall can delay the onset of the ‘buzz’ that usually comes with alcohol consumption. It might prevent you from passing out. While unpleasant, this is one of the body’s defensive mechanisms against excessive consumption.
Because of this, Adderall takers may find themselves drinking more alcohol than usual. This is because they don’t feel drunk right away. Sadly, this can lead to alcohol poisoning, which comes with the following symptoms:
- Loss of consciousness
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Pale or bluish skin
Alcohol poisoning can also lead to a variety of complications, such as choking and dehydration. It can bring about a dip in body temperature (hypothermia), breathing problems, and irregular heartbeats. All of these can contribute to brain damage – even death.
Alcohol and Adderall consumption affects most of the body. However, they prove to be very damaging to the heart. In fact, the use of these two substances has led to a heart attack (myocardial infarction) in young people – a population that is thought to be low-risk.
Such was documented in the study of Sharma et al. This case featured an adolescent who took his daily dose of Adderall with alcohol. He eventually developed chest pain. Though he was devoid of the usual risk factors, his electrocardiogram yielded the usual changes that come with myocardial infarction.
The same clinical picture was seen in a young adult. He took two Adderall 15 mg tablets with alcohol. Like the previous adolescent, he manifested signs of myocardial infarction.
Myocardial infarction is associated with a 30% mortality rate. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to death.
While Adderall, as with other medications, should not be taken with alcohol, there is some leeway according to the professionals. In her interview with WebMD, Dr. Denise Leung mentioned taking no more than one serving of alcohol with Adderall. Dr. David Goodman advises the same thing.
Dr. Leung adds that if you are taking a short-acting pill – whose effects last for up to 4 hours – you should consume one serving in the evening. However, if you are using a long-acting pill, you should take alcohol at least 12 hours after the effects have worn off.
In a Nutshell
Alcohol is a depressant while Adderall is a stimulant. As such, these substances have antagonizing effects. Concurrent use may lead to the development of high-risk behaviors, even heart attack. Although it is best to NOT take alcohol with Adderall, professionals permit the consumption of one serving. With that being said, it is ideal to take alcohol several hours after the drug’s effects have worn out.
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