Alcohol+ADHD Medicine=BAD!

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Yes, we're all in college at what used to be the nation's number-one party school. However, now that finals are coming up, I'm sure some of you will be on the search for some Adderall or Ritalin to help you focus for finals...while going out and drinking at the same time. This is a very, very, very bad combination. 

For starters, ADHD medications-Ritalin, Adderall, and Strattera, to name three big ones-are used recreationally (illegally), or used for people who actually have ADD/ADHD. Adderall and Ritalin are considered controlled substances, while Strattera, even though it is a stimulant as well, is not. Ritalin and Adderall are controlled because they have the potential to be abused, and in turn, lead to an addiction. These three medications and their generic equivalents are designed to help boost dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain's prefrontal cortex region.

But what exactly does that mean for people who take ADHD medications, recreationally or otherwise?

A highly dangerous combination. 

Additude Mag says that "the stimulant medications often used for ADHD can intensify the effects of alcohol as well as those of marijuana and cocaine." Well then. That's some pretty big stuff right there. If you're on some sort of stimulant drug (or anti-depressants), the amount of alcohol that it would normally take for you to get a "buzz" would result in you being completely smashed...even if you've had less than one drink. 

The other thing is that alcohol is a depressant, while ADHD medicines are stimulants. Apparently it is a common thought that mixing the two together means that they balance each other out. They don't. In fact, taking an ADHD medication can block the ability to tell when you are too tired, or if you have had too much to drink. This can lead to a very nasty case of alcohol poisoning. Or, you could pass out. Some people also experience bouts of anxiety and/or paranoia when they mix alcohol with some sort of a stimulant. Some people also puke everywhere, which isn't pleasant in itself. 

There's one huge issue left with the combination of alcohol and ADHD medicines: the risk of having a heart attack. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine did a report back in 2009 about this very topic. A college freshman took 30 mg of Adderall, and drank some whiskey. That combination caused him to have a heart attack, which was very scary, considering how he did not have a family history of cardiac problems. Stimulants can speed up your heart. This is also why doctors are weary of prescribing the medicines in individuals who have pre-existing cardiac conditions, because of the risk of having a heart attack. The ADHD medications can intensify heart conditions, leading to heart attacks. This is also something to keep in consideration if you're taking the drug for study purposes, and are unaware you might have a heart condition.

Perhaps what's even scarier about the above paragraph, is the fact that many of you guys probably mix alcohol, energy drinks, and ADHD medicines together, which is an even stupider combination. I'm not saying any of you are stupid, but just the fact that mixing those three substances together can lead to some terrible complications. 

Trust me on this. I've experienced the effects of alcohol while taking an ADHD medication. I'm on Strattera, and even the tiniest bit of alcohol makes me pretty tipsy. This is why I avoid drinking, because for me, it isn't exactly the best feeling. I'd rather have full control over my body and my actions, and know when to stop, as opposed to not having any control whatsoever and doing something stupid. I also abstain from drinking because I'd rather have my medication work to keep me focused, than make me lose my focus for a night of drunken fun. 

1 Comment

Great article! Lots of really useful information especially with finals coming up! I don't really have anything more to add, just a thanks for bringing this topic up, hopefully it'll safe some kids from a trip to the ER. The only question I really have is if mixing alcohol with any type of behavioral drug, or prescription drug for that matter, can have the same effects that you mentioned.

This article brings up overdoses like Whitney Houston's and Heath Ledger's and explains why prescription drugs mixed with drinking, smoking or even other drugs can be deadly.

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