Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant intended to relieve ADD/ ADHD symptoms. It has other medical uses, such as treating people with severe forms of narcolepsy.
Adderall comes in both immediate-release or an extended-release versions. The immediate-release version’s effects will last 4-6 hours, whereas the effects of the extended-release version are estimated to endure for about 2 hours.
Adderall and Alcohol Abuse
Because Adderall contains potent stimulants that can be effective for medicinal purposes at prescribed doses but risky when abused at large doses, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies Adderall as a Schedule II controlled substance. Substances in this category are in the highest Schedule that can still be prescribed by a health provider.
Therefore, while Adderall has beneficial medical purposes, it also has an extremely high potential for abuse and dependence. Alcohol is a CNS depressant known to be a significant drug of abuse. Drinking alcohol has an entirely different effect than using a stimulant.
Stimulant medications increase the availability of excitatory neurochemicals in brain regions that, when activated, improve concentration, physical activity, and alertness. Adderall increases the availability of adrenaline and dopamine. Conversely, alcohol acts to inhibit the function of the excitatory neurotransmitter NMDA while enhancing the function of the inhibitory neurotransmitters GABA and glycine function. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), alcohol is the most commonly abused substance in the U.S.
Dangers of Combining Alcohol and Adderall
Basic written instructions for almost every prescription medication warn against mixing it with alcohol. Also, most health providers strongly advise against using any prescription medication combined with alcohol.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has put forth many warnings regarding the risks of combining drugs. Mixing alcohol with most medications reduces the effectiveness of the said medication. Mixing alcohol with stimulants often leads to both the alcohol and stimulants’ effects being not as effective as they would be if used independently of each other.
Despite the user’s perception that the stimulant or alcohol is not working as effectively as one would normally experience, the drug’s actual content has not been altered. This action makes it far easier to overdose on stimulants or alcohol or both when both drugs are used in conjunction.
When one combines drugs with different effects, many potential, unpredictable effects often will not occur if one consumes either alcohol or Adderall independently. These can include potentially hazardous side effects, such as seizures.
The potential for unpredictable effects is significantly enhanced. Continued use of excessive amounts of Adderall and alcohol in conjunction can result in an extremely complicated situation where a person has developed polysubstance abuse or comorbid substance use disorders.
Why People Combine Adderall and Alcohol
Abuse of Adderall can be found across all age groups, but most often abuse this drug between ages 15 and 30. Studies have shown that Adderall abuse is more common on college campuses than among individuals who are not in college. Research also suggests that most people who have a prescription for Adderall and use it for medicinal reasons are not the drug’s primary abusers. Instead, individuals who abuse the medication often procure it in the following ways:
- From a relative or friend who has a prescription
- As a result of stealing it from a person who has a prescription for it
- As a result of purchasing it illicitly without a prescription)
- Under the erroneous impression that the abuse of a prescription drug does not represent a potentially dangerous situation
Although most people with a prescription for the drug do not abuse it, the increase in prescriptions of stimulants for ADD/ADHD leads to an increased availability of these drugs for potential abusers.
Research also suggests that a significant number of persons who abuse stimulant medications will abuse them in combination with alcohol, at least occasionally. The reasons for abusing the substances in combination vary. Based on research, it appears that the reason why people abuse both drugs together is to mitigate the undesirable side effects of the stimulant drug by consuming alcohol.
Adderall abuse among college students is often associated with the onset of college examinations. Individuals abuse Adderall in an attempt to improve their concentration or to study for lengthy periods. Because using excessive amounts of Adderall can lead to hyperactivity, and individuals may drink alcohol in an attempt to offset these effects.
According to research, many individuals reported drinking alcohol with Adderall in an attempt to allow them to stay awake longer. Moreover, the stimulant will counteract some of alcohol’s depressant effects. Some individuals are under the erroneous impression that because Adderall is a prescription medication, using it in combination with alcohol is not as dangerous as mixing illicit drugs with alcohol.
Risks of Combining Adderall and Alcohol
Numerous studies have reported that some specific dangers are associated with abusing alcohol and Adderall together. Although it appears that people primarily consume alcohol when abusing Adderall to lessen the stimulant’s effects, it is far more likely that people will overdose on the alcohol or experience alcohol poisoning due to the effects of the stimulant mitigating the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening situation.
Issues with judgment and rational thinking are worsened when an individual is under both drugs’ influence. Studies indicate that the potential for adverse side effects from either substance is enhanced when they are combined. These can include nausea and vomiting, leading to dehydration, cardiovascular issues, aggression, and failure to inhibit behavior, leading to a person taking serious risks.
Despite the common perception that reflexes and motor coordination are not affected by alcohol when one mixes Adderall and alcohol, individuals remain significantly impaired regarding their reaction time, motor coordination, and visual perception. These effects can lead to falls, injuries, and any number of potentially dangerous situations.
Combining Adderall and alcohol leads to significant stress on the cardiovascular system. It can lead to short-term high blood pressure and long-term issues with cardiovascular disease, and an increased risk of having a stroke. Also, the potential to develop serious neurological effects, particularly seizures, is significantly increased when one mixes the two drugs.
Getting Help for Polysubstance Abuse
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