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Adderall & Alcohol: Dangers of Mixing Both Substances

You shouldn’t mix Adderall and alcohol. Both substances can tax the liver, kidneys, and heart. The FDA explicitly warns against prescribing Adderall to people with a history of dependency or heavy abuse of alcohol or those with a similar type of dependence on or abuse of other drugs.

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If you intend to mix alcohol and Adderall, or feel you cannot stop drinking alcohol while taking Adderall, talk to your doctor about this.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription medication containing dextroamphetamine and amphetamine. It’s used as part of a treatment plan for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults. Some doctors also use Adderall to treat narcolepsy in adults.

Adderall works by blocking the reuptake of norepinephrine and dopamine, so the body has more access to these important chemical transmitters. The result is an increased sense of energy and focus.

Why Do People Typically Tend to Mix Alcohol & Adderall?

Mixing alcohol and Adderall is an example of polydrug use. This means an individual uses two or more drugs at the same time or sequentially. 

While it isn’t always dangerous to take multiple drugs together in this way, it is dangerous in the case of alcohol and Adderall due to their ability to stack effects in a way that increases a person’s risk of serious harm. Adderall can mask some of the effects of alcohol, making it easy to consume too much.

Intentional Abuse

Intentional polydrug abuse is often associated with young adults who party or are involved in club subcultures. People may abuse multiple drugs to elevate the high those drugs cause or sometimes to suppress unpleasant side effects of one of the drugs being used. 

Admittedly, data on the demographics of individuals who are most likely to intentionally mix alcohol and Adderall is limited, but research has made this connection with other types of polydrug abuse, such as mixing cocaine and alcohol. Polydrug users from those studies are more likely to score high on measures of drug-related sensation seeking and using drugs to deal with unpleasant emotions (albeit in an unhealthy way).

Accidental Misuse 

It’s important to highlight that not all polydrug use is the result of people intentionally abusing multiple drugs together to elevate their effects. For example, an individual with a legitimate Adderall prescription and who only uses it as prescribed may not realize it can mix dangerously with alcohol. If they then drink, that is an example of engaging in polydrug use, and it can still be dangerous, but the actual intent of the individual is different.

What Are the Risks & Dangers of Mixing Adderall & Alcohol?

Adderall prescribing information approved by the FDA contains the following sentences: “Tell your doctor if you or your child have (or have a family history of) ever abused or been dependent on alcohol, prescription medicines or street drugs.” The warning appears because Adderall’s active ingredients can be abused, and that behavior can lead to drug dependence or addiction. People with a history of addiction to one substance may develop similar problems with a different type of drug.

Mixing alcohol and Adderall can lead to other problems too.

In 2016, researchers published a summary of studies about alcohol and stimulant interactions. They found that mixing these two substances can lead to the following problems:

  • Increased heart blood pressure
  • Reduced amount of oxygen feeding heart tissues
  • Higher risk of cancer
  • Harm to babies if used during pregnancy

In 2023, researchers studied 800 hospitalized patients who were intoxicated either with depressants (like alcohol) or stimulants (like prescription drugs). They found that cardiovascular problems were more common among stimulant users, and the problem stemmed from kidney issues. Stimulants reduce blood flow to the kidneys, which can put great stress on the heart.

Alcohol abuse, either alone or in combination with stimulants, can also harm your liver. Researchers say excessive alcohol intake can cause fat cells to grow inside the liver, and the organ can swell. If the person keeps drinking, scar tissue forms inside the liver. In extreme cases, this damage can be fatal.

Short-Term & Long-Term Risk of Mixing Alcohol & Adderall

Mixing alcohol and Adderall can cause short-term problems and long-term issues. Understanding what they are could encourage you to stop taking them.

Short-term risks include the following:

  • Acute intoxication
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Reduced inhibition
  • Arrest (if you’re doing something like driving while under the influence)

Long-term risks include the organ health problems we’ve mentioned above, along with the risk of drug use disorders and addiction. If you try to quit abruptly, you could face more health problems, as both stimulants and alcohol can cause serious withdrawal symptoms.

Is It Safe to Drink Alcohol if You Have a Legal Prescription of Adderall?

The legality of drug use doesn’t mean that the use is safe. It’s still possible to engage in dangerous polydrug use with a legal Adderall prescription while also obtaining the alcohol one is drinking legally. The actual danger is in the way these drugs can tax several of the same systems in the body.

While using Adderall only as prescribed does reduce the risk of a person developing complications, it doesn’t mean there are no risks involved with the drug or that you can otherwise ignore warnings that come with the medication and the advice of your doctor. Even if a small amount of alcohol on occasion is unlikely to cause you problems, it is better to be safe and avoid drinking while on Adderall.

The Importance of Speaking With Your Doctor Before Mixing Both Substances

You should always talk to a doctor before combining any type of drug use. Your doctor will know the way the drugs interact and the risks they can pose when used on their own or together. When a doctor prescribes a medication, they are usually doing so on the assumption that you will only use the medications they prescribed, not that you will also use other drugs like alcohol. 

If you intend to use alcohol or any other type of drug, whether it’s prescription, over-the-counter, or recreational, you should let your doctor know. They can then factor that into their recommendations and discuss whether that type of drug mixing may have dangers you weren’t aware of. 

Keep in mind that a doctor isn’t a police officer. Their goal is to help you stay safe and help you meet your medical needs. Hiding what drugs you intend to use from your doctor when they are trying to treat you has the potential to significantly impact your treatment and can potentially endanger your life.

Updated April 24, 2024
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  2. Predictors and Comparisons of Polydrug and Non-Polydrug Cocaine Use in Club Subcultures. (June 2009). American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
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  8. Prevalence and Correlates of Prescription Stimulant Use, Misuse, Use Disorders, and Motivations for Misuse Among Adults in the U.S. (April 2018). American Journal of Psychiatry.
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  11. Alcoholic Liver Disease. (July 2023). StatPearls.
  12. Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine. (April 2019). U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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