What is Adderall?
Adderall is a prescription stimulant combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. These stimulant drugs exert their effects by increasing the activity of certain brain chemicals (i.e., neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine). When used therapeutically, Adderall helps to manage symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) such as distractibility, short attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. It may also be prescribed to patients with the sleep disorder narcolepsy.1
For the treatment of ADHD, Adderall is currently available for prescription in several strengths an extended-release capsule, to be taken once a day in the morning.1
When used as prescribed, Adderall can have a number of common side effects including:2
- Dry mouth.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss.
Adderall may have more severe, life-threatening side effects and can even cause sudden death in people with heart defects or serious heart conditions. It can also exacerbate depression and other mental health disorders. Seek medical attention if you or your someone you love has any of these severe reactions:1,2
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
- Psychotic or manic symptoms, (e.g., hallucinations, delusional thinking, or mania).
Why & How Is It Abused?
Adderall is commonly misused by people looking to achieve a state of euphoria or a stimulant high.3 Many high school and college students believe that stimulants like Adderall enhance cognitive performance and will help them to do better in school.3
In the U.S., psychotherapeutic drugs (e.g., prescription opioids, sedatives, and stimulants) were misused by 18.1 million people in the past year according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.4 Among those misusing the stimulants, 18- to 25-year-olds made up 7.4% of the population, or about 2.5 million people.4
Abuse can occur in several ways including taking it more often or in a higher dose than prescribed, taking someone else’s prescription, or purchasing an illicit source for recreational use.5 When misused, it is generally swallowed whole as a pill, crushed and snorted, or dissolved in water and injected into a vein as a liquid.5
Along with a feeling of euphoria, abusing Adderall has other short-term effects such as dilated air passages and faster breathing, blood vessel constriction, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and increased blood sugar.5 At high doses, irregular heartbeats, cardiac arrest, dangerously high body temperatures, and seizures can occur.5
Can You Become Addicted to Adderall?
Although Adderall can be safe and effective in managing the symptoms of ADHD, consistently misusing stimulants can increase the risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD).5 Even when taken as directed, long-term use can lead to a tolerance (which often spurs increasing patterns of use) as well as physical dependence.5 If a person develops significant dependence and stops use, they may experience symptoms of withdrawal which may include prolonged sleeping, overeating, depressed mood, and some cravings.8
Mixing Adderall and Alcohol
Many people who drink alcohol are familiar with the more sedating effects of this substance. They may describe it as helping them feel more relaxed and content, enabling them to release inhibitions, and contributing to a “buzzed” or fuzzy mental state. However, too much alcohol also has acute cardiovascular effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure—physical changes that can become even more dangerous in the context of stimulant use.12
The stimulant has the ability to mask certain indicators of depressant intoxication which can cause individuals to drink more than intended and increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.6 Some signs of alcohol poisoning include confusion, pale skin, nausea and vomiting, slowed or irregular breathing, low body temperature, or hypothermia.11
The combination can also lead to an increased risk of serious and potentially-devastating cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke, even without underlying cardiovascular risk factors.3
The Issues of Mixing Alcohol with Other Stimulants
Managing a Co-Occurring SUD and Alcohol Use Disorder
Because both Adderall and alcohol are drugs that a person can become dependent on, when stopping use, combined withdrawal symptoms can occur. Individuals with moderate-to-severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal should seek medical assistance when choosing to quit since alcohol’s withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Symptoms may include anxiousness, tiredness, being irritable, depression, headaches, nightmares, decreased appetite, vomiting, pupil dilation, tremors, and a fast pulse.2
Those with moderate-to-severe symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may need inpatient treatment at a hospital or other facility that offers medical alcohol withdrawal management.8 You will be watched closely for serious health developments such as seizures, hallucinations, and delirium tremens. A detox setting offers medical care 24-hours-a-day in order to help individuals stay safe and comfortable.9 Medications may be used to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms.10
For those with a drug and/or alcohol addiction, detox may not be enough on its own to ensure lasting sobriety. After detox, many individuals benefit from continued treatment in the form of an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program.10 As part of a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals may participate in individual and family counseling, group therapy, and support group meetings.10 If you or someone you know is ready to discuss treatment, our admissions navigators are available 24/7 to speak with you today.
. MedlinePlus. (2019). Dextroamphetamine and Amphetamine.
. Food and Drug Administration. (n.d.). Adderall (packaging insert).
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Prescription stimulants in individuals with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: misuse, cognitive impact, and adverse effects.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2017.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Prescription Stimulants.
. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2016). Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.
. Drugs.com. (n.d.). Adderall XR (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine) and Alcohol/Food Interactions.
. Australian Government Department of Health. (2004). The amphetamine withdrawal syndrome.
. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. A Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45).
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (2018). Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). (n.d.). Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.