Lisdexamfetamine (more commonly known by its brand name, Vyvanse) is a stimulant medication that is primarily used to treat ADHD. As a prescription stimulant medication, it is also a Schedule II controlled substance, which means there is a high potential for the development of abuse and physical dependence.1The odds for physical harm increase considerably when drinking alcohol while taking Vyvanse.
The Issues of Mixing Alcohol with Other Stimulants
Side Effects and Dangers of Drinking Alcohol While Taking Vyvanse
Different stimulant medications used to treat ADHD work differently in the body. Vyvanse is a time-release medication that is meant to be taken once a day for ADHD. Once in the system, the body converts Vyvanse into dextroamphetamine, a central nervous system stimulant that both stimulates the release and blocks the reuptake of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine. The drug works for ADHD by stimulating a key brain region responsible for vigilance and attention, but because these same neurotransmitters help control pleasurable feelings and a general sense of well-being, the odds increase for abuse. While the capsule form of Vyvanse is designed to prevent the methods of abuse commonly seen with other drugs for ADHD (i.e. crushing and snorting), it may still be easy to abuse by mixing it with other drugs or taking large amounts of it.2
For people who tend to engage in drug abuse, alcohol is a popular mixer, coupling it with various drugs for an enhanced euphoric effect. Mixing alcohol and stimulant medications such as Vyvanse often results in an each substance countering the effects of the other. For instance, alcohol minimizes some of the stimulant effects of Vyvanse, and Vyvanse reduces some of the sedating effects of alcohol. This can result in an individual continuing to use more of one or both of the drugs to reach the desired effect, which may lead to a number of potentially dangerous results, including overdose.
Side effects of combining alcohol with Vyvanse may include:2,3
- Dramatic changes in blood pressure.
- Increased heart rate.
- Chest pains.
- Heart attack.
- Risk of seizure.
- Dilated pupils.
- Dry mouth.
- Dry nose.
- Feelings of euphoria.
- Memory lapses.
- Unusual behavior (becoming secretive and isolated).
- Periods of fatigue or general malaise.
- Mood swings.
Treatment for Addiction to Vyvanse and Alcohol
People who use Vyvanse to treat ADHD via a prescription and use it within its prescribed parameters will typically not develop abuse issues. Instead, stimulant medications are most often abused by people who obtain them illegally by either buying them off the street or getting them from someone who has a prescription for them.
While the abuse of Vyvanse alone can place an individual in danger, mixing Vyvanse and alcohol significantly increases the chances of experiencing even more serious and potentially harmful side effects. Anyone who develops addiction symptoms to more than one drug as a result needs to treat these addictions simultaneously.
The treatment protocol for someone with an addiction to Vyvanse and alcohol includes:4,5
- A thorough intake interview and assessment of the individual’s personal history, medical history, and history of drug abuse.
- If a person has developed a physical dependence to Vyvanse or alcohol or both, they must first go through a reputable detoxification program.
- During the intake phase, preparations should be made for long-term treatment accommodations to assist the individual in maintaining their recovery. People in a medical detox program also will need to engage in a comprehensive treatment program following their release from detox. The detox process is only the first step in recovery.
- Comprehensive recovery programs will include some form of substance abuse counseling or substance abuse therapy that addresses the person's personal issues and any potential co-occurring psychological disorders, and endeavoring to provide the person with education and the tools needed to engage in a full program of recovery. In many instances, combined therapy (the use of a psychiatrist and a therapist) is helpful to address the range of physical, mental, and emotional issues a person may have.
- Comprehensive recovery programs also enlist social support for the recovering person, including friends and family. Finding new friends who also are in recovery may result in a mutually beneficial relationship over the course of a person’s recovery, and extend beyond the early phases of treatment, provided they are also committed to their recovery process.
- Comprehensive recovery programs emphasize the need for the individual to develop and maintain a long-term aftercare program designed to keep the individual motivated, and to provide them support in the future when they face the temptations common to those in recovery. Support groups, such as 12-step programs, can be useful in accomplishing this goal.
If you’re concerned that the co-abuse of alcohol and prescription stimulants is impacting your health, or that of someone close to you, substance abuse treatment programs can help. Call us to speak with a treatment support advisor about your recovery options.
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (2016). Drug scheduling.
- Clementi, F., & Fumagalli, G. (Eds.). (2015). General and Molecular Pharmacology: Principles of Drug Action. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
- Doweiko, H. (2011). Concepts of Chemical Dependency. Stamford, CT: Nelson Education.
- Evans, K. & Sullivan, J. M. (2001). Dual Diagnosis: Counseling the Mentally Ill Substance Abuser. New York: Guilford Press.
- Ries, R. K., Fiellin, D. A., Miller, S. C., & Saitz, R. (2014). The ASAM Principles of Addiction Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.