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Back in school we were taught that a positive plus a negative, such as +1 + -1, equals zero. They cancel each other out. When considering the use of alcohol, a depressant, with Adderall, a stimulant, it might stand to reason that the effect is also null and void. But when it comes to substances it just doesn’t work that way. Mixing alcohol and Adderall is a recipe for serious health consequences.
This particular combo can be especially prevalent among college-aged students and young adults. Both of these substances are abused in this particular age group, so the risk is high for dangerous outcomes when they are abused together. Students often use Adderall illicitly as a study aide, seeking the stimulant effects that can help students keep up with heavy academic demands on little sleep. Alcohol is the most abused recreational substance on college campuses. It isn’t hard to see that the potential for both substances to be abused is rife.
Understanding the dangers of Adderall and alcohol, whether abused separately or together, is important for young adults to grasp. Misinformation or simple ignorance can have devastating consequences when it comes to mixing Adderall and alcohol. In gaining an understanding of the dangers of Adderall and alcohol combination abuse, it is helpful to first learn about each of these substances.
Adderall is a prescription stimulant designed to treat individuals with ADHD or narcolepsy. In these patients, the drug does not cause typical stimulant effects. However, in healthy people who use the drug recreationally without a prescription, Adderall has similar effects as potent stimulants like methamphetamine and, like meth, has a high potential for abuse. While initially an individual taking the drug to help them study longer and concentrate better will indeed experience these effects, in time the drug loses its effects. When tolerance increases, so does the use of the drug, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as:
- Weight loss
- Unusual excitability
- Aggressive or violent behaviors
- Talking excessively, rapid speech
- Lack of sleep
- Mood swings
- Irregular heartbeat
Adderall abuse can lead to serious health consequences, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Weakness in arms and legs
- Swelling of the throat or eyes
- Cardiac arrest
Alcohol abuse and addiction exists under the umbrella term alcohol use disorder. Depending on how many of the diagnostic criteria an individual presents with, a diagnosis of mild, moderate, or severe alcohol use disorder is made. Alcohol is still the most widely abused substance, with about 3 million cases of alcohol use disorder made each year. Alcohol abuse can include binge drinking, which is the consumption of large amounts of alcohol in a short period, increasing the risk of alcohol poisoning. Consistent heavy drinking will result in alcohol addiction or dependency. Symptoms of alcohol abuse include:
- Impairment in academic or work performance
- Bloating and weight gain
- Aggressive or violent behaviors
- Isolating behaviors, drinking alone more often
- Memory blackouts
- Acute hangovers
- Obsessing about next drinking experience and obtaining alcohol
- Legal problems, such as DUI
- Accidents related to intoxication
- Experience withdrawal symptoms, such as hand tremors, nausea, sweating
Alcohol abuse also results in serious health consequences, including:
- Alcohol poisoning
- Fetal alcohol syndrome in babies born to alcoholic mothers
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, liver, and colon
- Mental health disorders, such as depression
- Liver failure, resulting in death
The Dangers of Adderall and Alcohol as Polysubstance Abuse
On college campuses today, both Adderall and alcohol continue to be popular among students, as both separate substances of abuse, or used in tandem. Even though Adderall is a prescription medicine, it is easy to obtain the drug. Most older adults are aware that prescription medications should never be taken with alcohol, but young adults may not heed these warnings.
One of the common reasons someone may use alcohol with Adderall is to tone down the stimulant effects of high doses of Adderall by drinking alcohol. This practice occurs mostly among young males in the 15-30 year old age bracket, who are usually not the ones prescribed the Adderall. Instead, these young adults procure the medication from friends who are legitimately prescribed the drug for ADHD. Other sources for the Adderall include stealing it from family or friends, or purchasing it illicitly.
Individuals who combine these powerful substances may not be aware of the dangers of Adderall and alcohol when used together. The unpredictable effects of combining alcohol and Adderall can potentially lead to dangerous side effects. Here are some of the negative effects of mixing these two substances:
- Overdose can happen when the individual can’t perceive the actual effects of the substances. They may not experience the full effect of the Adderall or the alcohol and continue to use them, potentially leading to an overdose.
- Seizures are more likely to happen when these substances are used simultaneously.
- Other effects of the alcohol-Adderall combination include convulsions, heart palpitations, increased body temperature, and tremors.
- Impairment by the alcohol may not be recognized because of the Adderall in the system, possibly leading to an accident or injury.
- Damage to the central nervous system can be a result of long-term abuse of the Adderall and alcohol.
- Adderall and alcohol use can lead to serious heart complications, such as arrhythmia, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke or heart attack.
- While under the effect of both substances the individual has decreased ability to reason or make judgments, possibly leading to dangerous impulsive or high-risk behaviors. These behaviors might include driving under the influence, unsafe sex practices, illegal acts, or violence.
- Abusing both substances can cause psychosis or hallucinations
- The possibility of developing a polysubstance addiction with continued use of both substances.
Getting Treatment for Adderall and Alcohol Abuse
When negative consequences caused by the abuse of Adderall and alcohol begin piling up it is time to address the need for professional help. Addiction treatment requires a commitment of time and effort, and can be accessed in outpatient or inpatient formats. In most cases, the acuity of the problem is what dictates whether someone is going to need an inpatient program.
The inpatient rehab generally lasts 30-90 days in duration. Inpatient treatment provides 24-hour support and monitoring while the individual participates in several therapeutic activities each day, including:
- Individual psychotherapy: Many times there is an underlying psychological source of distress in those who abuse substances. Therapy allows the individual to consider any emotional issues that are behind the need for mind-altering substances. Possibly there is a history of childhood trauma or abuse, or problems within the family that are factors in the substance misuse of alcohol and Adderall.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT addresses thought distortions that have led to the substance abuse, and helps individuals to change the damaging thought-behavior patterns.
- Group therapy. Peer support is an integral part of residential rehab, allowing individuals to form bonds while in treatment. Group therapy sessions allow for individuals to bond with each other while they share their personal experiences and emotions under the guidance of a therapist.
- Medication assisted treatment (MAT): Naltrexone is a medication that can assist individuals with a moderate to severe alcohol use disorder to remain sober in the early months of recovery.
- 12-step or similar recovery group meetings: Recovery groups are often an added treatment element in residential rehab programming.
- Family counseling. Because many of the individuals with an alcohol-Adderall problem are teens and college-aged, the family-focused groups can be very helpful in moving forward in recovery with the support of the family.
- Addiction education: Young adults will benefit from learning how substances like Adderall and alcohol impact brain structures, leading to chemical dependency. This information can help to deter substance abuse in the future.
- Relapse prevention planning: Individuals will plan relapse prevention strategies in response to future stressors or triggers that might tempt them to return to substance misuse. By identifying the specific triggers, and crafting a proactive plan to avoid relapse, the individual protects his or her sobriety.
- Adjunctive activities such as mindfulness and yoga. Young adults experience high levels of stress in college and the early phase of a budding career. These pressures can lead to substance abuse. During treatment, individuals are exposed to holistic activities that teach them how to regulate stress by inducing relaxation. These skills can be accessed regularly after rehab as well, offering proven methods to manage stress in daily life.
An outpatient program will suffice for the individual with an emerging polysubstance problem. Outpatient rehabs offer a diverse menu of intensities, ranging from basic outpatient therapy sessions and hour or two per week, to intensive outpatient programs (IOP) requiring about 9 hours per week of participation, to partial hospitalization programs (PHP) that may require upwards of 25-30 hours per week. The client will live at home or in sober living housing during the treatment program, which can last a month or more, depending on the severity of the substance abuse. Outpatient rehabs provide group therapy many of the same treatment elements as inpatient treatment but at a lower level of intensity. These include individual therapy, addiction education, relapse prevention planning, family therapy, MAT, if applicable, and life skills training.
Solutions 4 Recovery Provides Treatment for Combination Adderall and Alcohol Abuse
Solutions 4 Recovery is a leading provider of effective addiction treatment in Orange County, California. The clinical team at Solutions 4 Recovery takes a fresh approach to treating addiction by addressing each client’s unique needs and creating a multi-modal treatment plan specifically built for them. By customizing treatment, the dangers of Adderall and alcohol abuse can be mitigated through thoughtful, targeted clinical therapies and addiction education. Clients will leave treatment with a new awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, knowledge of how addiction develops, and recovery tools, including stress-reduction techniques, that will assist them into the foreseeable future. For more information about our addiction treatment programming, please contact Solutions 4 Recovery today at (888) 417-1874