Mixing Ritalin With Alcohol | Effects & Health Risks
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is known to cause inattention, disorganization, fidgeting, and a very high energy level.
To treat this common condition, stimulant medications may be prescribed for long-term use, helping to stabilize a person’s motivation, pleasure, attention, and movement impulse.
These prescription stimulant medications, which may also be prescribed to treat narcolepsy, are:
- Ritalin (methylphenidate)
- Adderall (amphetamines)
- Concerta (methylphenidate)
However, these three medications used are also commonly abused in combination with alcohol.
Why Ritalin Is Sometimes Mixed With Alcohol
Ritalin works by blocking the reabsorption of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine in the synapses of the brain, keeping them around longer so they have more effect.
Because people with ADHD tend to have chronically low levels of these neurotransmitters, Ritalin and other ADHD medications can help stabilize their neurochemistry and clear their thoughts, calm them down, and increase their ability to make decisions and control impulses.
Alcohol, on the other hand, can provide some initial stimulant effects but otherwise acts as a central nervous system depressant, slowing down a person’s body and impairing thinking, impulse control, and coordination.
Due to these opposing effects, different individuals may abuse Ritalin with alcohol for several potential reasons:
- to increase the euphoria of Ritalin abuse
- to counteract the negative effects of one or both substances
- to help with comedown or hangover symptoms after the effects
Short-Term Effects Of Mixing Ritalin & Alcohol
While many individuals are able to drink alcohol in moderation while taking therapeutic doses of prescription drugs like Ritalin, experts are quick to advise that there is no completely safe way to mix these substances.
Drinking alcohol can actually cause Ritalin to be absorbed into the body more quickly, suddenly increasing its concentration in the blood and greatly enhancing the risk of negative side effects associated with Ritalin abuse, including:
- elevated heart rate
- elevated blood pressure
- high body temperature
- stimulant psychosis (marked by hallucinations, paranoia, delusions, and confusion)
- sudden death (due to heart attack, stroke, or seizures)
Risk Of Alcohol Poisoning
In addition, by counteracting the sedation or drowsiness that would typically result from overconsumption of alcohol, Ritalin use can trick a person into drinking more than they normally would.
Drinking too much increases the risk of alcohol poisoning, a potentially life-threatening form of drug overdose.
Health Risks Of Concurrent Ritalin & Alcohol Use
Abusing Ritalin and alcohol together is a form of poly-drug abuse, which can further contribute to the known, long-term consequences of abusing either alcohol or Ritalin alone.
These combined effects may include:
- accelerating and intensifying the development of drug and alcohol tolerance, physical dependence, and addiction
- prompting the development of withdrawal symptoms when you stop taking Ritalin and/or alcohol for too long
- complicating future detox attempts
Long-Term Side Effects Of Methylphenidate Abuse
The beneficial effects of Ritalin use are only available to individuals who need help dealing with symptoms of ADHD and take the drug at therapeutic doses. When used by others, Ritalin accelerates the central nervous system, resulting in serious long-term effects including:
- sleep problems
- problematic weight loss
- alternating mania and depression
- suicidal ideation
- organ damage and heart problems
- psychotic disorders
- Ritalin dependency
Long-Term Side Effects Of Alcohol Abuse
Long term, alcohol abuse can cause severe and often deadly health conditions including:
- alcoholic liver disease
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- increased risk of cancer
- pregnancy complications
- sexual dysfunction
- mental health effects (anxiety and depression)
- behavioral and personality changes
- increased risk of heart attack and stroke
Help For Substance Abuse & Addiction
If you or a loved one habitually misuse alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, whether alone or in combination, you may benefit from treatment at approved substance abuse and addiction treatment center.
To learn about our treatment programs, please contact us today.
Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2023 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
This page does not provide medical advice.
Food and Drug Administration - MEDICATION GUIDE RITALIN®
Journal of Addiction Research and Theory - Alcohol Interactions with Psychostimulants: An Overview of Animal and Human Studies
National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) - Alcohol's Effects on the Body
Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry - Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects
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