Dangers & Effects of Mixing Alcohol & Amphetamines
Research suggests that people often use alcohol and amphetamines together, either to enhance the desired effects or avert the unwanted effects that can occur from using either substance alone. However, the amphetamine-alcohol interaction can affect a person’s health and may increase the risks associated with stimulant and alcohol misuse, including the risk of overdose.
Read on to learn more about the effects and dangers of mixing alcohol and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall) and how to get help for drug and alcohol addiction at Recovery First.
What Are Amphetamines?
Amphetamines are stimulant drugs that work by increasing activity in the body’s central nervous system. Amphetamines can be legally prescribed, diverted from a relative or friend who has a prescription, or purchased illegally.4
Prescription stimulants are widely used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the sleep disorder narcolepsy. In people with ADHD or narcolepsy, prescription stimulants may help improve deficiencies in focus, alertness, and energy.5
Misuse of prescription stimulants is especially common among youth and young adults, who may use prescription stimulants as “study drugs” to enhance academic performance or, in other cases, to lose weight or get high.5,6
Misuse of prescription stimulants or any use of illicit amphetamines can increase the risk and severity of adverse side effects such as:3
- Elevated vital signs (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature).
- Rapid breathing.
- Increased wakefulness and physical activity.
- Decreased appetite.
Chronic use or misuse can affect a person’s health and overall well-being. Long-term effects of amphetamines may include:3
- Weight loss.
- Auditory or visual hallucinations (i.e., psychosis).
- Anger and/or violent behavior.
- Heart problems.
Amphetamines encompass a range of licit and illicit drugs. Examples of widely prescribed amphetamines are:4,5
- Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine).
- Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).
- Vyvanse (lisdexamphetamine).
Although not technically amphetamines, Ritalin and Concerta are prescription stimulants that contain the active ingredient methylphenidate, which has been described as “amphetamine-like.”7
Methamphetamine is also available via a prescription medication called Desoxyn, which is approved to treat ADHD but used less frequently than the medicines listed above.4,8
However, methamphetamine or “meth” is commonly encountered on the street as an illicit substance in the form of counterfeit Adderall as well as crystal meth, which is often smoked, snorted, or injected (aka crystal, ice, crank, tweak).4,8
Effects of Mixing Amphetamines & Alcohol
Studies suggest that simultaneous alcohol and amphetamine-type stimulant use is relatively common, with drinking generally occurring before consuming amphetamines and while “high.”9
People who mix these two substances report that there is an increase in the positive subjective effects of mixing alcohol and amphetamines compared to either drug alone.1
Though taking amphetamines and alcohol does not result in a more dangerous or harmful drug interaction like the one that occurs when alcohol is combined with cocaine, mixing alcohol and amphetamines can at least compound or worsen similar effects and risks associated with misusing each substance on its own.1,10,
Misuse of alcohol and amphetamines can:1,3,12,13
- Increase blood pressure.
- Lead to cardiovascular problems or heart failure.
- Lead to dehydration, muscle atrophy, and kidney failure.
Consuming alcohol alongside amphetamines can inhibit the body’s ability to metabolize amphetamines, resulting in higher concentrations of the drug in a person’s bloodstream and subsequently leading to an increase in their stimulant effects.10
Research indicates that some people misuse alcohol and amphetamines to “balance out” the negative effects of both substances. Studies that examined the effects of repeated doses of meth and alcohol have supported this assertion, finding that each substance had the potential to blunt some of the adverse effects of the other.14
For example, study participants that used both meth and alcohol experienced less sleep disruption or insomnia, compared to those that used meth alone. Likewise, the meth-alcohol combination appeared to diminish some of the sedative effects or slowed thinking and physical behaviors associated with alcohol intoxication.14
Studies show that people who mix amphetamines and alcohol tend to feel less “drunk” or tired, compared to consuming alcohol by itself. As a result, someone may misjudge their level of intoxication and continue to drink.15
With continued drinking, the risks of alcohol poisoning or overdose increase as the effects of the amphetamine wane.14
Overdosing on Alcohol & Amphetamines
Mixing alcohol and amphetamines can have unpredictable effects. Overdose toxicity is possible with each individual substance and so, naturally, it’ll be a risk in a situation that combines them.3,11
Illicitly obtained amphetamines, such as counterfeit Adderall or methamphetamine, can also be contaminated with fentanyl, which, when added to an already unpredictable combination, further increases the overdose risk.16
An overdose is a medical emergency. If you think you or someone else is overdosing, call 911 immediately.
Other Potential Dangers of Mixing Alcohol & Amphetamines
Mixing alcohol and amphetamines may also increase the risk of personal injury or harm to others, due to a greater likelihood of risk-taking behaviors (e.g., driving under the influence). Research indicates that, although amphetamines can mask some of the sedative effects of alcohol, a person using both substances would still be considered unsafe to drive.14,17
Additionally, combining alcohol with any drug, including amphetamines, can increase the risk of brain, heart, or other vital organ damage.11
Polysubstance use also increases the risk of developing concurrent substance use disorders, which can impact addiction treatment options and outcomes.1,12
People who misuse stimulants often become addicted to other substances, including alcohol, as well as other sedatives, marijuana, and opioids.2,12,18 Past studies have estimated that nearly 80% of people diagnosed with amphetamine dependence also meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.1,10
Polysubstance use and concurrent substance use disorders can lead to higher rates of:12
- Co-occurring mental health conditions.
- Financial and legal problems.
- Suicide attempts or ideation.
- Criminal activity.
A study on the effects of mixing methamphetamine and alcohol noted a significant increase in the amount of cigarette smoking by participants. This result suggests that people who use both substances could be at risk of becoming heavy smokers or developing a simultaneous nicotine addiction.14
Treatment for Amphetamine & Alcohol Addiction
Seeking treatment for amphetamine and alcohol addiction can help people stop the cycle of misuse and start the path to recovery.
Polysubstance use can complicate the diagnosis and treatment process because people who use or misuse more than one substance are often suffering from additional psychiatric conditions at the same time.12,18
At Recovery First, we specialize in the treatment of co-occurring disorders and offer different types of addiction treatment designed to meet the individual needs of each patient.
Treatment for addiction may involve a combination of evidence-based behavioral therapies and medications. While there are no medications approved to treat stimulant addiction, there are some pharmacotherapies used to treat alcohol use disorders and manage certain symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.12,18
The use of medication will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Treatment at our inpatient rehab near Miami may begin with medical detox and withdrawal management, followed by more comprehensive rehab in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Upon admission, patients will receive a thorough medical and psychological evaluation to determine the most appropriate course of care.
To learn more about our addiction treatment programs, call us at . Our admissions navigators are available around the clock to answer any questions you may have about using insurance to pay for rehab or other ways to pay for rehab.
You can also get more details about your specific insurance coverage by filling out this simple and secure .
If you or someone you love has lost control of their drug and alcohol use, we are here to help. Contact us to start treatment today.