Mixing ADHD and Alcohol May Increase Your Risk of Addiction

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that causes hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and difficulty paying attention. By some estimates, ADHD affects approximately 11% of children and 4% of adults. Adults with ADHD may occasionally enjoy an alcoholic beverage, but they should be very cautious.

Research has shown that people who have ADHD have an increased risk for alcohol use disorder (AUD) and may start drinking at an earlier age. When people with ADHD consume alcohol, their symptoms of inattentiveness and impulsiveness may increase.

This article will cover the risks of alcohol drinking for people with ADHD, including alcohol use disorder and other substance use disorders, increased symptoms of ADHD, and interactions with ADHD medications.

Alcoholic beverages

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ADHD and Alcohol Facts

Alcohol is a known depressant. For individuals who have ADHD, it can have the opposite effect. When a person drinks alcohol, it affects the brain’s frontal lobe. This is the area that is responsible for clear thinking and decision-making.

When a person has symptoms of ADHD and alcohol in their system, the symptoms of ADHD can increase. Since alcohol is a depressant, some may use this substance to decrease symptoms, but alcohol is known to have an adverse effect and enhance the symptoms of ADHD.

Alcohol Use Disorder

Studies have shown that individuals with ADHD are known to have a higher risk of alcohol use disorder. In AUD, a person's drinking behavior consumes them and impacts their life.

One of the symptoms of ADHD is impulsivity, and this trait makes people with ADHD more susceptible to alcohol use. Up to 43% of individuals with ADHD develop alcohol use disorder.

It is important to seek help for both conditions. Your healthcare provider can point you in the right direction for help regarding ADHD and alcohol use disorder.

Symptom Intensity

Alcohol is known to increase some symptoms of ADHD. Impulsivity, proper decision-making, and lack of attention are increased due to the symptoms of ADHD and the effects of alcohol. In addition, studies show that people with ADHD may have a higher risk of developing an issue with alcohol and substance misuse.

Risk of Insomnia 

Insomnia is when you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Studies show there is a link to insomnia in people with ADHD. This can be due to medication, stress, lack of time management and organization skills, and their inability to rest and focus when it is time to go to sleep.

In addition, some people who have ADHD also have sleep apnea (breathing stops and starts throughout the night) or restless legs syndrome (condition causing an extreme urge to move your legs). Drinking alcohol can make insomnia worse.

If you have ADHD and difficulty sleeping, contact your healthcare provider and discuss your concerns. They can help you create a plan to improve your sleep. It is important to get adequate amounts of sleep for your overall health.

ADHD Medication and Alcohol

The most common ADHD medications are the following:

  • Adderall (amphetamine/dextroamphetamine)
  • Ritalin (methylphenidate)
  • Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine)
  • Focalin (dexmethylphenidate)
  • Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine)
  • Concerta (methylphenidate)
  • Daytrana (methylphenidate)
  • Metadate (methylphenidate)

These are stimulant drugs. They typically last for 4 to 12 hours. These medications can come in liquid, capsule, or pill form. The purpose of the medications is to increase focus and have better outcomes in school and/or at work.

Some non-stimulant medications are prescribed ADHD, such as Strattera (atomoxetine) and Intuniv (guanfacine).

Mixing ADHD medication and alcohol can be dangerous. There can be side effects including insomnia, high blood pressure, and increased heart rate,

Effect of ADHD on Alcohol Tolerance

Studies have shown that individuals with ADHD are prone to binge drinking (a pattern of drinking to intoxication). Drinking too much can aggravate ADHD symptoms, including impulsiveness and difficulty focusing.

If the alcohol use is long term, it is known to make other symptoms of ADHD worse and impair memory, speech, cognitive ability (thinking and memory), and proper decision-making.

Does Alcohol Help With ADHD?

Drinking alcohol doesn’t help individuals with ADHD. Whether they are on medication or not, there can be adverse effects when consuming alcohol. This is not to say that you can’t have a drink occasionally. To be safe, check with your healthcare professional regarding alcohol use.

Where to Get Help

If you have an issue with alcohol, know that you are not alone and there is help. There are support groups in your area, community centers that offer support, and therapy. Speak to your healthcare provider about your concerns. They can refer you to the proper resources to help you with your condition.

Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to other health conditions. It is best to get help as early as possible, even if you think your drinking may become problematic or your family has a history of addiction.

Summary

When an individual has ADHD, it is important to understand the effects of alcohol. Drinking alcohol can increase the symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity and impaired decision-making. People with ADHD are at increased risk of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol and ADHD medications can produce side effects.

Speak with your healthcare provider before consuming alcohol and ask about the risks and side effects whether you are on medication for ADHD to not.

A Word From Verywell

If you have ADHD, it is important to work with your healthcare provider. If you are an adult with ADHD, and consume alcohol, ask your healthcare provider whether it is OK to have an occasional alcoholic beverage.

If you see that your alcohol consumption may create a problem, there are ways to get help. Speak with your healthcare professional about the right steps to take.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What makes ADHD different from fetal alcohol syndrome?

    One way is that when a child has ADHD, they have difficulty retaining information after they learn it. When a baby is exposed to alcohol in the womb that results in fetal alcohol syndrome, they tend to have difficulty learning and understanding the information that is presented to them.

  • Does alcohol increase the side effects of ADHD medication?

    Yes, alcohol is known to increase the side effects of ADHD medication.

  • Are there other kinds of beverages that make ADHD worse?

    Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, caffeinated sodas, and energy drinks, are stimulants and can affect sleep. This can potentially worsen ADHD symptoms. But there may be beneficial effects of caffeine on ADHD, so this is an area of debate and research.

  • Can you be diagnosed with ADHD and FASD?

    Yes, a person can be diagnosed with ADHD and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). When a person has FASD there is also an increased risk for being diagnosed with ADHD.

  • Is alcohol a depressant or a stimulant for ADHD patients?

    Alcohol is a depressant, but for ADHD patients, becaue of the increase of symptoms and side effects, it can be considered a stimulant.

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10 Sources
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