Effects of Alcohol on People with ADHD
Research demonstrates that there is a link between Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and alcohol. People with ADHD tend to drink more or start drinking earlier.
Not everyone with ADHD misuses alcohol, but the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder is higher in people with ADHD.
Read this article to know what the effects of alcohol on people with ADHD are, how alcohol and ADHD medication interacts, and other potential risks.
Risk factors of ADHD and alcohol tolerance
ADHD does not cause alcohol misuse, but it has been a risk factor for that. Medicines such as Adderall and Vyvanse have been prescribed all throughout the country for curbing the effects of ADHD. These medicines are given only when a proper diagnosis is run through by the doctor over their patient and it is confirmed that
On different social platforms, people search for articles related to ADHD and alcohol. Platforms such as Reddit, Flipboard, etc are filled with questions relating to several health issues:
Early alcohol use– A twin study conducted in the year 2018 found that severe childhood ADHD and alcohol aggression and misuse are associated. Childhood ADHD also has a high potential for heavy or frequent alcohol use.
Raised risk of binge drinking– According to a study conducted in the year 2015, people having ADHD are likely to involve in binge drinking activities in their early adulthood.
Elevated sensitivity to alcohol’s effects– A study conducted in the year 2009 found out that people with the disorder have ADHD alcohol blackouts and signs of impairment. They cannot complete the tasks that even need less attention and focus.
Severe ADHD symptoms– Alcohol impairment increases the symptoms of ADHD, such as trouble focusing and impulsiveness. Additionally, long-term alcohol use causes cognition impairment and difficulty with speech, decision-making, and memory. These effects worsen ADHD symptoms.
Higher risk of alcohol use disorder– A 2011 review established that ADHD developed in early childhood can be a significant risk factor in developing alcohol use disorder.
Summary: Alcohol is not suitable for your mental or physical health. Drinking habits always have risks, even when you don’t have ADHD. If you have ADHD, these risks are higher.
Alcohol and ADHD medication
Alcohol may interact with ADHD medications. However, it depends on what kind of medicine you are using for the treatment of your ADHD.
Central nervous system stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are the most common treatment options for ADHD.
Stimulants increase the activity of your nervous system. Alcohol, on the contrary, decreases the fundamental nervous system activities. Medicines such as Adderall are constantly under the knife about their relevance in the times when drug abuse and addiction is such a high point.
However, CNS stimulants and depressants like alcohol do not cancel out each other. Alcohol changes the way your body processes stimulants and alcohol. It leads to increased side effects, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Pounding heart rate
- Trouble sleeping
Using alcohol and medications for ADHD together can put you at the risk of alcohol overdose or poisoning. In time, both drugs put a strain on your heart and increase the chances of stroke or heart attack.
Strattera (Atomoxetine) is a non-stimulant medication use in the treatment of ADHD. While it is less common than stimulant medicines like Adderall and Vyvanse, it can be safer when combined with alcohol.
A literature review of 2015 reported that only nausea is an effect among heavy drinkers who also take atomoxetine for treating ADHD. However, doctors and manufacturers of the drug do not recommend its combination with alcohol.
There are some additional factors involved in how our body reacts to alcohol while its on ADHD medications. Two of these factors are a dose of the drug and whether the medicine is a short-acting or long-acting one.
Generally, it would be best if you did not drink alcohol, especially heavy drinking, while on ADHD medications. But occasionally, you may enjoy a sip of the drink.
Talk to a doctor or a trained medical professional if you have doubts regarding the use of alcohol along with ADHD medicines.
Summary: It would be best to avoid drinking, specifically heavy drinking, while you are on ADHD medications.
Alcohol, ADHD, and Depression
There is a complicated relationship between ADHD, alcohol, and depression. While there is no direct relation between them or the presence of one does not directly cause the other, they are relatable.
People having ADHD are likely to use alcohol and experience depression. Additionally, alcohol is associated with depression.
According to a longitudinal study of 2019, people with ADHD are at higher risk of simultaneous heavy drinking and depression.
Some people also drink to relieve symptoms of depression or ADHD. Other drinks too much and eventually experience severe ADHD symptoms. They even end up feeling depressed sometimes.
In both cases, alcohol damages the brain chemistry and increases the risk of depression and ADHD symptoms worsening. People may experience ADHD, alcohol anger, and depression.
People with depression and ADHD develop a vicious cycle of heavy drinking. After binge drinking, an individual wake up feeling anxious, guilty, or depressed, having restlessness and trouble focusing.
People find it tempting to drink more to cope up with these feelings. Over a while, it becomes necessary for a person to drink more and more to find psychological and physical relief. In the meantime, the negative impacts of drinking become hard to cope with.
Addiction and ADHD
People with ADHD might not use alcohol as the only substance. According to a review of 2017, ADHD is a risk factor for substance use, dependence, and misuse.
Alcohol releases dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain. However, the main cause of ADHD is still unknown; doctors say that some underlying brain conditions can cause ADHD. Dopamine is known to be one of the causes of ADHD. So, a person drinking for a long time can have ADHD due to alcohol dopamine release.
The common symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and impaired emotional functioning, have a link with this. All three signs play a role in substance abuse, putting ADHD patients at a higher risk of addiction.
If a person has a diagnosis of ADHD and alcohol use disorder, treatment should address both ADHD and addiction.
The first step to this is usually detoxification. Later, a doctor may prescribe medicines for ADHD, including stimulants (short-acting or long-acting) or non-stimulants, to reduce the risk of addiction.
When to visit a doctor
Talk to a doctor about your alcohol or substance use if you have ADHD. The doctor may help you make the right decisions regarding the use of substances.
You need to visit a healthcare professional if you experience the following symptoms:
- Cravings for substance
- A recurring desire to use a substance, often every day or several times a day
- High tolerance to the effects of substance
- Keeping an all-time supply of the substance
- Spending a lot of money or time acquiring the substance
- Avoiding social or personal responsibilities due to substance use
- Using the substance despite its adverse effects
- Failing at discontinuing substance abuse despite trying hard
- Experiencing symptoms of substance withdrawal when you stop taking the substance
NOTE: Call the National Drug Helpline (1-844-289-0879) if you are your loved ones who developed an addiction. The NIDA, National Institute of Drug Abuse, has additional online resources for addicted individuals and their families.
There is a mighty relationship between alcohol use and ADHD. However, it doesn’t mean everyone with ADHD can develop an alcohol use disorder.
If you have a diagnosis of ADHD, consult a doctor about how alcohol or other substance will affect your ADHD symptoms and medications.