Managing Medications

Dangerous Cocktail: ADHD Medication and Alcohol

Taking the edge off with an evening drink might feel like a reward, but it can have hazardous results if you are also taking ADHD medication. Learn about drug interactions and the risks of drinking alcohol.

Man with ADHD holding medication in one hand and glass of wine in the other
Man with ADHD holding medication in one hand and glass of wine in the other

Each person has his or her special way of enjoying holidays, and, for many, that means having a glass of wine, a mixed drink, or a beer.

But is it sage to be mixing alcohol with and ADHD medicine? And what are the risks of imbibing if your ADHD is untreated?

Less is More

Drinking in moderation is wise for everyone, but it is imperative for adults with ADHD. Alcohol can be hazardous to your health and safety.

The stimulant medications often used to treat ADHD can intensify the effects of alcohol as well as those of marijuana or cocaine. The amount of alcohol that would typically cause a “buzz” in those who aren’t taking medication can result in inebriation in those who are. Antidepressants can lead to the same condition.

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My advice? Just say “no” to more than one beer or glass of wine. Try nursing a drink and then switching to a non-alcoholic beverage. If you’re unwilling to confine yourself to a single libation, I suggest skipping medication for the night. Those taking longer-acting medications don’t have the same recourse. They remain in your system long after you take them, so talk with your doctor about whether going off long-term medication is wise.

Remember, also, that if you skip medication for the evening, you may become hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive, and act inappropriately or engage in risky behaviors. Ask a trusted friend or significant other to keep an eye on you and to drive you home.

Treatment is Key

Those with untreated ADHD have another problem: using and perhaps abusing alcohol to feel better about themselves. The daily frustrations, job woes, and low self-esteem that can result from untreated ADHD take their toll on emotional balance. That’s why untreated teens and adults are at greater risk for alcohol dependency.

Statistical studies show that the likelihood of becoming alcohol- or drug- dependent is no greater for a person treated for ADHD than that for the general population. But there is an increased likelihood of becoming dependent on alcohol if the condition is left untreated.

So if you are receiving treatment for ADHD, don’t feel compelled to abstain this holiday season. And if you’re in the untreated camp, this is a good time to give yourself the gift of a thorough evaluation.

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