Adderall and Alcohol: The Dangers for ADHD Teens & Their Friends


Adderall, a medication prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a widely misused drug on college campuses, and it can have dangerous consequences. Learn the facts so you can talk to your teen about the dangers of mixing Adderall and alcohol.

What is Adderall?

Adderall is a prescription drug primarily used to treat ADHD — a common mental health disorder. Symptoms of ADHD include difficulty focusing, impulsive behavior, and difficulty sitting still. Medication and behavioral therapy can help alleviate symptoms.

Adderall is an amphetamine which stimulates the central nervous system. It gives patients with ADHD relief by helping improve organization and increase focus.

The “Study Drug”

Unfortunately, like many drugs, Adderall can be misused. Among college students, Adderall is known as the “study drug.” Students, both with and without ADHD, may be tempted to take advantage of Adderall’s stimulant properties to stay awake for an all-nighter before an exam, but the drug won’t really help them cram. Research reveals students who misuse stimulants may feel energetic, but with no benefit to working memory (which defeats the point of the late-night study session).

High stress levels may prompt students to start down a dangerous path. When you add the pressure of getting good grades on top of homesickness and making friends, college can be tough. Harried college students may turn to unsafe solutions to cope.

Adderall and Alcohol: An Unhealthy Combination

People diagnosed with ADHD who are prescribed Adderall by a doctor need to be aware of the dangers of mixing it with alcohol. As previously stated, Adderall is a stimulant, whereas alcohol is a depressant. As a result, Adderall can mask alcohol’s depressive component, causing a person to keep drinking and possibly leading to alcohol poisoning.

Studies indicate children diagnosed with ADHD run a higher risk of developing an alcohol misuse disorder. A separate study revealed ADHD can also make it more difficult to treat alcohol-related problems, making prevention key.

Signs of Adderall Abuse

Having your child away at college can make it harder for parents to see the signs of Adderall and/or alcohol misuse. Trust your instincts. If your child is acting differently or seems to be struggling, try to check in more often and be aware of the following signs of Adderall misuse:

  • Grandiosity
  • Talkativeness
  • Feelings of invincibility
  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety

Adderall misuse can also cause dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting.

Start the Conversation

Being proactive and starting the conversation with your child about misusing drugs and alcohol can help prevent substance issues. Making sure teens with ADHD know the facts and understand the risks of combining alcohol with medication is a parent’s best tool to keep them safe.

Talk it Out NC encourages parents to take an honest and open approach to substance misuse and underage drinking for all teens. Here are some tips for talking to your children:

Use age-appropriate messaging.

If you have a college-aged child with ADHD, it’s likely alcohol is already present in their lives. Make sure they understand the dangers of binge drinking and why they should never get into a car when the driver has been drinking.

Know the facts.

Young adults do not always want to hear your opinion. Arming yourself with facts can be a better way of getting your message across than simply handing down rules. For example, if your child has their nose to the grindstone and is busy studying at college, especially if they are taking Adderall to treat diagnosed ADHD, it might be helpful to point out that alcohol can damage the brain’s hippocampus, which is key for memory and learning. Remember, the stimulating properties of Adderall can mask alcohol’s depressive effects, increasing the danger of overconsumption.

Ask open-ended questions.

Sometimes, giving teens a safe space to talk about concerns they face is your best bet. Get the conversation rolling by giving them the lead. Asking open-ended questions can help you understand their struggles and provide guidance.


In college, kids gain independence and strike out on new adventures, but they are not prepared to deal with drugs and alcohol on their own. Talk it Out NC has resources to help you Start the Conversation about the dangers of misusing alcohol or any substance so they’re ready to face the future with confidence.