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Doctors prescribe stimulants to treat a variety of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). However, misuse and addiction are common concerns for this medication.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 5 million Americans misuse prescription stimulants and almost half a million people in the U.S. have a stimulant use disorder.4
It is not uncommon for someone abusing drugs to abuse another substance at the same time. This is true with stimulants and alcohol.
The co-occurrence of stimulant use and alcohol abuse is common. Several studies show that there is a strong connection between ADHD, drug abuse, and alcohol use disorder.1
ADHD is 5 to 10 times more common in adult alcoholics, while children with ADHD are more likely to abuse alcohol during their teenage years.1
Stimulants are also called “uppers.” They increase the heart rate and brain function to increase focus and energy.
Doctors prescribe stimulants to treat conditions such as ADHD and narcolepsy. They can also aid in weight loss.
Unfortunately, they can be highly addictive. People can become physically and psychologically dependent.
Common stimulants include:
Prescription stimulants come in tablets, capsules, or liquid forms taken by mouth. Illicit stimulants are taken through smoking, snorting, dissolving, or injecting.
Stimulants speed up how the body functions. They also increase dopamine and norepinephrine's brain activity.
Dopamine affects the reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. Norepinephrine affects the heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing.
These effects can be beneficial when people use stimulants as prescribed. However, these drugs can cause unpleasant side effects, which include:
The body and brain can develop a tolerance to stimulants. Because of this, a higher dose might be necessary over time. This tolerance leads to misuse and abuse.
Symptoms of misuse and abuse can include the above as well as:
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. It slows down how the brain processes certain functions.
When you drink, you may experience a relaxed and euphoric mood. It's commonly followed by adverse effects including:
Moderate drinking is considered relatively safe. This amounts to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
If a person binge drinks regularly, alcohol abuse can occur. If so, a person could be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.
Signs of alcohol use disorder can include:
Alcohol and stimulants can cancel out or enhance each other's effects. It depends on the kind of stimulants used. However, combining them can be dangerous and even life-threatening.
Alcohol interacting with amphetamines increases the risk of alcohol poisoning. The amphetamines mask the effects of intoxication, enabling a person to consume more alcohol.
People using cocaine, methamphetamine, or Ritalin with alcohol experience a reduction of the stimulant's effects. This increases their risk of taking more and overdosing.
Other possible complications include:
Treating stimulant and alcohol abuse requires a medically assisted treatment plan. This allows medical professionals to monitor and treat potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.
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