The Dangers of Mixing Ritalin and Alcohol
Ritalin and alcohol are two commonly abused substances that each have their own side effects and risks. People who abuse either substance are at risk for short and long-term health risks, including dependence and addiction.
But what happens when people mix Ritalin and alcohol? Understanding the risks of this dangerous substance combination and knowing how to seek help is essential. This guide will explore the effects of Ritalin and alcohol and how these substances interact in the body. You’ll learn the risk of polysubstance abuse and how to seek life-saving treatment. Reach out to the Elevate Recovery team to learn more about our treatment programs and ongoing recovery support.
What is Ritalin (Methylphenidate)?
Ritalin (methylphenidate) is a prescription stimulant medication used to manage the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When used as prescribed, Ritalin reduces symptoms of ADHD, including:
- Poor focus and attention
- Impulsive behavior
Ritalin is a Schedule II stimulant drug and must be taken only under careful medical supervision to avoid complications, including addiction. Typically, people who take Ritalin ingest it in pill form. However, some who abuse Ritalin may crush and snort the pills or dissolve the tablet in water and inject it.
While Ritalin can improve symptoms for people living with ADHD, its stimulant effects can be appealing to people without an attention disorder. Some people take Ritalin recreationally–meaning without a prescription–because they want to experience some of this drug’s common effects, including:
- Decreased appetite
- Increased ability to focus
- Heightened alertness
People who abuse Ritalin do not typically obtain the drug legally. Instead, they may steal or purchase the prescription drug from people with a prescription for it. Or, they may invent symptoms to attempt to obtain a prescription for Ritalin.
Teens and young adults are the most common groups who abuse Ritalin. Some may use Ritalin to help them study for longer periods or focus on assignments. While Ritalin is sometimes called a “study drug,” research suggests that people who use it to enhance academic performance typically underperform in school compared to those who do not use Ritalin.
Ritalin abuse sometimes has serious consequences, including overdose. An overdose of Ritalin can cause symptoms that include:
- Fast heartbeat
- Muscle twitching
A Ritalin overdose is a serious medical event that requires immediate intervention and treatment.
The Effects and Risks of Alcohol
Alcohol is legal and widely available in most areas of the United States. However, alcohol abuse can cause severe problems in a person’s social, emotional, and physical health. In the short term, alcohol use may cause:
- Mood changes
- Erratic behavior
- Reduced inhibitions
- Impaired judgment
- Poor coordination
- Slow reaction time
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Pancreas disease
- Liver disease
- Increased risk of breast, colon, throat, and other cancers
Research from 2009 showed that nearly one in three substance-related ER visits involved alcohol, and half a million of those visits involved a combination of alcohol and at least one other substance. Mixing alcohol and other substances puts people at risk for serious, sometimes life-threatening complications.
Ritalin and Alcohol: A Dangerous Combination
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant, and Ritalin is a stimulant. People may take Ritalin to counteract the sedating effects of alcohol, allowing them to drink more or for longer periods. This can be dangerous and increases the risk of overdose or severe complications.
Mixing alcohol and other substances can lead to other unpredictable, unwanted effects, including:
- Dangerously elevated heart rate
- Increased anxiety
- Increased self-medication
- High blood pressure
- Mood instability
- Unhealthy sleep patterns
- Higher levels of Ritalin in the bloodstream
Mixing Ritalin and alcohol increases the likelihood of someone developing dependence on it. Ritalin dependence and addiction can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and people usually require professional treatment and ongoing support to overcome it.
The bottom line: although many people who use Ritalin recreationally mix the drug with alcohol, this practice is hazardous and can more quickly lead to complications, including addiction.
The Long-Term Effects of Mixing Ritalin and Alcohol
The short-term effects of mixing Ritalin and alcohol can be severe, but the long-term effects are just as hazardous to your health and well-being. Ritalin’s effects can impact your mood, behaviors, and ability to care for yourself. Here are some of the most significant long-term consequences of mixing Ritalin and alcohol:
- Nutritional deficiencies because of suppressed appetite
- Liver damage from alcohol abuse
- Low energy and motivation
- Severe depression
- Heart disease
- Poor sleep
Mixing Ritalin and alcohol–as well as other forms of polysubstance abuse–requires comprehensive treatment and ongoing care. Don’t wait to get help. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your chances of full recovery.