Recommended Articles

Alcohol and ADHD: What You Need To Know


Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 6/02/2022

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a chronic mental health disorder, which means there’s no known cure for the condition. However, ADHD can be treated with amphetamine-based medications like Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse. Children and adults who have ADHD have a hard time focusing, which can impact performance at school and work. With treatment, though, ADHD is a manageable condition. 

While ADHD is manageable with medications, mixing those medications with alcohol can be dangerous. Furthermore, alcohol can have an impact on the brain that causes ADHD symptoms to become worse. Someone with ADHD who abuses alcohol also has higher health risks than someone who abuses alcohol without ADHD. ADHD can also make alcohol more addicting if individuals are using it as a treatment method for the condition.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is an attention disorder that’s similar to ADD. The difference between ADD to ADHD is that people with ADHD are also hyperactive. In children, this can make them rowdy, hard to calm down, and unfocused. ADD, however, is just an attention-deficit disorder. Children with ADD have a hard time paying attention in school and this can lead to lower grades, a reduction in self-confidence, and other negative outcomes.

ADHD and ADD are also chronic conditions. Therefore, adults can also have symptoms of either condition. In adults, it’s often harder to notice. That said, adults with ADHD or ADD have a harder time staying focused at work and can struggle to maintain meaningful relationships. It’s important to note that ADD and ADHD are personal conditions, so the way it affects someone is different for each person.

While ADHD and ADD are chronic conditions, there’s medication to treat them. Amphetamines are used to restore focus and some studies show that the use of amphetamines can help people with ADHD or ADD have better brain development by the time they’re 25 years old. 

Some warning signs and symptoms of ADD and ADHD are listed below.

  • Procrastination (excessive)
  • A lack of organization 
  • Lack of attention or focus 
  • Challenges with social skills 
  • Memory problems

There are also many types of ADD and ADHD. These are listed below.

  • Classic ADD
  • Inattentive ADD
  • Over-focused ADD
  • Limbic ADD
  • Anxious ADD
  • Ring of Fire ADD
  • Temporal Lobe ADD

Because ADHD and ADD vary based on the person, someone can have multiple types of ADHD. This means that the signs can also be obvious and are hard to notice. Many children are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD once they enter elementary school or middle school.

How Can Alcohol Affect People with ADHD?

Alcohol has numerous effects on people with ADHD. Studies have concluded that alcohol can make the impulsiveness of ADHD worse when consumed in large quantities. A 2011 study also showed that children with ADHD who abuse alcohol are more likely to develop alcohol abuse disorder (AUD). Additionally, studies show that people with ADHD are more likely to consume alcohol at a younger age, which increases the risk of binge drinking and alcohol abuse. Some research has also found that people with ADHD can be more sensitive to alcohol’s intoxicating effects.

While alcohol can make the symptoms of ADHD worse, that does not mean people with ADHD can not drink alcohol. As long as an individual drinks responsibility there are no significant risks. However, if alcohol is abused or binge drinking occurs then the risk of negative health effects increases. If you’re unsure about how alcohol will react with your ADHD or ADHD medication, we recommend reaching out to your doctor.

What Are the Risks of Alcohol with People with ADHD?

People with ADHD have an increased risk of abusing alcohol, which is especially true for children and adolescents. A 2018 study found that severe ADHD correlated to alcohol use and alcohol use disorder. Other risks come with consuming alcohol with ADHD. These risks are listed below.

  • More impulsive behavior 
  • Impaired memory
  • Increased risk of binge drinking and blacking out 
  • Children and adults are more likely to become dependent on alcohol
  • Alcohol can interact with ADHD medication and cause adverse effects 

These are only some of the risk factors associated with drinking alcohol with ADHD.

What is the Relationship Between Alcohol and ADHD?

Alcohol and ADHD have a unique relationship. Not much is known about the long-term effects of alcohol abuse on ADHD but it’s clear that ADHD makes people more likely to abuse alcohol. Alcohol can also make the symptoms of ADHD work and alcohol shouldn’t be consumed with ADHD medication. More research needs to be done on alcohol’s interaction with ADHD but it’s clear that it’s not a good idea to abuse alcohol or binge drink with ADHD.

Do People with ADHD Drink Excessively?

Some people with ADHD drink excessively but this is true for almost every population. That said, it’s important to note that multiple studies have shown a correlation between binge drinking and ADHD. However, this data is limited and skewed towards children and teenagers. Therefore, some people with ADHD drink excessively, while others do not drink excessively. It depends on the person and their habits.

Does Alcohol Make ADHD Worse?

Yes, alcohol can make ADHD symptoms worse. There’s no evidence to suggest that alcohol makes ADHD symptoms worse over the long term but it can symptoms worse in the short term. For example, people with ADHD are more likely to continue drinking alcohol if they’ve started. Furthermore, alcohol can lower inhibitions and make the impulses that come from ADHD worse. Ultimately, this can lead to poor decision-making and alcohol abuse. People with ADHD can also attempt to use alcohol as an alternative treatment for ADHD, which leads to alcohol abuse disorder (AUD).

Can You Drink Alcohol on ADHD Medication?

Consuming a few standard drinks on ADHD medication shouldn’t cause any problems. That being said, drinking large quantities of alcohol with ADHD medication can cause negative side effects. This is because amphetamines speed up heart rate and can cause headaches along with other symptoms.

Amphetamines can make alcohol feel less intoxicating, which is dangerous. When medications like Adderall make alcohol feel less intoxicating, there’s a risk that too much alcohol can be consumed. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is fatal in some cases.

Drinking alcohol with medications like Adderall can also lead to mood and behavior changes as well. There’s also a higher risk of ADHD medication and alcohol abuse when the substances are combined. ADHD medication can also cause stomach discomfort and lead to nausea or vomiting when mixed with alcohol.