Article at a Glance:
- Ritalin is a stimulant medication used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy.
- Ritalin and alcohol both have the potential for abuse, physical dependence and addiction.
- Using both substances together is risky and can cause significant damage to different bodily organs.
Ritalin is a prescription medication used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This stimulant works by increasing levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for creating feelings of attention and reward.
Ritalin has the potential for abuse, so some people may be tempted to mix it with other substances like alcohol.
Table of Contents
Mixing Ritalin and Alcohol
Combining alcohol and Ritalin is not recommended, nor is it recommended with any other ADHD medication. When you mix alcohol and Ritalin, you can be impacted by the negative side effects of both, rather than just one substance. The current research has shown that there is no drug interaction between these substances, but combining them may increase the risk of:
- Severe heart-related issues like high blood pressure and rapid heart rate
- Anxiety and mood problems
- A Ritalin overdose or alcohol poisoning
The risk of abuse and addiction may be increased with sustained-release formulations of Ritalin.
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.
Ritalin and Alcohol Side Effects
Ritalin stimulates the central nervous system, while alcohol depresses it.
When you take Ritalin, it affects your brain by increasing levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain. Increasing these neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS) can cause a fast heart rate, dilated pupils and increased blood pressure.
Alcohol, on the other hand, causes the function of the nervous system to slow down. When you drink alcohol, the depressing effect on the CNS is why you can have symptoms like impaired speech, loss of coordination and sedation.
When you mix alcohol and Ritalin, the drugs have opposite effects on the body, but this does not mean they cancel each other out. The effects of both the stimulant and depressant happen at the same time, causing high levels of stress on your organs, including your liver, heart, vascular system and kidneys. This stress can lead to long-term consequences and damage to these systems, like heart disease and kidney disease.
Also, Ritalin and other stimulants can mask the effects of alcohol, which often leads to the person consuming a larger amount of alcohol than they normally would.
How Long After Taking Ritalin Can I Drink Alcohol?
It takes the body five half-lives to completely clear a drug. For Ritalin, the half-life is three hours, so it will be completely cleared from the system in 15 hours. For most people, it would be safe to responsibly consume alcohol at least 15 hours after a dose of Ritalin. Always talk to your doctor about your alcohol intake before taking Ritalin or any new prescription medication.
Can You Overdose on Alcohol & Ritalin?
Yes, it is possible to overdose when taking Ritalin. This risk is even greater if you are taking the extended-release version of Ritalin or combine the medication with other substances, such as alcohol.
Signs of a Ritalin overdose can include:
- Extreme anger
- Toxic psychosis
Ritalin Drug Properties
Ritalin is a commonly prescribed medicine with the generic name methylphenidate. It stimulates the central nervous system to impact brain chemicals that are responsible for hyperactivity and impulse control. It’s used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
|Conditions it can treat||Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Narcolepsy|
|Controlled substance status||Schedule II|
|Side effects||Insomnia, Headache, Irritability, Weight Loss, Decreased Appetite, Xerostomia, Nausea|
|How long it takes to start working||20-60 minutes|
|How long it takes to have its peak effect||1-2 hours|
|Duration of effect||3-5 hours|
If you are misusing a Ritalin prescription or struggle to stop your alcohol use while on Ritalin, you may have an addiction to either substance. Help is available at The Recovery Village: our licensed, professional staff can create a personalized treatment plan that addresses your dependence on alcohol, Ritalin or both. Contact us today to get started.
- Barkla, Xanthe, et al. “Are There Any Potentially Dangerous Pharmacological Effects of Combining Adhd Medication With Alcohol and Drugs of Abuse? A Systematic Review of the Literature.” BMC Psychiatry, October 2015. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- Coghill, David, et al. “Long-acting Methylphenidate Formulations in the Treatment of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity Disorder: a Systematic Review of Head-to-head Studies.” BMC Psychiatry. September 2013. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Ritalin Package Insert.” Novartis. January 2019. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- Morton, Alexander, et al. “Methylphenidate Abuse and Psychiatric Side Effects.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. October 2000. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- National Institute of Health (NIH). “Information about Alcohol.” 2007. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- University of Michigan. “The Effects of Combining Alcohol with Other Drugs.” Accessed September 7, 2021.
- Hallare, Jericho; Gerriets, Valerie. “Half Life.” StatPearls, October 6, 2020. Accessed September 7, 2021.
- Medical Disclaimer
The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.