Mixing Alcohol and Methylphenidate Side Effects and Interactions
Methylphenidate is a generic, prescription central nervous system stimulant. It’s available in a variety of brand names in the U.S., including Concerta, Methylin, Metadate, and the most well-known which is Ritalin. Methylphenidate is prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. When someone is prescribed methylphenidate for ADHD, it can improve their attention and focus, and reduce restlessness. Methylphenidate is intended to be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that also includes educational, psychological and social treatments and interventions. Patients should let their physician know about their full medical history before they begin taking methylphenidate. This includes, in particular, their history of psychiatric illnesses like bipolar disorder, depression or psychosis.
It’s also important to let a physician know about any history of substance abuse. Methylphenidate is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance in the U.S. The DEA has determined that while methylphenidate has accepted medical uses, it also has a high potential for severe abuse, addiction and dependence. In therapeutic doses, methylphenidate addiction isn’t very likely. This medication is abused recreationally, however, which increases the potential for addiction and dependence. When taken in large amounts, the drug can result in euphoria, appetite suppression, sociability, improved concentration and increased motivation. Methylphenidate and other stimulants used to treat ADHD are often abused for these reasons by young people and college students.
Alcohol is different from methylphenidate because it’s a central nervous system depressant, as opposed to a stimulant. Someone might mix alcohol and methylphenidate without thinking about it. They might also mix the two purposely for various reasons. One example would be using alcohol to come down from the stimulant effects of methylphenidate. Some people incorrectly believe that since alcohol is a depressant and methylphenidate is a stimulant, the effects cancel one another out. In reality, it can be a dangerous combination, and mixing alcohol and methylphenidate can heighten the side effects of each. The common side effects of mixing alcohol and methylphenidate can include drowsiness, concentration problems and dizziness.
Mixing alcohol and methylphenidate can make people feel like they haven’t had as much to drink as they really have. A person mixing alcohol and methylphenidate might not feel intoxicated, despite a high alcohol intake. This can lead to a dangerous situation. It can also cause alcohol poisoning. Signs of alcohol poisoning can include erratic behavior, irritability, fatigue and loss of coordination. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly.
Mixing alcohol and methylphenidate can cause psychiatric symptoms as well. Both affect mental function and both can cause symptoms of anxiety, depression and even psychosis. When used together, the risks of these effects are more pronounced. When the stimulant effects of methylphenidate are mixed with the depressant effects of alcohol, it can cause cardiac problems like heart failure or respiratory problems. Using alcohol can release higher concentrations of methylphenidate into the body, which can cause a drug overdose. Signs of a methylphenidate overdose can include confusion, paranoia, hallucinations, hostility, changes in breathing and abnormal heart rhythm. Other methylphenidate overdose symptoms can include excessive sweating, vomiting, tremors or seizures.
Along with the serious and even fatal risks of mixing alcohol and methylphenidate, there are other considerations as well. Namely, both alcohol and methylphenidate are drugs that can lead to addiction and dependence. When someone is battling a polysubstance addiction, it can make treatment more complex. It’s also more difficult to go through detox when there are multiple drug dependencies involved. It’s important to use methylphenidate only as prescribed and to avoid mixing it with alcohol when it is used.
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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.
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