Can You Drink Alcohol While on Ritalin?


Can You Drink Alcohol While on Ritalin? When used together, Ritalin(methylphenidate) and alcohol make a dangerous and potentially lethal cocktail, even in low doses. This is because alcohol changes how Ritalin works, and Ritalin masks some of the effects of alcohol. 

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This article is for you if:

  • You are worried that you or someone you know might be addicted to using Ritalin and alcohol together.
  • You or someone you know are in trouble right now, having taken a combination of alcohol and Ritalin.
  • You are concerned about yourself or someone else drinking while taking legitimately prescribed Ritalin.

Ritalin and Alcohol, Key Facts

  • It is never safe to take Ritalin and alcohol at the same time, even if you are using Ritalin as prescribed by your GP. 
  • Alcohol changes the way Ritalin works, putting the user at risk of a range of serious and potentially fatal short- and long-term side effects.
  • Addiction happens in stages, not overnight. If you recognise that you or someone else is becoming dependent on Ritalin and alcohol, there are things you can do to help divert the course of addiction.
  • If you or someone you know has taken alcohol with Ritalin and you are worried about the effects, contact NHS 111 for advice and support or 999 if it’s a medical emergency.
  • Residential treatment programmes provide the safest and most supportive environment in which to address the complex nature of alcohol and Ritalin addiction.
Can You Drink Alcohol While on Ritalin?

Mixing Ritalin & Alcohol — Side Effects & Risks

It’s never safe to mix Ritalin and alcohol. Doing so can result in unpredictable and sometimes dangerous effects. 

Effects & Dangers of Combining Ritalin & Alcohol

Ritalin is often misused recreationally as a club drug in tandem with alcohol. The stimulant effects of Ritalin counteract the depressant and sedative effects of alcohol, allowing the user to party for longer, drink more and experience a bigger ‘high’. However, this combination of substances is high-risk and can cause short-and long-term effects that are unpleasant at best and fatal at worst.

Common short-term effects:

  • Dangerously elevated heart rate and blood pressure
  • Heart problems – heart attack, stroke, sudden death
  • Mood and sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Overdose

Common long-term effects:

  • Exhaustion
  • Liver disease
  • Malnutrition
  • Depression.

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Is There a Safe Way To Drink Alcohol Socially While Using Ritalin?

In short, it is never advisable to consume any amount of alcohol while taking Ritalin. If you want to celebrate a special occasion with a glass or two, doctors recommend that you miss your dose of Ritalin on that day. If you are craving alcohol while taking Ritalin, it may indicate alcohol dependence. Try talking about it with your GP as a first step. 

How Does Ritalin & Alcohol Affect the Body

Ritalin is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that speeds up CNS processes within the body. Blood pressure, heart rate, temperature and breathing rate can all increase to dangerous levels when a user takes a large amount of Ritalin.

Alcohol is a CNS depressant. It has the opposite effect of Ritalin and slows the body’s processes. This is why people under the influence of alcohol will slur their speech, lack balance and coordination, and struggle to make decisions or control impulses.  

Despite having opposite effects on the body, Ritalin and alcohol do not cancel out each other’s side effects. The reverse happens. When used simultaneously, the side effects of both substances are more severe and have greater consequences. 

Alcohol Changes the Way Your Body Processes Ritalin

Alcohol increases the rate at which Ritalin is absorbed into the bloodstream by up to 40 per cent. This drastically heightens the effects of both drugs. The user may feel a desirable surge in energy or focus from the Ritalin while experiencing significantly reduced inhibitions from the alcohol. At the same time, the usual side effects of Ritalin are magnified. The user may experience:

  • Racing heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes in mood, such as episodes of anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbances and drowsiness
  • Mood problems, such as depression and anxiety

Heart Problems

Ritalin abuse puts a tremendous strain on the heart, especially if you have a pre-existing heart condition. When you add alcohol into the mix, the risk of serious heart problems increases, such as heart attack, stroke or even sudden death due to cardiac arrest.

Overdose

As already established, combining alcohol with Ritalin leads to higher amounts of Ritalin in your bloodstream. This rush of Ritalin into the body can cause a drug overdose even if you are taking your Ritalin prescription as directed by your GP. 

Long-Acting Ritalin Can Pose a Greater Risk

It is even more important to avoid all alcohol while using long-acting, extended-release forms of Ritalin. Alcohol triggers a rapid release of the drug into your body, putting your vital organs under extreme stress. 

Is There a Safe Way To Drink Alcohol Socially While Using Ritalin?

If alcohol is regularly consumed with Ritalin, the body becomes accustomed to higher concentrations of Ritalin in the bloodstream. It creates a new ‘normal’, and the body quickly becomes dependent on the drug to function normally. If the user is already dependent on alcohol when they begin using Ritalin, their body will also be physically dependent on alcohol. 

When a user suddenly stops taking a drug that their body is physically dependent on, they will experience unpleasant and potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawing from Ritalin and alcohol can be complex and should be supervised by medical professionals. 

Common withdrawal symptoms from Ritalin include:

  • Mood disturbances – anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Loss of focus
  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in heart rate
  • Changes in blood pressure
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures

Common withdrawal symptoms from alcohol include:

  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Hallucinations 
  • Seizures
  • Overdose

Alcohol Poisoning

Ritalin’s stimulant properties have a dangerous effect on the way a person perceives their level of intoxication when drinking alcohol. Instead of feeling the signs of having had enough to drink, the user may continue to feel stimulated, alert and able to drink for longer. This can result in alcohol poisoning, a dangerous state that confuses, difficulty breathing, unconsciousness and, potentially, death. 

Alcohol and ADHD

If you are prescribed Ritalin for ADHD, using alcohol on top can pose additional risks. 

Research indicates that:

  • People with ADHD may be more likely to misuse alcohol than the general population.
  • Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of ADHD.
  • People with ADHD may be more likely to become impaired by alcohol use.

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It is, therefore, extremely important to talk to your GP if you have ADHD and think you may have developed a dependence on alcohol, Ritalin or both substances. 

Long-term Effects of Ritalin and Alcohol Abuse

The potential for long-term health issues depends on several factors, such as how long you have been dependent on Ritalin and alcohol, your consumption levels and whether you have any underlying health conditions. However, a few types of health issues are well-documented with this combination of substances. They are:

  • Malnutrition – Ritalin suppresses appetite, and people often forget to eat when they are under the influence of alcohol.
  • Liver disease – due to the damaging effects that chronic alcohol abuse has on this vital organ. 
  • Heart disease – due to the damaging effects that chronic Ritalin abuse has on this vital organ.
  • Fatigue – common when abusing any substances due to the strain they put on the body and the often chaotic lifestyle of an addict. This can lead to a vicious cycle of taking more Ritalin and/or other stimulants to counteract the tiredness.
  • Depression, agitation, and sleep disturbances – are very common side effects of substance abuse in general. Again, the user can get caught in a cycle of taking more substances to stave off these negative effects. 

A Slippery Slope?

According to the NHS, addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you. The American Society of Addiction Medicine takes its definition further, describing addiction as a chronic brain disease that affects the brain’s reward, pleasure, memory, and motivation. Whichever definition you subscribe to, addiction doesn’t happen overnight. The process develops over a series of stages.

Stage 1: Initial use/experimentation

Initial exposure to Ritalin may be the result of curiosity, peer pressure, or experimenting with self-medication. Alternatively, a person may be prescribed Ritalin for a medical condition such as ADHD or narcolepsy. If that first use is pleasurable or provides some sort of high or relief, the user has the drive to experience that feeling again. This leads to the second stage of addiction.

Stage 2 Continued use/abuse

The person continues using the substance regularly to get the effects that first made it attractive to them. Using becomes a regular activity and a normalised part of their lifestyle. The user might be using more Ritalin or mixing it with other substances such as alcohol, cocaine or methamphetamine to achieve a ‘better’ high.

Stage 3: Tolerance

When a person uses Ritalin and alcohol frequently, it causes chemical changes in the brain, and the body needs these substances to function normally. To achieve a high, the user has to take both substances more frequently or in larger doses. They may try harder drugs or start injecting to reach a quicker, more intense high.

Stage 4: Dependence

The individual is now physically and psychologically dependent on Ritalin and alcohol. It becomes their only source of pleasure, despite having a negative impact on their life. 

Common symptoms of dependence include:

  • Risky use – e.g. at work or when driving
  • Spending more time trying to source the substance; taking risks to source it
  • Increased cravings for the substance
  • Withdrawal symptoms when unable to obtain the substance
  • Relationship or family problems
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, interests, and socialising
  • Poor performance at work.

Stage 5: Addiction

The person has lost control of their use. Their addiction negatively affects their health, finances and relationships, yet they are in denial of this fact.

Diverting the Course of Addiction

Someone who is addicted to Ritalin and alcohol can only begin the journey to sobriety and recovery once they:

  1. Recognise their reliance on the two substances 
  2. Are motivated to address the underlying cause(s) of their addiction.

If the motivation is there, they can begin to take steps to divert the course of addiction, such as:

  • Cultivate awareness of triggers to using, including:
    • Social circles and relationships
    • Physical or emotional pain or distress
    • Activities, locations, and times of day associated with their drug use
  • If they are prescribed Ritalin for a medical condition, talk to their GP about alternative medications
  • Reduce access to the substance(s)
  • Seek help to change circumstances that put them at risk of addiction
  • Seek appropriate help for pre-existing mental health problems or get a diagnosis
  • Develop new ways of coping with/avoiding situations that put them at risk of using
  • Build a robust social support network.

What Should You Do if You Take Ritalin & Alcohol

It’s always safer to avoid alcohol altogether while taking Ritalin or any other stimulant drug. The way the substances react together can be dangerous and unpredictable. Even moderate drinking can cause unpleasant side effects, especially if you have underlying medical conditions. However, if you have used alcohol alongside Ritalin, following the guidance below will give you the best chance of a favourable outcome. 

If you or someone else has mixed a small amount of alcohol with Ritalin:

  • Stop using the substances immediately/ask the user to stop using
  • Make sure you/the user is not alone
  • Monitor for any symptoms
  • Call for help – if symptoms are mild, call NHS 111 for advice; if symptoms are severe, call 999 for an ambulance.

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If taking Ritalin and alcohol has become a regular habit for you or someone else:

  • Speak to your GP and consider contacting a support group or rehabilitation clinic for advice. If you are concerned about someone else’s substance use, encourage them to take these steps. 
  • Do not go ”cold turkey” without consulting a medical professional – both alcohol and Ritalin withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, depending on the frequency of use and dosage
  • If you’re concerned about symptoms you or someone else is experiencing, call NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency.

If you or someone else has been mixing ketamine and alcohol regularly for an extended period of time:  

  • Speak to your GP, who will be able to refer you to local support services, including rehabilitation clinics that specialise in medically supervised detox and long-term treatment. If you are concerned about someone else’s substance use, encourage them to take these steps. 
  • If you or someone else is experiencing potential withdrawal symptoms, call NHS 111 or 999 in an emergency and ask for an ambulance.

What Is The Safest Way to Treat Alcohol & Ritalin Dependence?

Treating dual alcohol and Ritalin addiction requires a multimodal approach to aid successful recovery. There are different treatment options available to suit individual circumstances.  

Intervention

If you’re worried about someone showing signs of alcohol and Ritalin addiction, a professional-led intervention can be a helpful tool. Lines of communication are opened between the user and loved ones, helping the user to challenge denial and access treatment. Intervention can be useful at any stage of addiction, but in the end, it’s only beneficial if the user decides to get help.  

Support Groups

Peer support groups allow users to meet and speak openly with others in the same situation. The aim is for the user to benefit from others’ experiences in a safe environment without feeling judged. Support groups are helpful throughout the recovery journey in providing support and encouragement at every step.

Therapy

Therapy and counselling are vital in getting to the core of the addiction and addressing pre-existing issues that may have influenced the user to take the substances in the first place. Therapy is beneficial once the user has sought help to detox and is looking towards sustained recovery.

Outpatient Rehab

Outpatient programmes can be helpful for those who aren’t in the grip of addiction.  However, residential rehab is considered the benchmark treatment for people with an addiction to two or more substances. 

Residential Rehab

A residential treatment programme provides a safe and supportive environment in which to address the complex nature of alcohol and Ritalin addiction. The addict will receive a thorough assessment, undergo a medically-supervised detox and work through a tailored holistic treatment plan designed to give them the highest chance for successful long-term recovery.

Looking for the best outpatient therapy in London for addiction recovery? Look no further than CATCH Recovery! With their personalized treatment plans and experienced team, you’ll receive the support and care you need to achieve lasting sobriety. Discover the evidence-based approach that makes CATCH Recovery stand out and start your journey to recovery today.

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