Skip to content

    ADD & ADHD Health Center

    Font Size

    Alcohol and ADHD Medication

    By Kathryn Whitbourne
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD

    If you take medication for your ADHD, you may wonder whether or not you can drink alcohol. And if it's okay, how much can you safely have?

    There's no official recommendation, because not enough research has been done. But some doctors think a drink or two is all right for some people under certain circumstances. It depends on the person, the type of medication they take, and when they took it last.

    Recommended Related to ADD-ADHD

    Why Are ADHD Medicines Controlled Substances?

    If you’re taking medicine for ADHD, what you’re taking likely is a controlled substance. That means that the federal government regulates how the drug is made, prescribed, and dispensed. There are also extra security measures to guard against abuse. “This affects the way you get and fill your prescription at the pharmacy,” says Norman P. Tamaka, a consultant pharmacist and health care risk manager. But do you know why?

    Read the Why Are ADHD Medicines Controlled Substances? article > >

    The two types of drugs that treat ADHD -- stimulants and nonstimulants -- mix differently with alcohol.

    Stimulant Meds

    Most people with ADHD take these. They help you stay alert and focus. They boost the release of chemicals in the brain that help your brain cells, called neurons, talk to each other.

    Alcohol is a depressant. Stimulants can make its effects of alcohol stronger, but at the same time, you may be less likely to realize it. That's because the medication delays that sleepy, drugged-out feeling you get when you've had too much to drink.

    If you're on a stimulant while having some cocktails, you may not notice your body's natural cues that it's time to stop. You could risk alcohol poisoning or a drinking-related accident. Having both booze and a stimulant in your system also raises the risk of heart-related issues.

    The amount of alcohol that would give a person not on medication a minor "buzz" could make someone taking these meds drunk. The medicines affect how booze is broken down in the body and can lead to higher blood alcohol levels.

    "I recommend drinking no more than one serving of alcohol," says Denise Leung, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

    You need to factor in when you last took your medication, and how long the stimulant works in your system. Short-acting (immediate release) medications, which are taken a few times a day, usually last about 4 hours. Long-acting (extended release) medications are meant to last the whole day, and are usually taken in the morning.

    "If [a patient] takes a short-acting stimulant in the morning, I'd recommend they wait until the evening before they consider the one drink of alcohol. With a long-acting stimulant, I would recommend they wait at least 12 hours," Leung says.

    Today on WebMD

    Post it notes
    Symptoms and treatments.
    Close up of eye
    What's zapping your focus?
    man driving car
    How to manage your impulses.
    contemplating woman
    Learn to stop procrastinating.
    concentration killers
    Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
    ADHD and Substance Abuse
    Reduce Side Effects ADHD Medications

    woman with adhd doing college homework
    smiling man
    ADHD in Marriage and Romantic Relationships
    Adult man lying awake in bed