Xanax and Adderall are very different types of drugs that have competing effects. They both have the potential for abuse, dependence, and addiction. In some cases, doctors may prescribe them both for a patient, and if used correctly, there are no specific warnings against doing so. However, the abuse of either substance is not considered safe, regardless of whether they have a prescription.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax (alprazolam) is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, which is a category of drugs that act in the brain by boosting gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA). Xanax is most often used to treat anxiety or panic disorder but is sometimes prescribed for sleep disturbances or seizures.
GABA’s function is to transmit electrical signals in the central nervous system (CNS) to regulate nerve cells’ activity. In doing so, GABA reduces activity to neurons responsible for physical and emotional balance. When an individual encounters a stressful situation, the release of GABA helps manage their response. Moreover, GABA is a natural defense mechanism that the body uses to control fear and anxiety.
GABA also induces relaxation and euphoric feelings. For this reason, persons who use Xanax may abuse it for these effects or for self-medication. Xanax also has a high potential for dependence and is not intended to be used long-term if it can be avoided. If tolerance occurs, an individual may also begin using Xanax in amounts that surpass prescribed doses to continue to achieve the desired effects.
Xanax is also a medication that is popular for drug diversion. It can be purchased illicitly or be obtained or pilfered from others who have a legitimate prescription. They may do this for non-medical purposes or, as noted, to self-medicate. Many people falsely believe that Xanax is not as dangerous as other drugs, and in some sense, this may be correct. But this is true only if Xanax is not abused, especially in combination with other intoxicating substances.
Even when used in excessive doses, Xanax is not likely to be lethal if the person’s system is otherwise substance-free. However, using Xanax with other depressants, including alcohol or other sedatives, can lead to life-threatening CNS depression. Xanax comes with an increased risk of dependence when misused, and also more intense withdrawal symptoms may manifest when a person attempts to discontinue use.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a stimulant often prescribed to treat ADD/ADHD and narcolepsy. Stimulants have effects opposite to those of depressants and increase activity in the CNS rather than depress it. This increase can result in a person feeling more energetic, focused, active, and productive.
Adderall works to increase levels of dopamine, another neurochemical, like GABA. Dopamine is responsible for producing feelings of reward and pleasure. If a person is exposed to Xanax, he or she is more likely to want to experience its effects in the future. Stimulant drugs can increase dopamine and prevent absorption, meaning that the individual may experience euphoria and other desirable effects for a prolonged time at a high intensity.
Adderall also simulates the functions of other neurochemicals, such as adrenaline. Upon ingestion, a user may encounter a burst of pleasurable and rewarding feelings and increased focus and alertness. Other chemicals are released when Adderall is used to regulate the increased activity, which, in turn, prompts the brain to continue to release adrenaline and dopamine.
This action makes Adderall an effective medication for people with ADD/ADHD because its use reduces overstimulation in those affected. However, if a person with one of these conditions abuses Adderall, he or she may experience some euphoria and boost in energy that people who use it recreationally do.
Risks of Combining Adderall and Xanax: How and Why
While using two drugs that have opposite effects seems counterintuitive, there are plenty of reasons some people do so. For instance, a person with ADD who also experiences anxiety might be given Xanax to help with acute episodes of panic. People may also use Xanax for non-medical purposes to come down from Adderall’s effects or to relieve withdrawal symptoms when they occur.
Some people are merely seeking a more intense high. Those who do may misuse either drug in excessive amounts or use them at the same time. Also, there is a precedent for this behavior, otherwise known as “speedballing.”
Traditionally, a speedball is a drug that consists of heroin and cocaine. Like Xanax, heroin is a potent CNS depressant, and like Adderall, cocaine is a stimulant. Speedballing is a hazardous practice that has resulted in the death of many people who have attempted it, including several well-known celebrities, such as Chris Farley and John Belushi.
Today, a speedball can refer to any combination drug that has opposing stimulant and depressant effects. These may also include fentanyl and cocaine, meth and heroin or benzodiazepines, and many other possible formulas.
The general idea is that each drug should reduce the other side effects, resulting in a euphoric experience. This may be true for some, but it doesn’t change the fact that doing this can potentially lead to severe health complications, up to and including overdose and death.
Another problem with using these two drugs together is that people are either unaware of how much either substance will affect them or lose track of how much they are using. They may continue to tweak their doses, attempting to find a balance.
In general, stimulants tend to have a more potent impact than benzos. When combined, an individual might feel the need to use more Xanax to counteract the overall effects. You can probably predict what will happen next—the person uses more Adderall to reduce drowsiness or reduce other side effects of Xanax.
In doing so, the cycle may continue until an overdose occurs, or they finally decide to get help for the problem. Polysubstance abuse can be far worse to suffer with and challenging to recover from, so any person engaging in these behaviors should immediately seek professional help.
Risk of Heart Problems
The abuse of these drugs together can put a tremendous amount of strain on the heart, and excessive Adderall use, especially, will increase a person’s heart rate and the risk of a heart attack. Furthermore, Xanax will continue to release GABA, which will work to slow the heart down. These conflicting messages can place a person at high risk for irregular heart rate and heart failure.
Getting Help for Addiction
The bottom line is this: When used as directed by a doctor, Adderall and Xanax may be used in combination safely, Xanax should not be used long-term due to its risk of dependence and addiction. Abusing either drug in amounts higher than prescribed or using them without a prescription is not safe, and individuals who do so may be in dire need of help.
Just Believe Recovery offers comprehensive programs designed to address the underlying causes of addiction, including co-existing disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
If you are struggling with abuse of Xanax, Adderall, or other substances, we urge you to seek professional help immediately. If you would like to participate in one of our integrated programs, call us to discuss treatment options and discover how we can help!