There is a growing trend, particularly among high school and college students, of using stimulant drugs like Adderall as a performance enhancement tool to score higher on tests and have the ability to engage in all-night study sessions. These same students may be smoking or consuming marijuana products, as well. According to popular belief, the high that is achieved is superior to using one or the other alone. Likewise, some youth are taking Adderall as prescribed by their doctors, and they also use marijuana in conjunction with, or even instead of, their prescription stimulant medication. There are very few peer-reviewed studies that have examined the long-term effects of combining these two drugs, but despite that, evidence exists that their combined use could be dangerous in some situations.
Adderall: Uses and Effects
Adderall is an amphetamine that is commonly prescribed for ADHD. It is a Schedule II controlled substance, which means there is a high risk for abuse and/or addiction. It works by increasing the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which elevates mood, boosts energy, and increases the ability to focus. Because Adderall is inexpensive and widely prescribed, it is easy for students to get their hands on, and its use in non-ADHD students is thought to be quite widespread.
The side-effects associated with Adderall use, whether as a prescribed treatment or for illicit use, can be serious. With prescribed use, short-term effects can include loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and increased blood pressure and irritability. The drug may have many long-term effects, as well.
Marijuana: Uses and Effects
As of January, 2016, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, but that does not mean marijuana is always safe to use, or that it is safe to use it in combination with other drugs. Marijuana has been prescribed for many medical conditions.
Some of the short-term effects of using marijuana can include panic/anxiety, rapid heart beat, poor coordination, and feeling down or depressed when the euphoric effects wear off. Long-term effects can include reduced sex drive, suppressed immune system, growth disorders, apathy, and personality and mood changes.
Replacing Adderall With Marijuana
Recently, marijuana has been suggested as an alternate treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While the documented evidence for this treatment is scant, a number of professionals believe that the available pre-clinical trial information is enough to support prescribing marijuana for ADHD patients. However, marijuana comes with its own short- and long-term side effects, though they generally aren't as severe as those associated with stimulant use or misuse.
The Effects of Combining Adderall and Marijuana
Self-reported users staunchly maintain the two drugs are safe to use in combination, but this is not evidence. It is merely supposition. On one popular forum, one user reports the experience is great; another that it causes some irritating side-effects. An article stemming from some of the comments contributed on the forum states taking Adderall with marijuana increases marijuana tolerance significantly and reduces the 'dumbing down' that generally occurs with smoking pot. This may explain why combining the two drugs has become so popular. Although there is no scientific evidence to support any of these claims, it seems reasonable that the stimulant properties of the Adderall, combined with the relaxing effects of the marijuana could produce this heightened and more euphoric effect. There are few, if any valid reports on whether the effects (negative or positive) are better or worse if they are used at the same time, or spaced throughout the day, but the effects are likely influenced by the amount and type of Adderall that is taken and the amount of marijuana smoked or consumed.
Though there are no official reported interactions between Adderall and marijuana use according to Drugs.com, they also caution that doesn't mean that they don't exist. Some authorities maintain using the two together is dangerous. Because both drugs can have potentially serious side-effects, the two combined can potentially lead to some serious health complications and even death. In addition to the increased risk of heart attack, stroke, a suppressed immune system, and overall drowsiness, the combination of drugs can create a sense of euphoria that can significantly impair judgement and decision-making. This may result in risk-taking behaviors. Additionally, users may be inclined to increase the dosage of Adderall as they build tolerance, which could lead to a fatal overdose.
Data Is Lacking
Because of the lack of scientific data, it is unknown at this time whether using one of these drugs directly leads to using the other; however, as both marijuana and Adderall are readily available, both legally and illegally, it seems likely students and others struggling to stay ahead of the curve may try the combination to reap some of the perceived positive benefits.
Despite the positives many users are touting, if someone you care about is using marijuana and Adderall in combination, whether as a treatment for ADHD, to get high, or to enhance academic performance, you are right to be concerned. Even if there are no readily apparent negative effects, there are potential health problems that may become evident later in life. The best course of action is to talk over your concerns with your health professional and develop a plan of action that might include therapy, medication management, and other forms of treatment. Many resources are available to support people through an Adderall addiction, and there are a number of more effective and safer alternatives to combining these two drugs to reduce stress and/or make better grades.