Xanax and Adderall are very different drugs with competing effects. They both have the potential for abuse and addiction. In some cases, physicians may prescribe them both for an individual, and if used as directed, there are no specific warnings against doing so. However, the abuse of either drug is not considered safe and should not be attempted by anyone regardless of whether they have a prescription or not.
What Is Xanax?
Xanax is a commonly prescribed benzodiazepine, a class of drugs that works by boosting gamma-Aminobutyric acid neurotransmitters (GABA) in the brain. Xanax is most often prescribed for the treatment of anxiety or panic disorder but is sometimes prescribed for sleep difficulties or seizures.
The function of GABA is to transmit electrical signals in the CNS to regulate the activity of nerve cells. In doing so, GABA calms neurons responsible for emotional and physical balance. When a person is faced with a stressful situation, the release of GABA is what helps to manage their response. Moreover, GABA is a natural defense mechanism in the body that controls anxiety or fear.
GABA also induces relaxation and mild feelings of euphoria. For this reason, people who use Xanax might abuse it for these effects, or to self-medicate in some way. Xanax also has a relatively high potential for dependence, and for this reason, it is not supposed to be used long-term if it can be avoided. If tolerance also occurs, a person may also begin using Xanax above prescribed doses to continue achieving the desired effects.
Xanax is also a popular medication regarding drug diversion. It can be purchased illegally or be obtained or stolen from others with legitimate prescriptions. They may do this for recreational purposes or, as noted, to self-medicate. Many people erroneously believe that Xanax is not as harmful as other drugs, and in some sense, they may be right. But this fact is true only if it is not abused, especially in conjunction with other psychoactive substances.
Xanax, even when used in excessive doses, is not likely to cause death if the person’s system is otherwise drug-free. However, using Xanax with other depressants such as alcohol can result in life-threatening nervous system depression. Xanax has an increased risk of dependence when abused, and also more intense withdrawal symptoms may occur when a person attempts to quit.
What Is Adderall?
Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) is a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy. Stimulants have the opposite effect of depressants, and, as a result, increase activity in the CNS rather than depress it. This increase can result in people feeling more energetic, active, focused, and productive.
Adderall works to boost levels of dopamine, another neurotransmitter, like GABA. Dopamine is responsible for inducing feelings of reward and pleasure, so once a person is exposed to Xanax, they are more likely to want to experience its effects in the future. Stimulant drugs can both increase dopamine and prevent it’s absorption, meaning that the person may experience euphoria and other desirable effects for an unnaturally long-time at a very high intensity.
Adderall also simulates the functions of other neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline. Upon consumption, a user may encounter a burst of pleasurable and rewarding feelings, as well as increased focus and alertness. Other neurotransmitters are released when Adderall is used in an attempt to regulate the increased activity, and this, in turn, causes the brain to continue to release dopamine and adrenaline.
This action is what makes Adderall an effective medication for people with ADD/ADHD because its use reduces overstimulation in those who are affected. If a person with one of these conditions abuses Adderall, however, they may experience some of the euphoria and increased energy that others who use it recreationally do.
Risks of Combining Adderall and Xanax: The How and The Why
While using two drugs that essentially have opposite effects may seem counterintuitive, there are plenty of reasons why people would do so. For example, a person with ADD who also experienced bouts of anxiety might be given Xanax to help with acute episodes of panic. People may also use Xanax recreationally to come down from Adderall’s use or to relieve withdrawal symptoms if they occur.
Some people, unfortunately, are simply seeking a more intense high. Those who do may abuse either drug in excessive amounts and use them at the same time. And there is a precedent for this behavior—a form of drug use known as “speedballing.”
Traditionally, a speedball is a combination drug that contains cocaine and heroin. Like Adderall, cocaine is a stimulant, and like Xanax, heroin has CNS depressing qualities. Speedballing is known to be a very dangerous practice that has killed many people who have attempted it, including several well-known celebrities.
Today, a speedball may be used to refer to any combination drug that has opposing depressant and stimulant effects. These may also include cocaine and fentanyl, meth and heroin or Xanax, and many other possible formulations. The idea is that each drug should reduce the side effects of the other, resulting in an overall more euphoric experience. Even if this is true for some, it doesn’t change the fact that doing this has the potential to result in serious health complications, overdose, and death.
Another problem with using this combination is that people are either unaware of how much either drug will affect them or sometimes lose track of how much they are using. They may continue to tweak their doses in an effort to find the balance, so to speak, in terms of effects. In general, stimulants tend to induce stronger effects than benzos, so when they are combined, a person might feel the need to use more Xanax to counteract these effects.
You probably know what might happen next—the person uses more Adderall to shake off drowsiness or reduce other effects of Xanax. In doing so, the cycle continues until an overdose occurs, or they finally decide to get help for the problem. Polysubstance abuse can be far worse suffer with and challenging to recover from, so any person who is engaging in these behaviors should seek professional help immediately.
Risk of Heart problems
The abuse of these drugs together can strain the heart, and excessive Adderall use, especially, will accelerate a person’s heart rate and increase the risk of a heart attack. Furthermore, Xanax will continue to release GABA, which will try to slow the heart down. These conflicting messages can put a person at risk for heart arrhythmia (irregular heart rate) and heart failure.
The bottom line: When used properly in prescription doses, Adderall and Xanax may be used together safely, but it is probably not a good idea to use Xanax long-term due to its risk of dependence and addiction. Abusing either drug in excessive amounts or using them without a prescription is not safe, and persons who do so are in dire need of help before it’s too late.
Getting Help for Addiction
Recovery in Tune offers comprehensive outpatient programs designed to address the underlying causes of substance abuse, including co-occurring disorders, such as ADD/ADHD, depression, or anxiety. Our programs are best for those who have already completed more intensive forms of treatment, such as residential rehab, or have relatively mild addictions.
If you are struggling with the abuse of Adderall, Xanax, or other substances, we urge you to seek help immediately. If you are interested in enrolling in one of our outpatient programs, contact us as soon as possible to discuss treatment options.