Can you mix Adderall and caffeine? This is a worryingly common question we see asked on nootropics forums, as well as on some of our “study drug” articles.
It is understandable why somebody might want to try mixing Adderall and caffeine; they are both stimulants, and they both produce somewhat similar effects which, on paper, may seem complimentary. Importantly, both caffeine and Adderall have distinct mechanisms of action; in combining them, you would not be just taking more of the same, but rather taking advantage of two different pathways to enhanced cognition and more mental energy.
In fact, you could reasonably describe caffeine as a non-prescription Adderall alternative because of the similarity of effects and mechanism of action.
So, is it a good idea to mix Adderall and caffeine?
NO! Combining Adderall and caffeine is extremely dangerous; it will elevated heart rate and blood pressure to a dangerous degree. Caffeine potentiates Adderall, making the effects even stronger.
To explain why it is so dangerous to mix Adderall and caffeine, it’s worth epxlaining how both of these nootropic drugs work.
How caffeine works
Caffeine works by blocking your Adenosine receptors. Adenosine is the body’s sleep/wake switch (the circadian rhythm you’ve all heard of helps time sleep, but it doesn’t control it – adenosine does).
Basically, when you’re awake, adenosine is constantly building up in the brain. When it reaches a certain point, you are forced into sleep, which is when adenosine is “destroyed” and the cycle repeats.
By binding to adenosine receptors, caffeine tricks the body into thinking there is less adenosine than there actually is; this makes you feel alert, awake, and energized.
In some people, caffeine may also have a dopaminergic effect, whereby dopamine is released. Others experience a slight norepinephrine release when they consume enough caffeine in a single sitting. However, it is by binding to adenosine receptors that caffeine really works.
How Adderall works
Adderall works completely differently to caffeine despite the fact that many people see them as essentially the same (but with one significantly more powerful than the other – something else not necessarily true).
Adderall primarily works by stimulating the production of norepinephrine in the brain. Norepinephrine is responsible for triggering your ‘fight of flight’ response to threats, as well as the exciting “adrenaline rush” you get when you do something scary but come out of it fine.
Adderall triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, as though you were facing an imminent threat. As a result, your focus sharpens, your reaction times increase, your ability to take in and process information is dramatically accelerated, and your fatigue essentially disappears. In other words, you become ready to get out of imminent danger.
This is how Adderall affects the brain, and it is why it sharpens focus and increases motivation. It is also why you can develop a tolerance to Adderall very quickly (just as you can with caffeine).
Taking Adderall and caffeine together: The Benefits
Given what we know about how Adderall works and how caffeine works, is it a good idea to take these two substances together?
To answer this, we really need to look at both sides of the argument; that is, at both those who are for and against mixing Adderall with caffeine.
For some people, caffeine and Adderall is an extremely powerful, effective and even enjoyable combination. Reading reports from people who routinely take caffeine with their Adderall, it is clear that for a significant number of people the combination is highly effective at improving mental performance across a number of measures. Users of Adderall and caffeine routinely report experiencing dramatically greater focus, concentration, and motivation as well as far better working memory function than they get from either drug in isolation.
Generally speaking, this is the case among people who are not strong responders to caffeine or Adderall. They may also be on a reduced dose of Adderall, and their caffeine consumption may well be much lower than reported. The reason we say this is that it is extremely rare for someone to be able to mix two powerful stimulants without experiencing any negative effects. This is true of even mild stimulants, and it certainly applies to caffeine and amphetamines! That said, it is clear from encdotal evidence that mixing caffeine and Adderall can work for some people in the right circumstances.
Caffeine vs Adderall for ADHD
How do caffeine and Adderall compare for the treatment and management of ADHD?
Obviously, the answer is that Adderall is far more effective than caffeine for the treatment and management of ADHD.
Caffeine is an extremely powerful stimulant, but it does not come close to matching the strength of amphetamine based ADHD medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse or Focalin XR. These are drugs which have been developed in accordance with decades worth of clinica data specifically to treat the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
While some people may find that caffeine helps whtm overcome mild ADHD symptoms, those with a ADHD diagnosis should take the medications prescribed to them by their doctors and not try to self-medicate with stimulants like caffeine.
Adderall and Energy Drinks: Can you take them together?
What about mixing energy drinks and ADHD medications like Adderall?
Energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster pose even more problems than coffee or straight caffeine pills when being mixed with ADHD medications like Adderall or Vyvanse. That’s because energy drinks contain dozens of ingredients; typically they will contain more than one stimulant as well as ingredients chosen to heighten the effects of those stimulants.
Caffeine already greatly amplifies the effects of Adderall – good and bad – so adding in even more ingredients which heighten Adderall’s effects via energy drinks is a terrible idea!
Caffeine vs Adderall for Anxiety
Which is worse for anxiety: caffeine or Adderall?
This is a very important question as many people find that both caffeine and Adderall cause acute anxiety; in some cases, these drugs can induce panic attacks. Sadly, many of us are completely dependent on either caffeine or ADHD medications like Adderall, Vyvanse and Ritalin. So finding which one causes you the least amount of anxiety can make a huge difference to your life.
Generally speaking, Adderall will cause more severe anxiety than caffeine in the vast majority of users. This is a function of the fact that Adderall is a much more powerful stimulant than caffeine. The amphetamine salts in Adderall produce a far more intense peak effect than caffeine can deliver. The spikesin norepinephrine and dopamine are much more pronounced with Adderall use compared to caffeine, and so the comedowns tend to be more vicious. The steepness of the comedown is usually what dictates the level of anxiety you will feel from each drug.
Side Effects of Mixing Adderall and Caffeine
Because caffeine and Adderall have different mechanisms of action, it may seem like a good idea to ‘stack’ them; the idea being that taking them together produces effects stronger than the sum of the parts.
Well, this logic is correct, but it is a very good reason NOT to take Adderall and caffeine together.
Caffeine can be said to heighten or potentiate the effects of Adderall, but a more accurate statement would be that caffeine and Adderall heighten each other’s SIDE EFFECTS.
Caffeine and all ADHD medications have strong interactions with one another. Specifically, caffeine makes amphetamine based drugs much more effective. So a person taking Adderall, for example, would likely feel a stronger impact, including greater side effects.
Both caffeine and Adderall have side effects, some of which overlap. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Elevated heart rate
- Behavior changes
- Stomach cramps
- Elevated risk of heart attack
- Elevated risk of stroke
These side effects are all amplified when you use both caffeine and Adderall together.
This is why it is so important for you not to mix these two nootropic drugs.
The risk of experiencing a dangerously elevated heart rate or a panic attack from either caffeine or Adderall alone is already quite high. But when you mix these two drugs together, even in small doses, the chances of experiencing side effects – and the severity of those side effects – increases almost exponentially.
This is a compounding effect we see with all stimulants, which is why we recommend using a high quality energy supplement that combines a single stimulant – ideally caffeine – with other ingredients known to temper the adverse effects of caffeine while promoting energy metabolism, focus, and motivation.
Can you take Adderall with coffee?
Mixing Adderall and coffee is a slightly different story to mixing Adderall and caffeine.
While coffee certainly does contain a significant amount of caffeine (around 70-120mg per average cup depending on which coffee you use), the caffeine in coffee does not ‘hit’ the same way that purified, supplemental caffeine does; caffeine supplements tend to hit much harder and much faster than the caffeine you get from coffee.
So the dangers are not quite the same when mixing Adderall and coffee as they are when mixing Adderall and pure caffeine.
However, that is not to say that it is completely safe to mix these two extremely powerful drugs. As with all of these things, how safe it is to mix caffeine from coffee with Adderall depends on the amounts being consumed, your tolerance, and your current physical state.
Ingesting a small amount of caffeine from coffee with Adderall is unlikely to be harmful, but mixing these two stimulant drugs is still not a good idea. If you or your child has a prescription for Adderall, it’s best to limit yours or their caffeine intake from coffee.
How long after taking Adderall can you drink coffee?
It’s not recommended to drink coffee while taking Adderall. Taking the two stimulants together can enhance their effects, both good and bad. Drinking coffee while on Adderall can potentially cause severe adverse side effects.
If you must drink coffee on the same day as taking Adderall, it is recommended to wait at least one hour after the effects of Adderall have worn off before you drink any coffee or consume any caffeine whatsoever. It is also best to avoid drinking coffee for at least 3 hours before you take your dose of Adderall.
Of course, this is a very rough guideline. The best way to ensure you don’t experience serious negative side effects is to avoid mixing Adderall and caffeine altogether. That includes drinking any coffee or other caffeinated drinks while youb have Adderall active in your system. In practice this means avoiding caffeine completely for at least 2 hours after your Adderall has kicked in. Ideally you would wait until the effects of Adderall have worn off entirely before drinking any caffeineated drinks.
Can I drink coffee the day after taking Adderall?
Yes, you can safely drink coffee the day after taking Adderall assuming the effects of the drug have completely worn off and you do not plan on taking any more Adderall on that day. Remember that mixing these two stimulant drugs is not a good idea, so leave as big a time gap as possible between taking them. In an ideal world, you would not consume any caffeine within 24 hours of taking Adderall and vice versa.
Bottom Line: How much caffeine is safe with Adderall?
There is no safe amount of caffeine to take with Adderall. These are two powerful stimulant drugs with overlapping effects and known interactions. Taking Adderall and caffeine together is known to cause serious side effects and severe health risks. It is therefore wise to avoid taking either caffeine or Adderall within the same 24 hour period.
So whether it’s tea, coffee, caffeine pills or energy drinks, we strongly advise you to avoid mixing caffeine with Adderall.
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Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.