Adderall deficiency has been “absolute hell” for both adults and children. Here’s what doctors say, what patients can do.

An illustration of Adderall pills in pink.

Thanks to an ongoing nationwide shortage of Adderall, many adults and parents of children with ADHD are scrambling to fill their prescriptions. (Photo: Getty Images)

A few weeks ago, Sheletta Brundidge received a call from her son Andrew’s high school, telling her that his daily medication had run out. The 16-year-old has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and takes Adderall to control it. But by the time Brundidge went to refill it, her pharmacy had run out of medicine. “The closest one available was over in St. Paul, Minnesota,” she tells Yahoo Life. “It’s a whole different city!”

Thanks to an ongoing nationwide shortage of Adderall, there are many families like Shelettas who have scrambled to fulfill their recipes. So what can you do if you or a loved one’s medication suddenly becomes unavailable? Here’s what medical experts say you need to know.

First, why is there a shortage?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks everyone drug shortage on his website. In October, the This was announced by the FDA a shortage of immediate-release amphetamine mixed salts, which include the brand-name drug Adderall. These are stimulants used to treat ADHD as well as certain sleep disorders, including narcolepsy.

One of the main reasons for the FDA’s announcement was a labor shortage at Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the largest manufacturers of Adderall. Other companies make Adderall, but the supply just isn’t high enough to keep up with the growing demand in the US market. This increase in demand is partly due to the US government relaxation of the rules during the pandemic, which allowed Adderall to be prescribed at telemedicine appointments.

At the same time, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reduced the amount of permitted raw materials for the manufacture of Adderall to prevent patient abuse of the controlled substance. “Two things can happen: either you can’t make it, which they were struggling with, or there’s an increased demand.” dr Max Wiznitzera pediatric neurologist and co-chair of the professional advisory board for ADHD advocacy CHADD, tells Yahoo Life. “In other words, they underestimated the demand. And we were hit by those two issues.”

For Brundidge, the lack of Adderall meant she had to drive an hour and a half through snow and ice to fill her son’s prescription. Knowing she wouldn’t make it home in time for an important work meeting, she stayed in the pharmacy parking lot, got in the back seat of her car, and conducted the interview on her laptop. “It’s really an inconvenience for people right now,” she says. “We’re all scratching over the last few pills here and there.”

But aside from being an inconvenience, there are major concerns for those who rely on these drugs.

What does the shortage mean for patients?

An estimate 6 million children ADHD was diagnosed between the ages of 3 and 17, and 62% of these children are taking medication for it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “For many people, putting on glasses helps focus their eyes. In the same way, ADHD medication helps people focus their thoughts.” dr Irene Koolwijk, pediatrician specializing in developmental behavior and behavioral science at UCLA Health, told Yahoo Life. “The drugs help them ignore distractions, pay attention, and control their behavior.”

The drugs work by increasing levels of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which helps people focus and be alert. Or in the case of a sleep disorder, the drugs help them feel more awake and alert.

Brundidge says the thought of her son Andrew going off his medication is unnerving. “Will he be able to keep his composure and stay upright if he’s upset about something?” she says. “I really have to take the worst-case scenario and prepare him, ‘Listen, you don’t have your medicine. We have to wait for that doctor to call. If you’re upset, just walk away.’”

The mother of four also worries about the long-term effects. “This is more than just a shortage of medicines. My child’s educational future is at stake. He’s in 11th grade, he’s in 12th grade, he’s in college, and that could affect college for him.

The effects can also be devastating for adult ADHD sufferers. A Twitter user said it was “absolute hell“It is not possible to get a prescription refill while A mother tweeted that she had to call six different pharmacies to find one that could fill her son’s Adderall prescription.

Wiznitzer says adult patients without proper medication could have trouble at work due to poor time management, relationship problems, or poor and impulsive financial decisions. “ADHD makes you inefficient,” he says. “No matter what task you are supposed to do. There are consequences for a negative impact on your daily work, whether you are a child or an adult.”

How to navigate through the defect

The good news is that when suddenly faced with a drug shortage, there are some actions adults and parents of children who need the medication can take. Koolwijk recommends starting with a visit to your local pharmacy. “Pharmacies generally don’t give out information about their inventory of stimulants over the phone because it’s a controlled substance,” she says. “But large chain pharmacies may be able to see if other affiliated pharmacies have the drug available.”

Wiznitzer says if that doesn’t work, ask if you can submit the prescription to an online pharmacy, e.g Express Scripts or BlinkRx.

To track down available medications, Wiznitzer says it can also be useful to connect with local parent or patient groups in your area. “Let’s say you’re a member of CHADD, you could then make a request: ‘I’m having trouble getting this drug at the pharmacy x‘Who succeeded?’” he says. “So there are many ways to do that. Networking with both doctors and self-help groups can be very helpful.”

Another option is to try a different form or dosage of your medication. For example, Wiznitzer says he’s successfully switched many of his short-release Adderall patients to an extended-release pill because it’s more readily available. He also recommends asking your doctor about trying a methylphenidate ADHD medication like Ritalin or Concerta.

However, since Adderall deficiency has prompted many patients to take this route, says Koolwijk a Domino effect it happens. “As patients prescribed short-acting Adderall are now prescribed other stimulants, this has led to temporary shortages of other stimulants as well,” she says. But whatever option you explore with your doctor, also check with your insurance company to make sure the new drugs are covered and what they will cost.

For parents, Koolwijk recommends reviewing your child’s behavioral and educational support systems at school and at home to ensure they are fully optimized should there be a gap in their treatment. “If they notice any learning or behavioral difficulties, they can apply for an assessment at the school to see if further support can be put in place,” she says. “Or families can connect with a therapist to work on challenges at home.”

There is hope on the horizon. Wiznitzer says the DEA has now cleared new shipments of these ingredients for drug shortages stemming from shortages of raw materials. Though manufacturing issues remain, Koolwijk also says she’s noticing a slight improvement in ADHD drug availability compared to December 2022.

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