How to manage the Adderall shortage
How to manage the Adderall shortage

How to manage the Adderall shortage

What’s worse than jumping through hoops to get your Adderall medication? Jumping through those hoops and then being told that your prescription is on backorder. Aack! What?!

If you or your child takes Adderall (or the generic form known as amphetamine mixed salts) for the treatment of ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), you may already know about the nationwide Adderall shortage. Pharmacies across the US are having trouble getting and keeping enough Adderall in stock, so people are scrambling to find ways to manage. Earlier this month, the FDA acknowledged the shortage. Read on to find out what’s causing the shortage and what you can do to manage it.

Illustration of Adderall Shortage
What’s causing the Adderall shortage?

Experts describe three reasons for this shortage:

  • The heavily regulated supply chain
  • A rise in demand for Adderall
  • Continued labor shortages

Since Adderall is a Schedule 2 controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sets quotas that limit the amount each drug company may produce. Some experts report that these quotas are lagging behind the increased demand for ADHD medication [1].

Which leads to an obvious question—why is demand going up? Well, it’s complicated.

Over the last decade, both doctors and the public have gained better understanding and awareness of the condition. Once thought to afflict mostly young boys, we now understand that the condition often manifests differently in girls and adults and that symptoms persist throughout adulthood for many people. Social media platforms have given people a new window into their own struggles by way of observing others who manifest similar difficulties.

On top of this increased awareness, factors related to the pandemic also contributed to the surge in ADHD diagnosis and treatment. Many people lost structure, routine and social support while confined to their homes. This may have made ADHD symptoms more obvious. For some people, pandemic-related stress and anxiety may have caused an increase in symptoms that overlapped with ADHD, potentially leading to misdiagnosis. Along with these factors, social-distancing concerns led to loosened restrictions on telemedicine. For better or worse, this made it easier to seek and receive ADHD medicine.

Regardless of the reasons for this shortage, the result is the same: Many people who need Adderall to function in their daily lives are having trouble getting it. So, what now?

What can you do if your ADHD meds are out-of-stock?

If you have ADHD, obstacles related to this shortage may feel especially cruel. You’re probably taking a drug like Adderall because you have trouble getting organized and following through with tedious tasks—the very skills you need in this situation.

Jumping through the normal hoops to fill your prescription for a controlled substance is challenging under the best of circumstances. Going through all of that to learn that your medication is on backorder may feel so discouraging that you consider rationing your pills or going off them entirely. However, better options are available.

Strategies to manage the shortage:
  1. Call different pharmacies to see if they have your prescription in stock. Yours might be out of it, but that doesn’t mean all pharmacies in your area will be. Yes, we know this is about the last thing you want to do, but you might get lucky and find what you’re looking for on the first call.
  2. Call your prescribing provider. There are a variety of amphetamine stimulants that are subtly different from each other, and some may be easier to find than others. You might even find a formulation that works better for you in the process.
  3. If you do need to ration your pills, talk to your provider about cutting your dose on weekends or other days when you don’t need to focus as much. This may feel punishing and anxiety-provoking. If so, are there activities that you enjoy more when you’re not on your medication, like eating more elaborate meals or zoning out with a favorite movie or TV series? You might give yourself permission to produce less and relax more on days without your Adderall, like taking a mini vacation.

    It’s also important to implement behavioral strategies to help you cope with your symptoms, such as:
    • Writing out your goals for the day
    • Breaking tasks into small steps
    • Making lists of things you need to remember
    • Setting timers to orient you, keep you on task, and remind you of important events

Getting access to your medication may feel like a terrible and unfair burden right now. The good news is that we’ve been through Adderall shortages before, and this too shall pass.

In the meantime, try to get decent sleep, go for walks outside, and eat nourishing food. As banal as it sounds, self-care may help you get through this.

Next Steps

If you or someone you love would benefit from talking to a mental health provider in Tennessee, contact Athena Care.

One of our Care Coordinators will help you get the care you need.

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Rachel Swan, MS

Rachel has a Masters of Science in Clinical Psychology from Vanderbilt University, where she spent 16 years as a Research Analyst in the Psychology and Human Development Department.