Adderall is a prescription medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD. In recent months, many people who have prescriptions for Adderall have been unable to obtain their medication at their local pharmacies due to a nationwide shortage.
The Adderall shortage may continue for several months, and affected adults may struggle to manage their professional and personal responsibilities. ADHD can be considered a disability depending on the severity of the symptoms and the impact they have on a person’s daily life.
In addition to offering insight into the Adderall shortage, the main goal of this blog post is to provide support, compassion, and alternative resources for adults diagnosed with ADHD – those directly impacted by the stimulant shortage.
We’ve also outlined the symptoms of ADHD, its prevalence, and its connection to addiction in a previous blog post and created a separate resource for individuals not diagnosed with ADHD but struggling with Adderall addiction.
While harm reduction strategies can be helpful, they are not medical advice or a substitute for professional care. If you are experiencing a mental crisis due to the Adderall shortage (or any other reason), please dial 988 to reach the Suicide & Crisis Hotline.
Disruptions in treatment can create significant obstacles, especially for those who struggle with ADHD symptoms which already make it challenging to stay on top of daily life tasks. Read on to learn more about the Adderall shortage and what you can do to find support.
What Is the Adderall Shortage?
The Adderall shortage refers to a nationwide shortage of Adderall and several generic formulations of stimulants widely prescribed to manage ADHD. More specifically, the shortage is due to supplies of the active ingredient in these medications: amphetamine mixed salts.
Other ADHD medications have been affected by the shortage, including name-brand methylphenidate-based stimulants like Concerta and Ritalin. Some doctors resort to prescribing alternatives like Vyvanse, which are running low as people scramble to find other avenues to manage ADHD symptoms.
How Did the Adderall Shortage Start?
A few factors have contributed to the Adderall shortage; in simple terms, the demand for Adderall has far outpaced the supply. In late 2022, the FDA formally announced the beginning of the Adderall shortage, citing supply issues from major drug manufacturers.
While drug manufacturers are reluctant to provide reasons for their inability to produce these medications at the needed rate, the FDA has listed several reasons for the shortage, including:
- Shortage of the active ingredient
- Demand increase for the drug
- Shortage of an inactive ingredient component
Part of the problem is that Adderall prescriptions have risen dramatically in the last several years. In 2020, for instance, Adderall prescriptions rose by over 15%. While there are several measures in place to prevent drug shortages in the United States, they have primarily focused on supply disruptions, not sudden increases in demand.
What Caused the Increase in Demand for Adderall?
The increase in Adderall prescriptions is a result of several factors, but the primary drivers include the following:
- COVID-19 lockdowns
- The DEA relaxing rules on prescribing controlled medications
- The growth of digital health companies prescribing Adderall
These three factors became a perfect storm to suddenly increase the amount of Adderall prescriptions, despite relatively stable levels of ADHD diagnoses.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were asked to switch to remote work and had children attending school virtually from home. These two factors could have led to people noticing symptoms of ADHD, such as an inability to focus or work on specific tasks, in both themselves and their children.
Typically, receiving a prescription for Adderall requires seeing a physician in person and receiving a clinical diagnosis. But as a result of lockdown measures, the DEA removed these restrictions, allowing doctors to prescribe Adderall over telehealth appointments.
While this alone is likely not enough to create such an overwhelming surge in Adderall prescriptions, the final component is the appearance of digital health companies that marketed their services heavily on social media platforms.
Companies like Cerebral, which is now in the middle of a federal investigation regarding its practice of prescribing Adderall to nearly anyone, marketed its services extensively on social media during this period.
The relaxed restrictions on prescriptions and the sudden wave of people experiencing difficulty adapting to their workflow at home allowed companies like Cerebral to prescribe Adderall heavily without rigorous diagnostic testing or federal oversight.
When Will the Adderall Shortage End?
Currently, the FDA has said that brand-name Adderall is no longer in shortage. Yet most generic prescriptions still face supply issues that likely won’t resolve until at least later this spring.
What Can Adults Do to Get Support for ADHD Symptoms?
If you are diagnosed with ADHD and cannot get your medications, there are a few steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms while the Adderall shortage continues. These aren’t always perfect solutions and may not be sustainable long-term, but they can help you get through a difficult period.
1. Ask Your Pharmacist About Different Dosages or Brands
Not all types of Adderall are in short supply. You can ask your pharmacist whether other medication dosages are available or how much it would cost to switch to a brand-name drug.
For example, if a 10 mg dose of Adderall is unavailable, pharmacies may still stock 5 mg doses. You can work with your pharmacist to determine whether you can switch your prescription to a smaller dosage with a higher quantity to get you through the shortage.
Some patients have had success calling various local pharmacies. Adderall is a controlled substance, so if you find a local pharmacy with the appropriate dose, your doctor must transfer your prescription to a new location.
2. Ask Your Physician to Change Your Prescription
One option is to seek a different prescription to treat your ADHD. Several different medications are available for the treatment of ADHD, including:
Some of these medications may be in short supply as well because many people have had to switch their prescriptions to get any ADHD medication at all. However, speaking with your local pharmacist can help you make a plan with your doctor about switching prescriptions.
If you plan to change your prescription, you must first understand that not all ADHD medications work the same. Some may be extended-release formulations, for example, instead of immediate release. All of the above medications are stimulants like Adderall. However, there are non-stimulant medications for treating ADHD as well. These include:
Non-stimulant medications do not provide the same immediate improvement in symptoms as Adderall and can take some time to build up in the system. If you and your doctor decide to change your medication, it’s essential to explore other support while your body adjusts.
3. Contact a Mental Health Provider for Support
While most mental healthcare providers advocate medication as a first-line treatment for ADHD, psychotherapy is another effective option for helping you get your symptoms under control. Several evidence-based methods can be effective in managing the symptoms of ADHD.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on the concept that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors all influence each other. Changing maladaptive thought patterns can provide relief from mental health symptoms.
Some CBT programs specifically target ADHD symptoms. These programs focus on implementing organization strategies, emotional regulation, impulse control, and stress management.
Furthermore, CBT can help treat co-occurring mental health concerns frequently present in people diagnosed with ADHD, such as depression and anxiety. Some studies incorporated mindfulness strategies like meditation into a CBT approach, and this method has shown promise in adults with ADHD.
CBT and mindfulness strategies are not a silver bullet and may not work for adults with more severe ADHD symptoms, but there are alternative treatments.
Brain Training for ADHD
Brain training tools, such as neurofeedback, can help people overcome some of the symptoms of ADHD. Neurofeedback provides real-time insight into your brain’s electrical state and teaches you to control your brain through targeted practice.
Over time, neurofeedback rewrites the way the brain responds to certain stimuli. Neurofeedback can help you deal with two of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD: impulsivity and distractibility. Working with a neurofeedback therapist and using specialized equipment can train your brain to build focus, concentration, and attentiveness.
4. Lean into Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes are not a substitute for clinical interventions for ADHD, especially because they can take time to make an impact, and people with ADHD often struggle with executive dysfunction. Still, we’re presenting these strategies – not to minimize the impact of ADHD but to share more protective supports.
Practice Self-Compassion and Self-Care
Remember that ADHD is a complex condition that affects everyone differently. Be patient with yourself and remember that it’s okay to seek help and support when you need it.
Engage in activities that help you relax and manage stress, such as yoga, meditation, listening to music, going for a walk, hanging out with a furry friend, or taking a bath. Taking care of yourself and managing stress is important, as stress can exacerbate ADHD symptoms.
Minimize the Mental Clutter
Physical clutter creates mental clutter – but the opposite is also true: clearing physical clutter can help you clear mental clutter. Keeping your space clean is easier said than done for people with ADHD, but the strategies below may help:
- Don’t put it down, put it away: exactly what it sounds like – instead of putting something down as you’re completing a task, put it where it belongs. For example, as you’re cooking, don’t rest ingredients on the counter; instead, put them away after you use them.
- Everything in its place: set frequently used items in the same spot (like car keys, the TV remote, medications, etc.), so you’ll always be able to find what you need when needed.
- Create catch-all bins: add a bin to each room to catch any misplaced items. Then, at the end of your day, set a 30-minute timer and see how many things you can put away before time runs out.
- Simplify your choices: meal prepping one day of the week can help cut down on the decisions you have to make throughout the day and help keep you nourished with nutrient-dense food.
Ultimately, anything you can do to create routine and decrease the number of decisions you have to make will not only help fight overwhelm but also prevent ADHD burnout.
5. Turn to Tech-Friendly Tools
The tried-and-true organizational tools that work for neurotypical people (like daily planners or to-do lists) don’t always work for people with ADHD. Technology can help fill the gaps:
- Set recurring alerts in your phone that remind you when it’s time to eat or wind down for bed
- Block off your calendar and snooze notifications during workouts to help keep you focused
- Put your phone in airplane mode and turn off the volume before bed
- Track appointments and important events in your calendar app and enable notifications to remind yourself the day before/day of
- Set your alarm for the same time each day and try to go to bed at the same time each night; limit screentime before bed to support your circadian rhythm
- Search for ADHD planner templates to use on your phone/tablet
6. Seek Community Support and Stay Informed
It can be helpful to connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges. Consider joining a support group or seeking online communities for people with ADHD.
Your community can help you stay current on the Adderall shortage and available treatment options. Stay in communication with your healthcare provider, and if necessary, seek out an ADHD specialist.
7. Ask for Accommodations at Work and School
In the United States, ADHD is recognized as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers and educational institutions to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities, including ADHD. To qualify for these accommodations, you must have a documented ADHD diagnosis and demonstrate that your condition substantially limits one or more major life activities.
Of course, if you haven’t disclosed this information to an employer or a school, it can be intimidating to navigate these conversations alone. A therapist can help you practice these conversations so you feel more secure in communicating your needs.
Several workplace accommodations can help individuals with ADHD improve their productivity and work performance. Here are some examples of what employers can do to accommodate individuals with ADHD:
- Frequent breaks throughout the workday can help employees manage symptoms of ADHD and reduce feelings of overwhelm
- Flexible start and end times or the ability to work from home can help with managing symptoms of ADHD and improve work-life balance
- Written instructions for tasks or projects can help with memory retention and organization
- Clear and concise communication about expectations, deadlines, and goals can help individuals with ADHD stay on track and avoid misunderstandings
- Breaking tasks into smaller, more manageable steps and providing clear deadlines can help with planning and organization
- Noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce environmental distractions and improve focus
- Tools such as task-management software or apps can help with planning and organization
- Positive feedback and encouragement for completed tasks can help individuals with ADHD stay motivated and focused
It is important to note that accommodations will vary depending on the individual and the nature of the job. Workplaces should always prioritize an individual’s needs and facilitate open and ongoing discussions with employees to identify specific accommodations on a case-by-case basis.
Getting Through the Adderall Shortage
Navigating a medication shortage can be scary and potentially dangerous without proper support. We want to encourage anyone impacted by the Adderall shortage to contact professional help, whether you have an ADHD diagnosis or you’re struggling with dependence on stimulants.
The Adderall shortage has caused disruptions in treatment and, consequently, untold levels of mental stress and anxiety among people who have gone without their medications during this period. But with a little help, you can get through to the other side.
If the strategies listed above don’t work for you, or you need help getting through this time, reach out to All Points North by filling out our confidential online contact form, using the live chat function on our website, or calling 855.235.9792.
- Lupkin, Sydney. “Adderall Shortage Forces Some Patients to Scramble, Ration or Go Without.” NPR, 18 Feb. 2023, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2023/02/18/1157832613/adderall-shortage-forces-some-patients-to-scramble-ration-or-go-without.
- Morrison, Sara. “The Forgotten Victims of the Adderall Shortage.” Vox, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.vox.com/recode/2023/2/10/23593261/adderall-concerta-ritalin-shortage-adhd-narcolepsy.
- Hopkins, Caroline. “The ADHD Medication Shortage Is Getting Worse. What Went Wrong?” NBC News, 6 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/adderall-shortage-adhd-drugs-affected-will-end-rcna66766.
- “FDA Announces Shortage of Adderall.” FDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 12 Oct. 2022, https://www.fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-announces-shortage-adderall.
- “FDA Drug Shortages.” FDA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 12 Oct. 2022, https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/drugshortages/dsp_ActiveIngredientDetails.cfm?AI=Amphetamine%2BAspartate%3B%2BAmphetamine%2BSulfate%3B%2BDextroamphetamine%2BSaccharate%3B%2BDextroamphetamine%2BSulfate%2BTablets&st=c&tab=tabs-4&panels=0.
- Jennings, Katie. “Mental Health Startup Cerebral To Stop ADHD Prescriptions For New Patients.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 5 May 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/katiejennings/2022/05/04/mental-health-startup-cerebral-to-stop-adhd-prescriptions-for-new-patients/?sh=4a7415d96b7d.
- Mitchell, John T et al. “Mindfulness Meditation Training for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adulthood: Current Empirical Support, Treatment Overview, and Future Directions.” Cognitive and Behavioral Practice vol. 22,2 (2015): 172-191. doi:10.1016/j.cbpra.2014.10.002
- Hovde, Michael. “All About ADHD Burnout.” Psych Central, 14 Oct. 2022, https://psychcentral.com/adhd/adhd-burnout.