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How the Adderall Shortage is Affecting Millions of Americans

By: Olivia Storey

Adderall Shortage

Across the country, Americans with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are struggling to find good alternatives to the highly popular stimulant Adderall, which has been in short supply in recent months and will likely not be sufficiently restocked until early 2023 due to skyrocketing demand and manufacturing delays. Because of the shortage, many patients and their families have been forced to try alternative treatments or to go without their medication altogether. This has led to frustration and concern among patients and advocates alike, who argue that the shortage is putting the health and well-being of those who rely on Adderall at risk.

What Does the FDA Say About The Adderall Shortage?

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Adderall is a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, two central nervous stimulants that improve focus and reduce impulsivity by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. The combination of these two stimulants helps treat ADHD, making it easier for those with the diagnosis to focus on daily tasks such as work, school, home life, etc. However, the dispense of Adderall prescriptions spiked to 41.4 million last year, up by 10.4% from 2020, according to IQVIA. This sudden spike, in addition to a high number of new diagnoses in 2022, have caused the medication to become almost impossible to find across the U.S.

The shortage has also sparked debate about the need for better regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and for more transparency in the supply chain. It’s no secret that Adderall is a very popular medication, especially among school-aged children and college students. While many require the drug to help with their schoolwork and daily life (approximately 10% of school-aged children ages 6-11 and 14% of students ages 12-17), the business of selling or giving the stimulant to non-prescribed peers has increased in recent years. According to a study performed by the Partnership to End Addiction, as many as 5-35% of college students are taking Adderall without a prescription. “I didn’t have to look around to get [Adderall], I just mentioned it once,” said a University of Wisconsin-Madison student in response to the data. “I honestly probably wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t so accessible to me.” The student explained that they paid a friend about $5 for one pill to help study for a particularly hard test. These circumstances are becoming all too common, especially when many students lacking a prescription feel the pressure to perform better in school, and resort to dangerous methods in order to do so.

Adderall Shortage Prevention

Due to the increased demand and illegal solicitation of the stimulant, many are calling for changes to be made in order to prevent future shortages and to ensure that patients have access to the medications they need. For the time being, however, patients and their families are being urged to talk to their healthcare providers about alternative treatments, and to simply “wait out the storm” as the supply of Adderall slowly begins to return to normal.