The Food and Drug Administration announced a nationwide shortage of Adderall last week — and this is not the first time that supply has struggled to keep up with demand.
Adderall shortages have occurred on a regular basis for the past three or four months, according to Dr. Royce Lee, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago in Illinois.
But while experts are optimistic that this will ease soon, the current shortfall does seem worse than those in the past, added Dr. Karam Radwan, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago Medicine.
Being unable to fill your prescription is scary for the millions of Americans who rely on Adderall as part of their treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy and other conditions.
Thankfully, there are ways to cope if you can’t get the drug or if you are worried about future Adderall shortages. Speaking to HuffPost, experts shared what you can do:
First and foremost, talk to your prescriber
The best thing to do is to get advice from your prescriber, Radwan said. They can help find a solution based on your health history and your specific medical needs.
Adderall is prescribed most commonly for ADHD, but it’s important to remember that people experience the disorder differently — so a solution for one person may look different for another. Plus, Adderall is also used for other issues like narcolepsy, so recommendations for those can vary.
“It’s not one fit for all,” Radwan said, so “[you] should reach out to the prescriber or the clinician and see what options [you] have.”
He noted that your prescriber may recommend switching to a different medication, combining medications to create a similar result, going back on an old medicine or trying a different dosage of Adderall that may be more readily available.
Find some modifications that work for you, even if they just make an incremental difference
“When we recommend medication, we also recommend a slew of other accommodations,” said Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist at Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City.
For children, this can include modifications like receiving extra time for school tests or sitting at the front of the classroom. For adults, accommodations such as using noise-canceling headphones, setting timers for focus or taking small movement breaks are recommended, she said.
Hafeez added that there’s even an FDA-approved video game for ADHD called EndeavorRx, which was created by neuroscientists. The game, designed for ages 8 to 12, engages portions of a child’s brain that are key to attention function development, which can help kids manage symptoms.
Beyond this, Hafeez noted that cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat ADHD but takes time to have an impact. ADDitude Magazine ― an outlet that provides information for folks living with the disorder ― described cognitive behavioral therapy as “brain training for ADHD.” The treatment can help adults with the condition change their way of thinking, while also addressing issues like time management and disorganization that many folks with ADHD face every day.
If you are well versed in these different solutions, don’t be afraid to employ them now. And if you’re not familiar with them, it’s a good idea to think about creating a multipronged approach to your treatment. That way, you’ll better manage amid any future shortages — or even if you forget your medicine on vacation.
“It’s wise to have a proper professional treatment plan that includes medication as one of the treatment plans but not the [entire] treatment plan,” Hafeez said.
Check with various local pharmacies
Ask your regular pharmacy if any other locations might have Adderall in stock, advised Lee, the University of Chicago professor. From there, you can ask your prescriber to send the prescription to where it can be filled.
“Pharmacies do get new stocks of medication but then run out,” Lee said. “Sometimes the pharmacist knows when new medication is arriving.”
Keep in mind that it’s hard to find Adderall in many parts of the country right now, so you may not be able to have your prescription filled elsewhere — but it’s worth a try.
Know what ADHD symptoms look like for you and which ones can cause more problems
If you decide to go off Adderall — or must because of the shortage — and don’t seek out other treatment options, you should find out what symptoms you may need to monitor closely and when you might need to contact your doctor, Radwan said.
Your prescriber will likely want to be made aware if certain symptoms are present, such as difficulty focusing when driving or a disruption in your ability to work, he added.
These will vary from person to person. Not everyone will need to monitor their symptoms, but some will. It’s also best to talk to your prescriber before going off Adderall (or any other medication, for that matter).
In the end, you “should know [what symptoms] to monitor and when you need to absolutely seek advice,” Radwan noted.
The exact reason for the Adderall shortages is complicated. Manufacturing delays and labor issues are partially to blame. Additionally, Hafeez said that the number of people with Adderall prescriptions has increased in recent years, driving up demand.
“The irony is, it’s ADHD Awareness Month and we don’t have Adderall,” Hafeez said.
The shortages are supposed to start improving this month but are expected to last until March, according to NPR. If you find that you’re impacted, reach out to your physician for guidance so you can take care of yourself.