What to Know About the Adderall Shortage

Photo: Colin Temple/Alamy Stock Photo

For months, people who rely on Adderall have been struggling to find pharmacies with the medication. The Food and Drug Administration announced a shortage of Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, in October, and anticipate it could last for another 30 to 60 days. In the meantime, patients say they are rationing pills in order to make them last longer, asking doctors for alternative treatments and traveling for long distances to get their medication.

According to the health-information technology firm IQVIA, 1.4 million Adderall prescriptions were filled in the United States in 2021, a more than 10 percent increase from 2020. In other words, there’s really high demand for Adderall right now. Diagnoses of ADHD rose during the height of the pandemic when more people turned to telemedicine for medical care at a time when the rules for telemedicine were more lax than usual. Social media was overrun with ads urging people to get treatment for ADHD and the increase in diagnoses led to an uptick in prescriptions for the drug.

On top of that, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest manufacturer of immediate-release amphetamine salts like Adderall, wasn’t able to hire enough people to work in its packaging line earlier this year. Even though that particular issue has been resolved for Teva, other suppliers, including Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc., Rhodes Pharmaceuticals LP (a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma LP), Novartis AG’s Sandoz unit, are now having supply issues, too.

It doesn’t help that Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance that is closely monitored by the Drug Enforcement Agency in addition to the FDA. These organizations control how much of the drug can be produced by each manufacturer, so as reported in Wired, “Even if all the manufacturers suddenly had thousands of extra workers and the world’s most efficient supply chain, they’d still be constrained by the DEA’s quotas.”

Some doctors are beginning to worry that people who can’t access their medication might turn to unregulated online or other black-market avenues to get Adderall or alternatives. Experts have said that those running out of their medication should keep an open line of communication with their doctors. Those who have taken Adderall for a long time and are now without it could struggle with depression, have a hard time sleeping or suffer from fatigue, and other withdrawal symptoms.

What to Know About the Adderall Shortage