Yes, the Adderall shortage is real. No, it’s not new — this shortage has actually been happening since August. What’s new is that the F.D.A. has “declared” that pharmaceutical companies that make Adderall cannot keep up with demand. The problem is not permanent – experts predict that the shortage problem will be resolved in the next six months or so. But that’s definitely not soon enough for the approximately 6 million people who rely on Adderall to be productive, focused, and stable while having ADHD.
Why is there a shortage?
There are really two simple reasons why there is an Adderall shortage right now. Supply and demand. On the supply side, the pharmaceutical companies that develop Adderall are short-staffed and struggling to produce the product as quickly as it is needed.
On the demand side, the need for ADHD medications has risen significantly in the past few years. As we get more adept at diagnosing ADHD, especially in adults and especially in adult women, demand for stimulant medications like Adderall has risen dramatically – 16% over the past three years or so. For many of the adults that I work with, Adderall is one treatment that is crucial for daily functioning, both at work and at home.
If you are taking Adderall and cannot fill your regular prescription, what can you do?
It might sound scary to hear that your much-needed ADHD medication is in short supply, but stay calm. There are things you can do to make it through this. Here is a list of steps you can take immediately to help weather the shortage.
(And, since your attention span might be somewhat limited right now, I have kept this as brief as possible!)
1) Talk to your doctor ASAP.
See if there is an alternative ADHD medication that you can try.
Get creative with your doctor about dosage and schedules. For example, rather than one extended-release dose in the morning, can you get a prescription for multiple short-acting doses to take throughout the day?
Add in Omega-3/6 fatty acids with your doctor’s approval. Studies have shown that Omega-3/6 fatty acids can help reduce ADHD symptoms.
Here is a helpful link from the FDA that describes various pharmaceutical companies that produce ADHD medications that you can share with your doctor.
2) Try new non-medication treatments.
Take Live Well ADHD.
Live Well ADHD is an online course with weekly live calls with ADHD coaches that can help you to:
Change your mindset so that you don't feel as negatively toward yourself and your ADHD.
Reduce responsibilities as much as possible. Have less to follow through on.
Make it possible to sleep on a more regular schedule. ADHD rages when you don’t get regular sleep!
Exercise, even just a little bit. Research shows exercise can be like medication for ADHD.
Start doing quick mindfulness practices now. It works to reduce ADHD symptoms. For example, you can try MindfullyADD.com.
Return to self-management tactics that have helped in the past. Remember those?
Start new tactics to help you feel better about yourself and get things done. Put yourself back in charge as much as possible with external tactics.
Get an ADHD coach.
Working directly with an expert ADHD coach can help you build very specific skills that will help you to stay on top of your ADHD symptoms if you can't access your ADHD medication during the shortage. A coach can do all of the things listed above, plus can serve as an external prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain that is missing the Adderall right about now!
3) Educate Yourself About Your ADHD.
Join an ADHD event or read a book. Arming yourself with a deeper understanding of how ADHD affects you and approaches that work for adults with ADHD will help you cope more effectively. Here are some workshops, events, and books that we recommend.
Workshops & Events
Smart But Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD by Thomas E. Brown
A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD: Embrace Neurodiversity, Live Boldly, and Break Through Barriers by Sari Solden and Michelle Frank
Not having access to your regular Adderall prescription will impact you, but it doesn’t mean you have to panic. Don't pretend like you can do all of the things in the same way without your medication. That will only lead to self-shaming and frustration. Talk to your doctor. Try new-to-you non-medication ADHD treatment approaches. Arm yourself to weather the shortage!