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ADHD medication shortage gets worse as other pills are now in short supply

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Posted at 3:21 PM, Feb 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-06 17:26:25-05

(WXYZ) — In today’s Health Alert, it’s been five months, and the Adderall shortage continues. The limited supply of the drug that treats ADHD is not only causing stress in those who can’t get it but it’s also created supply issues for other ADHD medications.

There’s been an unexpected rise in ADHD diagnoses. ADHD is short for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Those diagnosed with it often suffer from the inability to pay attention and focus. They’re often impulsive and hyperactive.

Now ADHD diagnoses had been steadily rising and doubled over nine years between 2007 and 2016. But then along comes the pandemic, which turned our lives upside down. Suddenly most people were working from home, and kids were learning online. That’s when some adults noticed they had difficulty with focus, and parents saw their children struggling to sit still and pay attention.

Another factor that helped fuel the drug shortage was telehealth. It became easier to get the medication because pandemic rules did not require an in-person visit. And patients were able to get it prescribed over the phone. So it’s no surprise that during 2020, Adderall prescriptions went up by 15.1%, almost double what the numbers were the year prior. And once Adderall was harder to find, patients switched to other ADHD medications like Ritalin and Concerta. And now these are facing shortages.

A lot of ADHD medications are actually controlled substances. And that’s because people can abuse the drug and become addicted. So the FDA and the Drug Enforcement Agency – DEA for short - control the supply. They calculate in advance how much medication needs to be made to meet demand. And they set limits on the ingredients pharmaceutical companies use to make the medications. But with the rise in diagnoses, the DEA was not able to forecast this and therefore meet demand. So you can see it’s not that easy to just scale up production. Unfortunately, the supply issues for ADHD medications could last until spring.

As for what parents or patients can do. Try calling different pharmacies to see what they have in stock. You can speak to your doctor to see what alternative medications are available. Or to ask if you can ration what you have – maybe only taking the medication on work or school days. Also, make sure you’re getting enough sleep which can help with restlessness. And be sure to exercise, which studies show can help kids focus and think better.