Is There an Adderall Shortage? Difficulties Getting ADHD Medication

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Woman in white robe and glasses looking through medications in drawer while working in modern pharmacy.

Woman in white robe and glasses looking through medications in drawer while working in modern pharmacy.

Photo: Getty Images

Adderall—a medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—is in short supply, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday. The news comes after weeks of reports from patients and pharmacies having issues getting access to the drug.

The shortage of Adderall, or amphetamine mixed salts tablets, is the second confirmed by the agency in the last few years. The FDA announced a shortage back in September 2019, but it was reportedly resolved in May 2022. That shortage affected five pharmaceutical companies that supplied both generic and brand-name Adderall: Aurobindo Pharma, Lannett Company, Milan Pharmaceuticals, Sandoz, and Teva Pharmaceuticals.

In the press release that reinstated the official shortage, the FDA again mentioned that Teva, one of these pharmaceutical companies, is experiencing manufacturing delays that are driving the current shortage. An FDA spokesperson told Health in September that even with Teva seeing delays for the next few months, they still expected to have enough supply to meet demand. However, the agency is now saying that other manufacturers are having trouble keeping up.

"Other manufacturers continue to produce amphetamine mixed salts, but there is not sufficient supply to continue to meet U.S. market demand through those producers," the FDA press release stated.

Teva—the nation's top supplier of both branded Adderall and its generic version—has recognized delays of the medication, and said in September that they should be short-lived.

"It is possible that some may encounter a backorder (intermittently) based on timing and demand, but these are only temporary," Kelly Dougherty, a Teva spokesperson, told Health. "We are actively shipping both branded and generic Adderall to customers, and we expect full recovery for all inventory and orders in the coming weeks, at which point we expect no disruption at the pharmacy level."

Prior to the Wednesday declaration, prescribers and those who use Adderall had been raising the alarm about issue with keeping the medication stocked in numerous interviews with outlets like BuzzFeed News, Bloomberg, and NBC News. A survey conducted by the National Community Pharmacists Association in August also found that 64% of community pharmacists reported difficulty obtaining Adderall for patients.

The FDA has now confirmed these patients' and providers' stories and people continue to experience issues in accessing the medication essential to their productivity and livelihoods. Here's what to know about difficulties obtaining Adderall, and what to do if you experience roadblocks to getting your medication.

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Supply Issues Complicated by an Increase in Demand

According to Bloomberg, the supply issues started with a labor shortage at Teva, which led to a limited supply of the drug.

"Any noted delays are the downstream effect of a past labor shortage on the packaging line which has since been resolved," said Dougherty, who added that there's "no product shortage on our end.

Coinciding with the supply issues was a higher demand for Adderall in recent years.

Stimulants like Adderall were already on the rise before COVID-19, with amphetamine use doubling between 2006 and 2016—but the pandemic further increased the amount of people turning to the medication.

Amid lockdowns, telehealth appointments soared—particularly for mental health issues, and prescriptions for Adderall increased by more than 10% between 2020 and 2021, according to data from Iqvia Holdings.

In fact, some of the start-up companies that began providing mental health services through telehealth during the pandemic—like Cerebral Inc. and Done Global Inc.—have come under fire for potentially overprescribing the ADHD drugs, The New York Times reported.

In May, Cerebral stopped writing prescriptions for Adderall, Ritalin, and other controlled substances “indefinitely.” According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is also investigating Done for their prescribing practices of controlled substances.

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What to Do if Your Pharmacy Doesn't Have Your Prescription

Your first mode of protection against running out of Adderall is to refill your prescription as soon as you can, before you run out of the medication.

“That way you have time to find another pharmacy that stocks your medication if your usual pharmacy is out-of-stock,” Farah Khorassani, PharmD, an associate clinical professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, told Health.

If your pharmacy tells you they're out of Adderall, you can contact other local pharmacies—or ask your pharmacist to contact them—to see if they have the medication in stock, said Khorassani.

It may be worth looking into mobile or mail-order pharmacies if your usual pharmacy is out of stock, suggested Alex Dimitriu, MD, a psychiatrist and sleep medicine specialist and founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine and BrainfoodMD.

You may also want to ask your healthcare provider to call your prescription into a different pharmacy, according to Sonia Gaur, MD, a psychiatrist with Stanford Health Care.

If the shortage persists and it gets harder and harder to access the medication, there are other types of stimulant medications available that you and your healthcare provider could potentially look into. In its shortage announcement, the FDA recommended that people having issues accessing Adderall work with their healthcare providers to find alternative therapy solutions, such as extended-release versions of amphetamine mixed salts.

But it's not wise to abruptly stop taking Adderall or switch to those alternatives without professional guidance as everyone responds to medication discontinuation differently.

"The risk profile is based on multiple factors, for example, comorbid diagnoses, length of taking medications, dose of medications, and other factors that are part of shared patient care," said Guar.

Abrupt changes to your medication regimen could make you feel more tired and hungry than usual or impact your energy and mood. Fortunately, these symptoms should only last for about a week, according to Dr. Dimitriu. If for some reason you run out before filing your prescription again and are unable to take the medicine, it's crucial to start at a lower dosage and gradually build back up, said Dr. Dimitriu.

If all else fails and the meds are nowhere to be found, talk to your healthcare provider about other options and make a point to prioritize your sleep. "Sleep is essential to ADHD and our attention, focus and impulse control," said Dr. Dimitriu, "so make sure you keep sleeping well (over seven hours) whether on meds or off."