“I had heard about it, but I don’t know for some reason I thought I’d be protected,” said fourth-year psychology major Ashley Tudor about the current shortage of Adderall across America. Tudor is one of the many college students diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) who are being affected by a lack of amphetamine mixed salts, also known by its brand name Adderall or Adderall IR.
Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of Adderall’s largest manufacturers, is behind the shortage and has blamed it on a labor shortage. A Teva spokesperson told the New York Times that the manufacturing delays have since been resolved, but the company is facing back orders due to “a surge in demand.” While other manufacturers continue to produce amphetamine mixed salts, they are unable to produce enough to meet the demand Americans have for Adderall.
The FDA announced the shortage back in October, but pharmacies began noticing shortages of Adderall over the summer with 64% of pharmacies having reported difficulty in obtaining the drug. There is no clear timeline of when the shortage will end, but it is expected to last into the 2023 year.
ADHD magazine ADDitude reported that college students with ADHD are increasingly common. In the past 20 years, the population of college students diagnosed with ADHD increased from 2% to 11.6%, meaning roughly 1 in 9 college students today have been diagnosed with ADHD. College students with ADHD face a range of challenges including academic impairments like fewer credits earned per semester, lower GPAs, less college readiness and a higher risk for dropping out. Adderall is used to help them focus on their schoolwork and daily activities, but Adderall use has been increasing for more than just students. ADHD is suspected to affect 10 million adult Americans, and it often goes undiagnosed in patients that are past childhood.
“I was able to feel like a normal person again, especially with schoolwork. I could sit down, read and comprehend and get things done,” Tudor said when discussing how her Adderall prescription affected her daily life. “It helps me clean. It helps me stay motivated.”
The use of prescription amphetamine has doubled from 2006 to 2016, and patients that depend on the medication for daily functioning are at risk of withdrawing without it. Withdrawal symptoms include fatigue and depression. Not all patients may be subject to withdrawal, but for those that do, it can be a struggle to function and accomplish basic tasks.
“The people that depend on the medication for daily functioning, for going to work, for being a good mother, for going to class, are struggling,” Fairlee C. Fabrett, director of training and staff development for the child and adolescent division at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, said to the New York Times. “This is not something to make light of.”
“The shortage has made me feel honestly scared because it’s right around finals,” said Tudor, who went to pick up her prescription around Thanksgiving. Her pharmacy told her they did not have it due to the national shortage, and did not know when they would get it in. “I’ve been trying to ration what I have left and pushing myself to get work done off it too.”
Another student, third year psychology and sociology double major Rafaella Pipko who was diagnosed with ADHD in high school is also facing effects of the shortage. “I was not academically performing to my fullest. My stimulants changed my life and my productivity levels.”
“It was a huge inconvenience and headache because I wasn’t able to get my medicine for an extra three days,” she said. “I called pretty much all the pharmacies I could in New Paltz, including the supermarket pharmacies. All of them were like, ‘we’re on backorder. We don’t know when we’ll get them.’” As a result, Pipko had to drive to Poughkeepsie for her medication. “This is not the first time that pharmacies in New Paltz haven’t had it in the past few months. I don’t know if I’m going to have to keep driving there.”
“I just felt bad for the people that don’t have cars or live on campus,” she said.
In their announcement, the FDA said the extended-release version of Adderall, Adderall XR, is available for patients. While waiting for resupply, patients should talk to their healthcare provider about the possibility to obtain alternative ADHD drugs.