Adderall Shortage: What to Do If Your ADHD Medications Are Unavailable

adderall shortage

Verywell Health / Michela Buttignol

Key Takeaways

  • The FDA declared a nationwide shortage of immediate-release Adderall last week.
  • While Adderall shortages are not uncommon, an increase in ADHD diagnoses in recent years may have contributed to increased demand for the treatment.
  • Several generic versions and extended-release formulas are still available. Experts say you can ask pharmacists to partially fill your order, or try a generic brand in the meantime.

Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, is in short supply.

While the supply of some generic versions could be restored this month, other inventory could be backlogged through January 2023, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The FDA said that Teva, the largest maker of Adderall in the United States, is experiencing manufacturing delays. Some alternative versions of Adderall are readily available, such as certain long-acting formulas and generic forms, but there’s not enough supply to meet U.S. market demand.

The drug has been in short supply since Teva started experiencing a labor shortage in August, Bloomberg reported. At least three other major manufacturers of Adderall are also experiencing backlogs. A survey found that six in 10 community pharmacies had trouble supplying the drug in the beginning of August.

Why Is There a Shortage?

Nearly all of Teva’s doses of its generic version of Adderall are on backorder, but its brand-name version is largely available.

The FDA said the Teva shortage is partly due to an increase in demand for Adderall. Other manufacturers are also experiencing shortages, including Epic Pharma LLC, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals LP, and SpecGX LLC.

But shortages like this one aren’t unheard of, said Jeffrey Katz, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Virginia and a member of the board of directors of the nonprofit Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). Drug manufacturers tend to see supply issues every few years, typically around the end of the year.

Adderall contains the stimulant amphetamine, which is a highly regulated controlled substance. Each year, pharmaceutical companies must submit a request to the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FDA for the raw material they plan to use for their Adderall production that year. Because amphetamines are controlled substances, there are strict rules barring companies from selling them to other companies.

Given these restrictions, it can be challenging for manufacturers to create more product and for pharmacies to quickly pivot to carry new brands.

A surge in demand for ADHD treatment may also be at play. During the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual classes meant many children missed opportunities to develop social and learning skills. Some adults went from a structured in-person work environment to the solitude of work-from-home. The effects of these changes, Katz said, were especially pronounced for people with ADHD.

At the same time, a growing awareness of ADHD and the importance of seeking treatment for the condition seems to be causing more people to seek medication. And the rise of telehealth has made it easier for many to get a diagnosis and treatment.

“I do think people are more aware of ADHD and they’re more willing in some ways to seek out some help, which is a good thing,” Katz said.

More Resources of Managing ADHD

If you’re struggling to access routine medication, or are seeking information about how to be diagnosed and treated for ADHD, you can refer to resources from the National Resource Center for ADHD, a program primarily funded by the CDC and other government agencies.

It’s important to note that the program does not provide counseling, medical advice, or direct referrals to professionals who diagnose and treat ADHD.

CHADD also runs an ADHD hotline with health information specialists in both English and Spanish. People can reach this hotline online or at 1-866-200-8098, Monday to Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

What to Do If Your ADHD Medications Are in Short Supply

It can be frustrating to hear that a pharmacist cannot fill a prescription for you or your child. If a pharmacy cannot fill an Adderall prescription, ask if they are able to partially fill it. That way, you can access some of the drug while figuring out if there is another pharmacy with the rest of the prescription in stock.

Patients may also ask their providers about switching to a generic version that is more readily available than the brand-name Adderall.

Since Adderall is a relatively short-acting drug, it doesn’t take long for the body to adjust to a new dose, and it’s unlikely that switching back to one’s prior medication regimen will cause serious issues.

“It’s not like you’re changing your complete treatment response over a year because of a shortage now,” Katz said. “Maybe for a short time you’re prescribed something different, and then you can get back on the regular medication that works best for you.”

The extended-release version of the drug is also widely available. People with ADHD, or parents of kids with ADHD, may speak with their clinician to find a way to best restructure their medication routine if they cannot reliably find their normal medication.

Those struggling to access Adderall may also ask their provider to consider prescribing them Ritalin (methylphenidate) or one of its generic alternatives.

When changing a medication regimen for someone with ADHD, it can be important to be transparent about how those changes might influence an individual’s behaviors.

“If this youngster is doing well in school and they have to be on a different medication or the parents are trying to stretch it out, then it’s important for the school to understand that the child’s medication is really what’s causing the difficulties in class,” Katz said.

What This Means For You

If you’re struggling to access your, or your child’s, Adderall prescription, speak with a clinician right away so you can figure out the best course of action. And if your child’s ADHD medication regimen changes, let their teachers and caretakers know, so they can anticipate differing behavior. The same goes for adults with ADHD in the workplace.

By Claire Bugos
Claire Bugos is a health and science reporter and writer and a 2020 National Association of Science Writers travel fellow.