What Can You Do If Your ADHD Medications Aren't Working Anymore?

Adderall pills

Illustration by Zack Angeline for Verywell Health

Key Takeaways

  • Recently, more people are claiming that their ADHD medications have stopped working.
  • The ongoing Adderall shortage has likely disrupted some patients’ regular prescriptions.
  • Experts say your healthcare provider might be able to switch your medications, and it’s important to keep track of how you’re responding to a new drug.

Some video creators on TikTok claim that their usual ADHD medications have stopped working, or that they’ve been given placebos or fake pills.

“Lately my ADHD medication has not been working for me,” TikToker @abbey.n.darby told her followers. “It takes me hours to fall asleep because my mind is racing through all the things I didn’t finish that day.”

Adderall, a first-choice medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity, has been in short supply since October 2022. The shortage has left some people struggling to get their refills, and healthcare providers are prescribing alternative medications that match their patients’ needs. This disruption to regular prescriptions may have contributed to increasing reports of ADHD medications failing to work properly.

“I’ve had people go for days to weeks without being able to find a pharmacy that can fill their prescription,” said Adelaide Robb, MD, division chief of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Children’s National Hospital.

Due to the Adderall shortage, healthcare providers have been switching patients to alternative medications such as Vyvanse and Concerta—which are now also in short supply reportedly. Robb said doctors have been consulting with one another on how to best proceed for their patients while following up with the FDA on how much longer this shortage will persist.

How Has the Adderall Shortage Affected Patients?

The general solution among providers, according to Robb, is to switch patients from Adderall to Vyvanse because both medications are in the same drug family—amphetamine. Concerta is more of a last resort, because it’s a different class of medication and not every patient responds to it. But these changes in medication can take some time to adjust to.

Some patients said they ration their medications because they’re not sure when they’ll get a refill, while others doubled their dosage at home to maximize the drug’s effectiveness.

“Don’t double up or change your dose on your own, because then your physician doesn’t know when you’re having trouble with your medication,” Robb said.

Some providers may also switch their patients to generic ADHD medications, or go from generics to brand-name drugs if the previous is no longer working, she explained.

A generic drug must have the same active ingredients as the brand-name drug and it has to meet the same quality and safety standards, but it can have some minor differences in absorption rate and inactive ingredients, according to Jacob Brown, PharmD, MS, an assistant professor in pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

“Typically, there are differences in the physical characteristics of what the tablet or capsule looks like, which can impact how some patients perceive the medication to work,” Brown told Verywell. “This can be described as the medication experience, which is generally the patient’s own subjective experience of taking a medication.”

What Can You Do If You Feel Like Your Medications Aren't Working?

If you feel that your ADHD medications have stopped working, Robb highly recommends speaking to your doctor. In most cases, your doctor might ask you to do a general check-up to make sure there’s no undetected health issue. Then, they might reevaluate your dosage or switch you to another drug brand.

After any changes in your medication, Robb said, it’s best to keep track of how you’re responding to it. Ask yourself questions like when you start feeling “locked in” or wandering off after taking the medicine.

Robb also urged patients to avoid using unlicensed online pharmacies to get ADHD medications as the drugs could be fake. “You weren’t getting Adderall. You’re getting something that could be anything,” she said.

If you feel that your medications are different from before, speak to your pharmacist. “The pharmacists may be getting complaints from other customers that ‘oh, yeah, my Adderall is not working either’ and then they can go back to the generic manufacturer and their supplier and see what’s going on,” Robb said.

You can also consider other factors that may be halving the life of your medications or affecting how long they stay in your system. For instance, protein powder with an excessive amount of caffeine could interfere with the drugs you’re taking, or high-fat foods might delay drug absorption, according to Robb.

If you’re in between appointments and are struggling to concentrate, you can try to stack high cognitive demands at the beginning of the day, Robb said. It also helps to take a 10-minute break for every 30 minutes of work.

What This Means for You

If your regular ADHD medications have stopped working, reach out to your healthcare provider to discuss whether you should try a different drug. Don’t ration your medications because of drug shortages or double the dosage at home without consulting your doctor first.