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What Parents Need To Know About ADHD Meds

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The national ADHD medicine shortage, which has impacted access to generic versions of Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta, was first announced back in October 2022. Now, 16 months later, patients are still struggling to access the treatments they need, with a variety of explanations behind the shortage and estimated resolution dates constantly being pushed back.

In the meantime, patients and parents are wondering how exactly they’re supposed to manage. “An inability to refill ADHD medication can cause patients significant stress, not to mention periods where they may be unmedicated,” Dr. Andrew Kahn, a licensed psychologist specializing in ADHD and associate director of behavior change and expertise at Understood.org, tells SheKnows. Whether it’s you or your child suffering, the situation can be tense and difficult, especially when you’re not sure exactly how long it’s going to last. SheKnows spoke to experts to explore the reasons behind the current shortage, what you can do to get medication if you or your child needs it, and how to manage if meds aren’t an option right now.


Why is there a shortage of ADHD medication?

There are a few different reasons why ADHD medication is in short supply right now.

The government limits supply. The Drug Enforcement Administration sets a cap on the raw ingredients needed to make stimulant drugs like Adderall and other ADHD treatments. Patients and lawmakers have questioned that imposed limitation as supply has dipped, but the DEA says it increased some of those quotas in response to the shortage, while alleging that the pharmaceutical companies weren’t manufacturing up to their quotas. In 2022, that resulted in a “shortfall of 1 billion doses that could have been produced but were not made or shipped,” the DEA said in a November 2023 statement. “DEA officials are saying that most pharmaceutical companies have access to needed ingredients,” Kahn explains, “and that the companies are largely to blame.”

Pharmaceutical companies are experiencing supply chain problems. In a November 2023 statement, FDA referenced “supply chain issues, manufacturing and quality issues, and business decisions of manufacturers” as some of the reasons behind the shortage — all problems on the business end, not the government’s. “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted global shipping and manufacturing, resulting in a shortage of several medications, including those used to treat ADHD,” Dr. Clifford Feldman, board-certified psychiatrist and medical director at Solace Treatment Center, tells SheKnows. “Additionally,” he says, “production issues at specific facilities have added to the shortage.”

More people are being diagnosed with ADHD. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, “far more people are being diagnosed with ADHD than ever before,” Kahn says, a factor the FDA also cited. “This increase in demand has taxed available medication stock, and production demands have increased.”


Patients are bearing the brunt of it, with many unable to fill prescriptions or access the same brand or type of medication they’re used to.

How can I get ADHD meds during the shortage?

Unfortunately, getting ADHD medications during a prolonged shortage isn’t as simple as switching your pharmacy. “Because stimulant medications are controlled substances, prescriptions for ADHD medications cannot be taken from one pharmacy to another,” Kahn says. Instead, physicians have to write up new prescriptions any time a pharmacy can’t fill an order — a process that’s exhausting for patients and doctors’ offices, he adds.

Kahn recommends calling pharmacies to inquire about current and incoming stock before your medication runs out, if possible. If you’re low on or out of meds, you can also talk with your doctor about alternative medications or treatments. While many generic ADHD treatments are experiencing shortages, the brand-name medications like Adderall, Vyvanse, and Concerta are all currently available, according to the FDA. However, brand-name drugs can be 80 to 85 percent more expensive than generic versions and insurance companies may not cover them, per GoodRx.

Adderall and ADHD med shortage: What to do if you can’t get meds

If you or your child can’t access ADHD medication, Kahn recommends trying other kinds of treatment, including:

  • Skill-building
  • Therapy
  • Modifying IEP or 504 school plans
  • Creating a quiet, calm, and flexible home environment and using tools like timers, labels, and calendars to “help with organization and time management”
  • Body doubling — you, your partner, or a sibling sits nearby and does a separate while your child with ADHD focuses on a task, helping them concentrate
  • Using brown or pink noise or noise-cancelling headphones to reduce distractions

It’s crucial to stay in contact with your or your child’s doctor throughout the shortage to determine whether changing your current regimen “may reduce the likelihood of medications being unavailable,” Kahn adds. Those changes might include trying a different medication, scheduling “medication holidays” (taking a break from the drug for a set amount of time), or reducing your dosage. Kahn emphasizes that “none of these options should be attempted or considered without qualified medical advice.”

When will the ADHD medication shortage end?

The short and frustrating answer is, we don’t know. Though the FDA provides expected dates for when specific medications are likely to be restocked, pharmaceutical companies have “consistently provided unreliable estimates” of when the shortage as a whole will end, Kahn says. “Parents need to know that this shortage is likely to affect their child’s care and, in turn, how they function at school, at home, and in the community.”

It’s important to stay in close contact with your medical provider while the shortage continues and to stay flexible and open to other kinds of treatments, even if they aren’t as effective as the preferred medication. Having an alternative management plan can help you cope with your or your child’s symptoms until the shortage is resolved.

Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps that won’t break the bank:

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