While the Adderall shortage seems to be coming to an end, the entire recent ordeal raises a great question — do prescription medication shortages have a trickle-down effect on SUD rates? The short answer is yes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Whenever prescription medication shortages like this happen, the best way to fully understand and deal with the issue is to have a holistic overview of what led us up to this point. So, let’s learn more about Adderall and how this shortage came to be.
Adderall is a well-known drug used to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This medication contains a combination of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine that can help improve focus by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine levels in the brain. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996, it’s become the preferred treatment protocol for clinicians treating patients with ADHD.
What’s the cause of the Adderall shortage?
It’s hard to pinpoint one specific cause for this shortage, but if it had to be narrowed down, COVID-19 and the surge of telehealth services and telehealth startups might have something to do with it. There is an increased demand for the medication thanks to the increased number of ADHD diagnoses. In this analysis, researchers found that Adderall prescriptions doubled from 2006 to 2016 — and it continues increasing. Data firm Trilliant Health has reported a 22 percent increase in Adderall prescriptions from 2019 to 2021.
While the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in new and exacerbated mental health issues for many, the increased use of telehealth platforms and other telehealth startups pushed the Adderall supply chain to its limits. In particular, telehealth startups took advantage of relaxed healthcare regulations — created to ensure patients could get the care they needed during the pandemic — to promote ADHD medications to adults who had difficulty concentrating. Companies like this have also caused concerns of overprescribing medication and accusations of being a pill mill for the social media era.
What are the risks of an Adderall shortage?
Is Adderall overprescribed in America? While it is an important question to ask ourselves, it does little to mitigate the current shortages we’re facing.
There’s no denying that a prescription medication shortage has serious repercussions for those who use them, ranging from the serious health risks they may face when they discontinue their medications to potentially fueling more substance use disorders. We only need to take the opioid crisis as an example of what can happen. After clinicians realized how dangerous and addictive OxyContin could be, they stopped prescribing it in the 2010s, causing patients to purchase elicit and cheaper opioids from the black market, leading to the crisis we’re seeing today. Even if the situation with Adderall has similar elements to the beginning stages of the opioid crisis, it doesn’t have to continue on the same path.
The FDA has been in talks with Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest manufacturer of these types of medications, to come up with a better and more robust solution.
If you or someone you love is struggling with the Adderall shortage, talk to your primary care physician to come up with a care plan that fits your needs. They have the knowledge and resources to help you navigate through times like these.