- This year, Adderall shortages are making it difficult for people to get prescriptions.
- I called over 40 pharmacies this month trying to find it, which was incredibly exhausting.
- I ended up going a few days without it and paying more than usual for my prescription.
A great thing about social media is that, in many cases and with a discerning eye, it allows you to cross-reference official statements when they contradict anecdotal sources. If you only visited the Food and Drug Administration or FDA website, you would think that Adderall deficiencies were no longer an issue. After all, the FDA’s page for the drug says the shortages ended in May 2022 and August 2022, respectively. If this is true, however, why do so many of us still find it so difficult to obtain these drugs?
Take a look at Twitter or even Google Trends and it quickly becomes clear that many of us who take Adderall are still having trouble getting our prescriptions filled. In fact, anecdotal evidence from patients and even doctors seems to suggest that the shortage is actually getting worse. For me, refilling my prescription has become a stress-filled process that I dread every month.
This month, I called more than 40 pharmacies and still had no answer — not even my prescription
In the early months of the pandemic, I left my Brooklyn home once a month for uncharacteristically quick, almost deserted train rides to my doctor’s Columbus Circle office in Manhattan. We’d do our close check-in, determine if my medication routine was uneventful as it is or if there were changes, and then he’d send my prescription to the friendly and reliable downtown pharmacy I’d patronized for years. In the spring of 2022, however, this final step in the process turned tumultuous.
“We have your other medications,” my pharmacist said over the phone. “But we’re completely off Adderall.”
I had experienced short delays before so I wasn’t that nervous at first. Additionally, I often took slightly lower doses on the weekends so I had a few refills to drop me as needed. “Do you know when I can pick it up?” I asked.
“Honestly, everyone is struggling to get it. We might be stocked on Monday, but we don’t know for sure. I’m really sorry. Just call back on Tuesday,” the pharmacist said.
On Tuesday, I stopped by the pharmacy after work. they had not been refilled. At the pharmacist’s recommendation, I ran across the street to a Rite Aid to see if my prescription could be shipped there. The pharmacist there informed me that despite it being the beginning of the month, they had already maxed out on filling Adderall prescriptions. He recommended that I call independent, local pharmacies, so I did.
Then, the real escape began. Employees at smaller pharmacies told me to call the larger pharmacies, while pharmacists at large chains advised me to call the smaller ones. Over the next two days, I called over 40 pharmacies — recommendations from my doctor, friends, Yelp, Google. The sentiment they all shared: Not only did they not have Adderall in stock, they had no idea when they would have it again.
But why does this happen? It’s hard to say. As Insider previously reported, Israeli multinational Teva Pharmaceuticals, which is the largest supplier of Adderall in the US, told Bloomberg in August that it attributed the shortage to an increase in ADHD diagnoses from telehealth companies during the pandemic.
In October, several additional companies said they were having difficulty sourcing Adderall and its generics, as first reported by Fierce Pharma, a trade publication that covers the pharmaceutical industry, although many did not provide a reason. Most also did not offer a timetable for resolving the matter. The federal government, meanwhile, is directly involved in regulating the production of Adderall and its generic drugs.
Dealing with Adderall withdrawal can make everything more difficult — including tracking down a prescription
Adderall withdrawal symptoms include “agitation, generalized slowing of mental and physical activity, increased appetite” and “unusual tiredness or weakness,” according to the Mayo Clinic. The clinic also notes that some people may experience serious effects on their sleep: bad dreams, too much or too little sleep, or even an inability to sleep at all. In my case, symptoms included feeling exhausted, but also not being able to sleep, being irritable, and—no surprise here—difficulty concentrating.
I’m not alone in this. In addition to the many, many tweets about the deficiencies that have hit my timeline, Google Trends shows a clear uptick in search interest for the phrase “adderall withdrawal,” while searches for “adderall withdrawal” in August through October were 23% higher average monthly volume than May through July, according to SEMRush. However, the fact that I’m not alone in this doesn’t make it any easier to bear.
It’s also not the only time this has happened to me. Over the past year, there have been many months where filling my prescription has been nearly impossible. Each time, I found myself snapping at my partner, feeling too tired to play with my cats, and losing interest in my hobbies. I had to call more pharmacies and find more solutions through my doctor. Each time, my outlook on the future dimmed, despite finding a treatment that works. Or, maybe, because of that — when you know there’s something that can help you, but you can’t access it, it’s almost worse than not knowing it exists at all.
Certainly, it would be naive—if not outright ignorant—to deny that some people, including children and teenagers, take Adderall recreationally. But there are literally millions of people, most of them adults, whose doctors have evaluated their symptoms and concluded that Adderall is an appropriate treatment. Like many people, I spent years working with health care providers to research, discuss, and trial and error psychiatric and therapeutic treatments in an attempt to address the imbalances that have plagued my brain since early childhood.
Over the years, I’ve found a pattern and routine that works for me—and, with it, a sense of predictable stability that I never knew I could achieve. Now, the very treatments that have helped me so much are a major source of chaos and disorder, one that is as inevitable and intrusive as it is infuriating. If I wasn’t so tired now, I might laugh at the irony.
The good news: While I was writing this, I was finally able to get my prescription filled at a new pharmacy. The bad news: It cost about three times as much as usual and, at the time of filing my piece, I’m still waiting to find out why, which has added another exhausting layer to a growing pile of uncertainty.