What to Know About the Adderall Shortage

Some people may still face hurdles when filling their ADHD medication prescription.

Jessica Rendall Wellness Reporter
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health technology, eye care, nutrition and finding new approaches to chronic health problems. When she's not reporting on health facts, she makes things up in screenplays and short fiction.
Expertise Public health, new wellness technology and health hacks that don't cost money Credentials
  • Added coconut oil to cheap coffee before keto made it cool.
Jessica Rendall
Medically Reviewed
Reviewed by: Vivian Sun
Dr. Vivian Sun is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her medical degree from University of Maryland and psychiatry training at University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. She is board certified in general and child/adolescent psychiatry and specializes in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
Expertise ADHD | Autism | Anxiety | Depression | Bipolar Disorder | PTSD Credentials
  • Medical Board of California, Medical License
  • American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, General and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • University of Maryland School of Medicine, Doctor of Medicine -- Residency in Psychiatry University of Pennsylvania
  • Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Stanford University
3 min read
Adderall pills lined up neatly against an orange glow
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People are still having a hard time filling their Adderall prescriptions, months after the US Food and Drug Administration reported a shortage of amphetamine mixed salts, the active ingredient in many ADHD medications, including Adderall.

Adderall and its cousins are most commonly used to treat ADHD, but they may also be used to treat narcolepsy, leaving an even more significant gap for patients with problems getting their prescriptions.

While it's easier than ever to get a medical diagnosis of ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, supply issues are complicating the post-pandemic demand for ADHD prescriptions. Adding to the problems is the fact that Adderall and similar medications are controlled substances in the US, which may make switching pharmacies more difficult.

If you're having difficulty finding ADHD medication, here's what to know. 

Can I switch medications?

Before changing any medication, it's essential to talk to your doctor. And this isn't just a standard statement to cover the bases of what's legal or medically safest. Different families of stimulants are prescribed to treat ADHD and different chemical combinations. This is especially important to consider if you have another mental health condition. 

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York, previously told CNET that stimulants like Adderall might exacerbate symptoms of certain mood disorders. If you believe your ADHD symptoms overlap with other mental health conditions, it's critical to ensure you're on an appropriate treatment course safe for you.

While your doctor may say it's fine to transfer to a generic version of Adderall because it contains the same active ingredients, it may not be a good idea to switch families of medications, such as from Adderall to Ritalin. However, if your doctor determines that it's OK for you to change medications and ingredients, you may consider a new drug, like Vyvanse (lisdexamfetamine) or Dexedrine, for example.

ADHD medications also come in extended-release and immediate-release formulations, so depending on your needs, you may switch from one type to the other. There are also nonstimulant ADHD medications. But again, talk to your doctor before you make any changes. 

Tips for coping if you can't fill your prescription 

Some patients have found success by calling different pharmacies to see if their medication is in stock. If your insurance offers it, you may be able to get 90-day refills through your mail-order pharmacy, meaning you can go longer before needing to go back out in search of your prescription.

While it could work fine for some, skipping doses of Adderall can cause withdrawal symptoms or other adverse effects. Ultimately, the best decision on what to do in the face of an Adderall shortage depends on your symptoms or reasons for taking the drug, as well as your health history -- all of which can be discussed with your doctor or whoever prescribed the medication to you.

If your doctor suggests you skip doses, or you need to space them out, taking a multivitamin at the same time of day you'd normally take your ADHD medication can help you stick to a routine, according to ADDitutde magazine, an online publication for people with ADHD. That way, you can maintain your medication habit, at least without any disruption between prescriptions. 

More natural remedies could offer some relief from ADHD symptoms, though they may not work for everyone. These lifestyle tweaks include drinking more caffeine or changing the time of day you drink it (caffeine is a stimulant) or reorganizing your daily routine to optimize the times you feel most focused, readers of ADDitude suggest.

Now might also be a time to experiment with attentiveness "brain hacks," such as finding music that helps you focus while you work, which some people report has helped their attention. Music without words and simple, consistent melodies have benefited some people, such as this binaural beats playlist on YouTube or the various "focus" or "study" music playlists available online. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.