Adderall shortages happening nationwide reach Oklahoma and are expected to make a large impact on people’s well-being.
The ADHD medication shortage sweeping the nation has finally found its way to Oklahoma.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration formally announced a shortage of both Adderall and all its generic counterparts last month. The issue compounded after one of the largest manufacturers, Teva, fell behind in production due to worker shortages. Other producers also experienced worker shortages which exacerbated the problem. Additionally, since ADHD medication is a controlled substance, there are strict regulations on how much can be produced annually. Manufacturers cannot simply begin producing more to mitigate the shortage. Teva supplies the majority of ADHD medication in the U.S., and since they are unable to meet their quota the shortage is expected to continue.
The amount of prescriptions given for these drugs has increased nationwide. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the number of patients aged 22-44 with Adderall prescriptions jumped 7.4% between 2019 and 2020. It jumped another 15.1% the next year. The new level of demand was unexpected and not taken into account properly when creating quotas for the drug producers, exaggerating the shortage’s impact.
Recently Oklahoma patients have been unable to refill their prescriptions. Lydia, an Oklahoman, reported her first hand experience with the shortage to NPR:
“At first it just said we should have it filled in the next two days,” she said. “So I wasn’t worried at all, I was like, ‘OK.’ And then that message saying it should be filled in two days just went away. And then it just said, ‘This prescription is currently unavailable. We will notify you once it’s ready to be picked up.’ ”
The benefits of these medications are vital to many peoples lives. Sometimes it can do as little as help you get out of the door in the morning, or as much as ensure you keep your job.
“The simple health benefits can even include things like getting enough sleep because they got their work done earlier in the day and don’t have to stay up late to finish, and they go to the gym because they remember to bring their shoes,” says Dr. Craig Surman, scientific coordinator for the Adult ADHD Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Doctors are also struggling to change prescriptions in a way that allows their patients to access what they need. Adderall and its generic counterparts come in many different doses, some of which are available and some are not. A doctor may be able to get their patient the same medication they need in a different dose level, but that requires a new prescription. New prescriptions for these medications are not easy to give. The addictive nature of these drugs means they have very strict federal regulation and it takes time to process these changes that is likely to lead to more stagnation in the market.
As consumers have to handle these shortages and their busy lives, one of the ways they may cope is by rationing their medicine in preparation. Patients will skip their medication on certain days, typically weekends, to save as many pills as possible. This is also called rollercoaster dosing and can be harmful. Many experience withdrawal symptoms and in some patients the medication may become less effective. These medications are meant to be taken everyday because they are typically needed everyday. Even on days where patients may have less to accomplish, they should still be taken. To be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, an individual must show symptoms in work and personal life. When rationing these medications one has to choose which aspects of life to prioritize, with other aspects likely suffering. As people typically choose their work life, this shortage is likely to affect things like relationships and socialization.
We cannot predict precisely how, but as we watch the fall out of this shortage it is sure to be felt in all areas of many people’s lives.