Shortages of both immediate and extended-relief versions of Adderall continue to frustrate patients across the country, leaving them scrambling for alternatives.

Adderall, a controlled substance highly regulated by the federal government, is a popular medication used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD.

Since early this summer, supply of the stimulant has failed to meet the growing demand.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally confirmed in October what patients, doctors and pharmacists have been saying about the problem for months. 

“There is not sufficient supply to continue to meet U.S. market demand,” the FDA said in its statement. “We will continue to monitor supply and assist manufacturers with anything needed to resolve the shortage.”

The problem stems from a combination of factors, including labor problems that have hit all businesses recently, supply chain issues and an increase in the number of people being prescribed the drug, along with federal regulations that hinder an increased manufacturing of the product.

Adderall shortages are expected to continue through the remainder of 2022, and the inability to find the prescription drug is causing problems for patients.

“It’s putting pressure on patients, and it’s putting pressure on institutions that support the patients,” Dr. Timothy Wilens, ADHD specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told The Washington Post.

Adderall Manufacturers Can’t Keep Up With Demand

According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, two-thirds of community pharmacies have reported trouble getting the Adderall they need for patients. Major retail pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS also have noted supply chain constraints, delays in filling prescriptions and patient frustration.

More than 41 million prescriptions were filled for Adderall or a generic version in 2021, a 20% increase from the year before, according to IQVIA, a data analytics company.

Much of the increased demand stems from the telehealth psychiatric services that became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it easier for patients to obtain the prescription drug.

A federal law previously required doctors to conduct at least one in-person examination before they could prescribe a controlled substance such as Adderall, but that law was modified with the COVID public emergency declaration in 2020.

Telehealth start-ups such as Cerebral Inc., Done Global Inc. and others surged during the pandemic, opening the door for easier access to Adderall and other controlled substances.

Pharmacies and manufacturers could not keep up with patients who needed the drugs. Adderall, which includes the stimulant amphetamine, was being consumed much quicker than ever before.

Adderall manufacturers include Par Pharmaceutical, Camber Pharmaceuticals, Epic Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., which sells more than any other company in the U.S. today.

“The supply that we are manufacturing and distributing right now is on pace to be consistent  – or greater than – our supply at this time last year,” Teva said in a statement. “The demand is not.”

Physicians Try Adderall Alternatives

In recent years, the FDA has raised concerns about over prescribing to young children and an abuse of Adderall by college students, who have found it to be a study aid.

In some areas of the country, doctors recently have been prescribing alternative treatments for their patients when Adderall is unavailable. That strategy, though, has been met with mixed results.

Although there are similar drugs on the market, patients often don’t embrace the switch. Side effects can represent a difficult adjustment. Both stimulants and nonstimulants are being tried.

Patients affected by the Adderall shortage are being encouraged to talk to their doctors to find an alternative therapy.