Reports indicate the shortage might be the result of transparency issues among government agencies and drug manufacturers.
On October 12, 2022, the FDA announced a shortage of the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication Adderall. At the time, the agency was in close communication with the drug makers and confirmed that one manufacturer was experiencing intermittent production delays.
However, although other manufacturers continued producing the ADHD drug, the FDA indicated that there is not an adequate supply to meet U.S. consumer demand.
Meanwhile, people with ADHD have been forced to endure the shortage — and that population is growing. According to CNBC, ADHD diagnoses among children increased by 31% between 2010 and 2017. In addition, adult ADHD diagnoses have also increased, with prescriptions for Adderall rising by more than 15% in that age group.
These increases have undoubtedly raised the demand for Adderall, and manufacturer delays have not helped the situation. However, there might be other reasons behind the shortage.
Because Adderall is a Schedule II controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) limits how much of the drug the manufacturers can produce per year. To do this, the agency estimates the demand for amphetamine — Adderall’s active ingredient — and sets a quota based on that estimated demand.
According to a CNN report, manufacturers claimed that rising demand and active ingredient scarcities are to blame for the shortage.
However, a DEA spokesperson told CNN, "We are aware that the pharmaceutical industry is claiming that there is a quota shortage for the active ingredients in ADHD drugs. Based on DEA’s information – which is provided by drug manufacturers – this is not true."
According to the report, the DEA says the manufacturers didn’t use all the ingredients that were available to them in the last three years.
In addition, an FDA spokesperson told CNN that the FDA "cannot require a pharmaceutical company to make a drug, make more of a drug, or change the distribution of a drug."
The spokesperson also told the news outlet that the supply of Adderall is increasing.
These discrepancies between agencies and a lack of transparency among Adderall manufacturers may have contributed to the ongoing drug shortage, leaving many people with ADHD looking for alternatives.
Alternatives to Adderall
Several alternative ADHD medications are available for those impacted by the Adderall shortage. For example, the FDA’s initial drug shortage announcement mentioned an extended-release version of amphetamine mixed salts as a potential alternative to immediate-release Adderall.
In addition, stimulant medicines like methylphenidate (Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, Focalin) and other amphetamines (Dexedrine, Vyvanse) may be possible alternatives.
Non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine (Strattera), clonidine (Kapvay), and guanfacine (Intuniv), are also available, but they take longer than other drugs to work.
Other possible alternatives to ADHD medication include melatonin, Omega 3s, elimination diets, acupuncture, yoga, and specialized computer programs that target ADHD symptoms.
Still, people with ADHD looking for alternatives to Adderall should consult their healthcare provider to determine which treatment options might work best for them.
- FDA. FDA Announces Shortage of Adderall.
- CNBC. Op-ed: DEA and FDA rules exacerbate Adderall shortage.
- CNN Health. Adderall users struggle with ongoing shortage while reason – and resolution – remain uncertain.
- Nemours Children’s Health. ADHD Medicines.
- UC Davis Health MIND Institute. Complementary and Alternative Treatment of ADHD.