Adderall shortage reaches its fourth month,  leaves many without medication 


close up of a pharmacist holding a bottle of medication. Photo taken May 26, 2020 by Artem Podrez

On Oct. 12, 2022, the FDA announced a shortage of the mixed salts that make up the brand-name stimulant medication, Adderall. According to the FDA report, it is expected the shortage will last until early March to mid-April depending on the dosage.

Janet Balbutin, a pharmacist at Chico Pharmacy, is aware of the shortage. Balbutin said, “Oh yeah, it’s on my desk right now.” 

Balbutin’s occupation as a pharmacist allows her to view the shortage first-hand. “A couple of months ago another reporter called me asking about the shortage and I said, ‘no I don’t have a shortage.’ The very next day it started for me, and we’ve had a terrible time with the different strengths not completely available,” Balbutin said.

Before the shortage, Balbutin would order Adderall in the evening. Now, she has to order it right away. 

“There’s a lot more invoices and a lot more paperwork but we have to do it because it’s gone within a couple of hours,” she said.

Existing patients at Chico Pharmacy get top priority for their medication, but even then, it’s not always a guarantee. It‘s logical that pharmacies must adjust their rules to ensure existing patients get the medication they need before anyone else. However, this means new patients are at a disadvantage. Balbutin has to turn away new patients due to the shortage “every day.” 

Not only do new patients have to find a pharmacy that has Adderall in stock, but also a pharmacy that will give them their medication before they give it to an existing patient. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t exist right now. 

The sudden shortage is caused by skyrocketing demand for Adderall. According to the health data company Trilliant Health, “Adderall prescriptions for adults rose 15.1% during 2020, double the 7.4% rise seen the year before.” 

During and after the pandemic, telemedicine grew significantly since people weren’t able to see their doctor in person. Telemedicine, an online diagnosis service, makes controlled substances, such as Adderall, far more available for patients seeking treatment. 

However, there simply isn’t enough supply to treat all the patients that are prescribed it. 

To make matters more complicated, pharmacies can’t disclose to patients if they have their dosage in stock. Since Adderall is a controlled substance, revealing information about Adderall’s availability could lead to safety concerns, such as potential robberies.

With medication shortages that are not classified as controlled substances, a patient may call local pharmacies to find out which pharmacy has the medication in stock, and where their Doctor should send the medication. 

This complicates the issue because if a prescriber sends an Adderall prescription to a pharmacy that doesn’t have it in stock, the patient won’t know it is out of stock until they physically go to the pharmacy to pick it up.

In this case, the prescriber would then have to cancel the prescription, send another prescription to a different pharmacy and hope the next pharmacy has it in stock. Prescribers have a busy schedule, with many patients to care for, so this cycle of trying to find a pharmacy with Adderall in stock can feel never-ending. 

For some, the effects of abruptly stopping Adderall go deeper than just the inability to focus and concentrate at school or work. ADHD symptoms are present throughout every aspect of life for many people diagnosed with ADHD. 

Without Adderall, seemingly simple tasks — like remembering an important date — become a lot more challenging. This is why prescribed users of Adderall can appear frantic when they are running low on their medication. 

They don’t know when they’ll be able to get their medication, the pharmacies don’t know when they’ll get another shipment and prescribers can’t do anything except sympathize with their patients. 
Emily Russell can be reached at [email protected].