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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Thursday, April 18, 2024

Bite-Size Science: Adderall shortage propelled by increase in ADHD diagnoses, supply chain issues

An Adderal bottle and capsules are pictured

Adderall, the drug used to treat the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder in American children, is currently in short supply. Pharmaceutical companies are reporting that they are unable to supply Adderall, which is used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Adderall is a brand name for the drug combining amphetamine and dextroamphetamine. Taking it helps improve symptoms commonly associated with ADHD, including hyperactivity, limited attention span and impulsive behaviors. People with ADHD who can’t fill their Adderall prescriptions will not only struggle to focus on daily life tasks, but may also experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and moodiness. 

The Adderall shortage is largely a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rise of telehealth, or online medical services, during the pandemic led to increased access to mental health care and, as a result, ADHD diagnoses. Adderall prescriptions rose by 10.4% from 2020 to 2021. Startups such as Cerebral and Done gained popularity during the pandemic and enabled people to obtain diagnoses and prescriptions for controlled substances such as Adderall without an in-person medical exam.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 also led to supply chain issues that affected pharmaceutical companies supplying Adderall. Teva, the main pharmaceutical manufacturer of Adderall in the U.S., reported staffing shortages and an Adderall shortage in August; other smaller manufacturers have also followed suit. A survey conducted this summer found that 64% of small community pharmacies were having difficulty supplying Adderall, and major pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are reporting similar difficulties. As seen by the Adderall shortage, the implications of the pandemic on society reach far and wide.