Adderall shortage: Pharmacists, psychiatric nurses, families feel pinch as demand grows for ADHD medication

Pharmacies across the country are struggling to fill Adderall prescriptions because of an ongoing shortage. Nurses and pharmacists who work with ADHD patients are concerned about the impact.

It's become such a problem that Psychiatric Nurse Dr. Joan Burns has a new expectation when she goes into work now. 

"10-12 messages requesting ADHD medication changes," said Dr. Joan Burns, Psychiatric Nurse, "I'm told, ‘Doc, I can’t find it. What do I do?"

It is panic felt by ADHD patients across the country after a shortage was announced in October. We checked the FDA website and while some brands are available - other companies still list prescriptions on backorder or say issues may not resolve until next year. 

The drug is used to help children and adults with ADHD focus on day-to-day tasks. Dr. Burns says it is hard without the medication. 

"Work is now measured on metrics and productivity. That starts to go down," said Dr. Burns, "As employers are cutting staff because of the economy - who will be the first on the chopping block?"

She believes there is more than one reason for the shortage. 

First, increased demand. For example, a report from the research firm Trilliant Health found prescriptions for Adderall for people between 22 and 44 years old increased by 15% from 2020 to 2021. 

The report said the abrupt switch to remote work and school during the pandemic was associated with an increase in families seeking ADHD treatment. 

Dr. Burns says the second reason is because of safety. 


Drug regulators limit how many pills a manufacturer can make because Adderall has a high abuse potential. 

And then, local retailers apply quarterly for how much they believe they'll need. They can't order more until the next quarter, even if they get more customers. 

"Don't want to negate safety features," said Dr. Burns, "But, it does create an issue when you have an increased need in an area or nationally. You can't just call the manufacturer and say, ‘please, make more.’"

Pharmacist Dr. John Roger Accardi also says the workforce at the manufacturing level is still rebounding from the pandemic.

He says about half of his customers who rely on Adderall medication have been inconvenienced in some way recently. 

"Instead of one month supply of 30 tablets. Don't have that in their brand. Give them 10 [pills] and owe them 20 [pills]," said Dr. Accardi. 

He runs a compounding pharmacy in Volusia County. In the days before Thanksgiving, his techs were calling wholesale suppliers to find the raw ingredients to make Adderall in house. 

His Pharmacy Tech Pedro Martin will work through the math calculations to make and fill the prescriptions. 

"A lot of patients are looking for Adderall medication. Not taking new patients because of this shortage," said Martin. 

Back at Dr. Burns' office -- she's working through her to-do list of switching patient prescriptions to different pharmacies where there is some availability of the medication. She is also walking patients through other treatment supports. 

"Combined with lifestyle interventions - are you getting enough quality sleep, well-rounded diet," said Dr. Burns, "but that only carries folks with ADHD so far."