Adderall falls short

Announced on Oct. 12, the Adderall shortage has caused problems for students with ADHD


photo by Josephine Lim

Announced on Oct. 12, the Adderall shortage has affected students with ADHD. Some of them, like junior Jenna Lopez, try to cope by finding quiet spaces to do her work.

It was Jan. 2, and most people were winding down from New Year’s, but senior Daniel Hernquist was waiting in front of CVS for his Adderall refill, his thoughts far from celebratory. After calling his pharmacy, Hernquist waited on hold for two hours, and then drove there only to wait another 30 minutes in line. When he finally met with the main pharmacist, the pharmacist simply apologized and told him that no CVS in Florida has Adderall. 

“[The pharmacist] told me, ‘Your best bet would probably be having it mailed in from another state. Or driving around to other places with pharmacies and asking if they have it,” Hernquist said. “I was like, ‘Oh, s—, what am I gonna do?’” 

Hernquist is not alone. On Oct. 12, the Federal Drug Administration announced a nationwide shortage of Adderall, the primary medication used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Three months later, the shortage continues to plague Adderall users, including junior Jenna Lopez. 

“I’m starting to have more trouble in school, especially with focus,” Lopez said. “I’ve been a lot more tired and my quality of life has kind of degraded. It’s not ideal, but there’s nothing I can do about it.” 

According to experts like psychiatric nurse practitioner Grantley Ittera, the shortage was caused by a rising demand for Adderall coupled with declining supply. With an increase of nearly 20% from 2020 to 2021, the demand for Adderall has spiked. Getting a prescription also became easier in 2020, when the U.S. government eased rules to allow Adderall prescribing during telehealth visits. Combined with worker shortages at Teva, the largest supplier for Adderall, obtaining the medication has become increasingly difficult. 

Ittera, who works with children and adults who have mental health concerns, recognizes the potentially dangerous effects of the Adderall shortage on patients. 

“In some patients, the ability to focus is crucial for everyday activities like driving. Imagine how dangerous it would be if patients were running red lights due to not having their medications,” Ittera said. 

For now, Adderall users are left to cope with withdrawal symptoms. When the shortage first hit Hernquist, who has been taking Adderall for three years, he was left with just two pills of his regular dosage. Since his typical dose only lasts four hours, Hernquist’s stock quickly drained, leaving him to cope with life without Adderall. 

“[Without Adderall] I’ll usually have a big burst of energy in the beginning of the day and then be like a total zombie for the rest of the day,” Hernquist said. “So it kind of helps me have more consistent energy, instead of one big crash.” 

It’s much harder to go through my daily life because I’ve taken it for so long. It just impedes every single function that I have. ”

— Kenna Gay, 12

Although frequent naps and caffeine helps maintain his energy, Hernquist says it is a poor substitute for Adderall. 

“Caffeine helps keep me awake a little, but it’s not the same,” Hernquist said. “It’s like I’m falling asleep every second of the day. I’m not as sharp as I usually am.” 

Senior Kenna Gay, who has been taking Adderall since fifth grade, experiences similar symptoms. 

“It’s much harder to go through my daily life because I’ve taken it for so long. I’m very used to it,” Gay said. “I get very spacey and it’s hard to carry on conversations. It’s hard to focus in class. It’s hard to get work done. It just impedes every single function that I have.” 

Luckily, Gay was able to get a refill for her prescription recently, but even that stock has dwindled. 

“I’m trying to ration it out because I do need it on a daily basis,” Gay said. “I’m trying to be aware of days that I would specifically need it. Like I have college auditions coming up and on those days I’d be like, ‘Okay, make sure I have some Adderall on those days that I can take.’”

According to Gay, there have been other instances when she struggled to obtain Adderall, but this has been the most prolonged drought. 

“There was a time when I couldn’t get it in the spring and that actually affected my grades to the point where I had to do credit recovery because I just could not turn in my work or get anything done,” Gay said. 

For many Adderall users, the shortage has made them realize their dependence on Adderall, a troubling yet inescapable fact. 

“[The shortage] kind of reminded me that I’m not as capable as I want to be unless I have the extra help,” Hernquist said. “I can’t just get up and do better because my body physically can’t do that.”