Originally published Jan. 29, 2012

Although many recent reports have said the shortage of Adderall will continue in 2012, Pharmacist David Miller at Keystone Pharmacy in Grand Rapids said it is significantly diminished. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration updated its list of drug shortages last year to include the Adderall, which helps repress the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“We are able to get product again,” Miller said. “We’re filling at probably 90 percent now.”

The pharmacist said he had to turn away about 95 percent of his 1,000 Adderall patients per month during the peak of the shortage, during which time the drug was distributed on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Miller added that about half of the Adderall prescriptions are brought in by college students. One Grand Valley State University student, who spoke off the record to maintain medical privacy, said he has been allowed fewer Adderall refills due to the shortage.

“Before the shortage, I would take up to 20 milligrams a day,” he said. “That was usually taken as one 10-milligram pill in the morning and another in the afternoon. Since the shortage, I switched to one a day, and now even fewer. Some days I just have a lot of work to do and need to take two, but that means I have to go short on another day.”

The student said the shortage poses a significant hindrance to his studies.

“When I am not on Adderall, I feel disengaged from the present moment,” he said. “If there is a lecture being given, I will get less out of it if I am not on Adderall. My productivity decreases as I try to sort out the helpful thoughts from the unhelpful.”

Suganthi Sridhar, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at GVSU, said people with ADHD who cannot receive Adderall face consequences that could be detrimental to their academic success.

“People who cannot receive Adderall have problems focusing, which can affect their day-to-day activities, and exhibit poor performance at school or at work,” Sridhar said. “It can also cause severe mood changes. Abrupt stop after prolonged and high dose usage can lead to extreme fatigue and mental depression.”

Both the GVSU Counseling Center and Student Disabilities Services work with students who have ADHD.

“Eighty percent of the students that are registered with my office have ADHD,” said Kathleen Vanderveen, assistant director of SDS. Vanderveen said SDS provides students non-medical assistance to overcome their academic struggles.

“We provide, if need be, extended time on tests, maybe a separate location to take tests, sometimes a note taker for class so they can concentrate on lectures,” she said.

Associate Director of the Counseling Center, Wayne Kinzie, said the on-campus counselors also provide help for students with ADHD.

“For the past year, approximately 5 percent of the students who came into the center had ADHD,” Kinzie said.

The counselor said he was unaware of the Adderall shortage but added that a scarcity should not pose a huge problem for people with ADHD because other medicines can offer the same relief. Kinzie said students who cannot receive Adderall can seek prescriptions for Concerta, Strattera or Ritalin.

Although many substitute drugs are available for people with concentration problems, many people without ADHD still get prescriptions for Adderall, Sridhar said.

“There is wide use of Adderall among college students as a ‘study drug’ because of its ability to help focus and concentrate and produce energy at a level higher than normal,” she said. “Sometimes they are used during ‘cramming’ sessions or staying awake all night before an exam or to write a paper that requires energy and concentration.”

However, the people using the drug without a true need have contributed to the shortage.

“I understand why the shortage is happening,” the student on Adderall said. “A lot of people take Adderall recreationally or to pull all-nighters to study for exams, and therefore, there is not enough of the drug manufactured to go around. And I don’t blame them, but some people really do need the drug. And for those of us who do need it, this shortage is a real problem.”


Original publication: http://www.lanthorn.com/article/2012/01/adderall_shortage_begins_decline