The Adderall Shortage Is Real. Here's What to Do if You're Affected – CNET

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Here’s what we know about the difference between Adderall and other medications, and when it’s OK to switch.
Reviewed by:
Vivian Sun

Dr. Vivian Sun is a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her medical degree from University of Maryland and psychiatry training at University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. She is board certified in general and child/adolescent psychiatry and specializes in the treatment of conditions such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD.
Jessica Rendall
Wellness Writer
Jessica is a writer on the Wellness team with a focus on health news. Before CNET, she worked in local journalism covering public health issues, business and music.
Adderall is one of the most popular brand names of a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. A shortage of it was confirmed by the US Food and Drug Administration earlier this month, leaving many wondering whether they can depend on their next prescription or when they should turn to another medication. 
There’ve been a number of shortages this year, including baby formula, tampons and a variety of foods, to name just a few. In its Oct. 12 announcement, the FDA referenced manufacturing issues as a source of the issue. But as The New York Times speculates, the rising popularity of online ADHD diagnosis websites could mean more people than ever are filling prescriptions for Adderall and other stimulant medications.
If you’re worried about being affected by the Adderall shortage, here’s what to know.
Before switching any medication, it’s important to talk to your doctor. And this isn’t just a standard statement to cover the bases of what’s legal or medically safest: There are different families of stimulants prescribed to treat ADHD, and different chemical combinations cause a different interplay in the brain. This is especially important to consider if you may have another mental health condition. 
Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a neuropsychologist in New York, previously told CNET that stimulants commonly used to treat ADHD may exacerbate symptoms of mood disorders, including bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. If you believe you have another mental health or neurodevelopmental condition, or have new symptoms of one, it’s especially important to make sure you’re on an appropriate treatment course.
While your doctor may say it’s totally fine to switch to a generic version of Adderall because it contains the same active ingredients, it may not be a good idea to totally switch families of medications, such as from Adderall to Ritalin. While both work by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, Adderall is an amphetamine/dextroamphetamine and Ritalin is a methylphenidate. That is, they may have similar effects or treat the same condition, but could interfere with other medications you’re taking in different ways and have the potential to cause different side effects.
ADHD medications also come in extended-release and immediate-release formulations. If you’re having a hard time filling your prescription, you can ask your pharmacist or doctor about a suitable substitute. There are also nonstimulant medications available for ADHD, as well as non-medication routes to treatment.
Adderall and similar medications are controlled substances in the US, though you might not have guessed it based on its availability on college campuses and casual perception in modern culture. But because ADHD medications are so regulated, that makes them that much harder to prescribe and dispense.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


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