ADHD Is Brutal. Our Adderall Shortage Makes it Worse

Jason Diamond writes a first-person account at 'Esquire'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2024 5:37 AM CDT
ADHD Is Brutal. Our Adderall Shortage Makes it Worse
Adderall XR capsules are seen inside a pill bottle on Feb. 24, 2023.   (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)

When Jason Diamond was diagnosed with what we now call ADHD as a kid, doctors told him he'd grow out of it. Nearly 40 years later, he's still waiting for that to happen. But as he writes at Esquire, his ability to overcome the disorder as an adult is severely crimped by a national shortage of the drug Adderall. (The FDA officially declared it so in 2022.) Diamond describes what it's like to have the disorder—as in, an actual diagnosis, as opposed to the countless flippant references others make about "being ADHD." But he also describes what it's like to have the disorder while scrambling to find a pharmacy, any pharmacy, that has Adderall in stock. The piece suggests that it's a common problem for those with ADHD—or parents of diagnosed kids—with stories of long drives to faraway cities hoping to find Adderall or similar drugs like Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Focalin.

"The week leading up to refill time is usually when I'm unhappiest," writes Diamond. "My pulse quickens when I notice I'm running low." Then comes the new scramble to find some. So what's behind the shortage? Diamond interviews doctors and pharmacists and concludes that it comes down to money. As he lays it out:

  • "The patent for Adderall has lapsed, which means patients can buy generic versions of the drug for a fraction of the original cost. That's good for consumers in theory, but the thinner profit margins reduce the incentive for manufacturers to scale production."

Another complicating factor is that Adderall is considered a controlled substance and is thus regulated by the DEA. Drugmakers accuse the government of restricting the supply of ingredients, but the finger-pointing goes both ways. (NBC News has a separate story on the factors at play.) Diamond, though, thinks the villain is clear enough: "I have trouble finding my medication because the drug isn't profitable enough for Big Pharma." Read the full story. (Or check out other Longform recaps.)

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