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What you should know about ADHD in light of the Adderall shortage

Adderall useage increased 10% from 2020 to 2021, and now the FDA has declared a shortage with no end in sight.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Last month, the FDA declared a shortage of short release Adderall, which is a treatment for ADHD. 

Here are some key things to know about ADHD: 

  • It's prevalent in 8-10% of school children
  • Something that primary care pediatricians can screen children age 4- 18 years for. 
  • In order to be diagnosed, children must reach a certain level of criteria for inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. 
  • It is treated by stimulant medications, medications, behavioral management, counseling. 

Dr. Michelle Hartley-McAndrew is the interim division chief for the department of developmental pediatrics at Oishei Children's Hospital. She says Adderall usage shot up 10% between 2020 and 2021. 

One reason for this uptick in usage is the rise in online telehealth platforms. They've made it easier for people to get prescriptions, and for Adderall to potentially get into the wrong hands. 

"It is a controlled substance," Hartley-McAndrew said. "The fact that now, since the pandemic, the rules for prescriptiom have relaxed somewhat in the use of telehealth. So previously, a provider would have to be licensed in the state and have a DEA license in the state that they're prescribing. But those rules have relaxed, where now you just need a license in a state and a DEA license in a state to be able to prescribe."

Another theory for the rise in Adderall useage is that some people's ADHD symptoms may became more noticble while working and learning remotely. Even the high amount of ADHD content and creators on Tik Tok have made it easier to access information about the condition from home. 

Some common symptoms of ADHD are:  

  • Making careless mistakes
  • Don't seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Forgetful in daily activities
  • Fidgeting, tapping your hands or feet, or squirming in your seat
  • Talking excessively  
  • Having trouble waiting your turn

Dr. Hartley-McAndrew says that even if some of these symptoms sound familiar, it's not necessarily an indicator that you have ADHD or need medication. 

"This is something I tell to my parents and patients that come into clinic," she said. "We're all a little ADHD, we're all a little depressed. We're anxious. Just how much is it getting the way of our daily function? If you're starting to feel that you're not able to function at work, or in relationships, or that kind of thing, then certainly get evaluated."

To get diagnosed with ADHD, you have to meet either 6 or 7 criteria of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. The full DSM 5 criteria are available on the CDC website.

Dr. Hartley-McAndrew urges all patients to work with their local primary care doctor or specialist to manage their symptoms and medications, even if they were screened for ADHD online or prescribed Adderall through a telehealth service. In light of the drug shortage, some patients may need to change their treatments based on what's available. 

"When pediatricians evaluate for ADHD, they also evaluate for other conditions that can either mimic ADHD or co-exist with ADHD," she explained. "Things like emotional or behavioral conditions like anxiety, depression, other developmental issues such as learning disorders. Other neurobehavioral conditions. So in that case, an-in person visit really is preferable, because it would be more thorough, because you definitely want to be diagnosing appropriately." 


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