Adderall Shortage Hacks for Adults with ADHD

For those of you who are having trouble getting your Adderall prescription filled, here are some ideas that may help.  Because I’m a relationship expert, and because medication changes can dramatically change how you interact with those around you, my first advice has to be about your most important relationships:

WARN YOUR PARTNER:  Make sure to discuss with your partner that you are having trouble getting your medications.  You may be more irritable, and your symptoms will likely be worse.  Further, co-existing depression or anxiety may ramp up, too.  Reassure your partner that this is a temporary situation, and enlist their patience and, perhaps, assistance during this time.

Consider setting a verbal cue for when you are emotionally escalated that allows each of you to take a time out before further escalation risks long-term injury to the relationship.

Ask your partner to be aware of your basic emotional mindset, particularly if you have a history of depression.  In rare instances, some who suddenly cannot take their medication may become suicidal.  Make sure your partner knows this and knows to take any suicidal ideation or comments you might make very seriously.

Medication Hacks

Short acting Adderall is harder to get than long-acting.  Ask your doctor if you can have a prescription for Adderall XR for the duration of the shortage.  To make sure this effort is worth it, you might call your pharmacist first to ask if they are able to get Adderall XR (or generics, see below).

Temporarily change to a different pharmacy, or a different location in your chain.  You may be able to drive a distance to fulfill your prescription. 

Change to generics.  In some limited instances, pharmacies may be able to fill prescriptions for generics instead of name brand Adderall.  Know that for some people, generics do not work as effectively as name brand Adderall.  That said, some effectiveness is better than no medication at all.

Change back to an old medication.  Particularly if you have tried other medications, such as Vyvanse, and found that they helped somewhat but not as much as Adderall, you may wish to talk with your doctor about a temporary switch back to something you took before.  At least you will know what the dosing and potential side effects might be.

Change medications to a new medication.  From my interactions with adults with ADHD, it seems as if one of the most common alternatives to Adderall is Vyvanse, as it is in the same class as Adderall (amphetamine).  Other amphetamines that might work similarly for you include Evekeo, Adzenys XR, and Dynavel Oral.  They have different ratios of medication in them, as well as different release mechanisms.  For example, Vyvanse releases evenly, over time, making it feel ‘smoother’ to some people than Adderall. Adderall releases more medication up front (giving you a ‘bump of effectiveness as it ‘kicks in’.). It may not feel the same in the body, but it is possible that as a short-term alternative, another stimulant might be a good option.  Talk with your doctor – it probably makes sense to stay with an amphetamine stimulant first, then perhaps a methylphenidate stimulant, since some of the other treatment options such as anti-depressants and Strattera have a build-up period and may be more difficult to discontinue.  Remember, I am not a doctor - please talk with your doctor about your specific treatment options.

Non-medicinal options

For those who’ve found medications helpful, medications may remain one of the best aids for managing ADHD.  But there are other strategies that help improve how your brain works, as well. 

Sleep hygiene.  Your sleep may be interrupted by the change in your brain chemistry that comes when you stop taking a medication.  Try to fight this by 1.) setting a stricter schedule for going to bed which includes a non-electronics sleep ritual, such as reading a book (perhaps a boring one?!). 2.) as you get into bed, spend 4 minutes doing deep breathing.  Place both feet on the floor, inhale slowly…hold your breath at the top…exhale slowly. Deep breathing is a known way to move your nervous system into its ‘rest and digest’ mode.  3.). Add a time-release 10 mg melatonin formula such as Better Sleep to your night regimen if you are having trouble sleeping. It might not help, but it may.  If you are having trouble staying awake, consider increasing your exercise – at a minimum by adding walks outdoors.

Exercise.  A disruption of your medication may leave you feeling anxious or depressed.  Aerobic exercise has been shown in research to improve focus for several hours after you exercise.  In addition, it is a great mood stabilizer.  To help get motivated for exercise, consider enlisting a ‘buddy’ to exercise with.  If that person is close, explain that this is part of your strategy to manage your life in a moment when you are not able to access your regular medications.  You are seeking to do at least 30 minutes of sweat-inducing exercise a day because is important to your mental health and everyday functioning.  This may help you enlist the buddy you need, even if that person is not a regular exerciser.

Add Pink, Brown or White noise to your office space and/or bedroom to calm your mind.  Some research studies suggest that Pink and Brown noise, in particular, may assist in calming the ADHD brain (see this article for examples of each type of noise and more information).  You can download apps or buy a machine to generate this noise.

Short-term delegation or delay.  Consider delegating time consuming or boring tasks to others to accommodate the fact that it’s likely to take you longer to complete tasks than it does when you are medicated.  Could you hire a weekly cleaning service for a month or two?  Could you delay doing that complicated budget you agreed to do? Could the kids be in charge of doing the dishes for a month?  Don’t be afraid to hire or ask for help for the short term and return to your duties when it’s easier to get your medication.  The medication shortage is not a moral failure – it is a manufacturing issue that is negatively impacting you.