ADHD medication shortage impacting Utah families
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Nearly a month into a national shortage of medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), some Utahns are feeling the impact.
In Taylorsville, Clara Pitts, a senior in high school diagnosed with ADHD, is in the midst of applying to colleges.
In October when her mother Rebekah went to refill her prescription of Adderall, a medication that helps her focus, she was told they were completely out of the drug for at least two months.
She says she called at least eight other pharmacies, and all had similar answers.
“As I called more pharmacies, I realized that we weren’t getting this medication," she said. "It was a horrible feeling.”
Salt Lake City pediatrician Dr. Ellie Brownstein says she's seeing the national trend with her own patients with Adderall and a similar prescription for those with ADHD diagnoses called Concerta.
“I had three call me in one day saying ‘I can’t find it; I can’t get it. My pharmacy doesn’t have it," Brownstein said.
She says it's been a really helpful drug for those diagnosed with ADHD.
“Those diagnosed with ADHD, I’ve seen it be really life-changing," said Brownstein. "The thought process is that things are getting lost as they travel through the brain. Instead of getting connected and moving well, they actually sort of drift off. And so if you use the Ritalin, you speed up that process and so you help stuff get through.”
For Clara, it's been effective in helping her focus and deal with what's called ADHD paralysis: She might have a long list of things to accomplish she knows she needs to get done but struggles to get started on any given task.
"I wasn’t sure if the drugs were going to help, but when I first took Adderall, it was like the tiniest difference," Clara described, "Like the difference between just going through a regular school day and having a handrail to guide you."
Now, not having the medication has left her family in a stressful situation.
“Right now we’re faced with a really difficult decision of do we take her to the doctor and try a different medication?" said Rebekah. "And that’s really scary to me because this is a medication that affects your brain. And so to try something else in the middle of her senior year is not a decision to be taken lightly.”
Brownstein said she hasn't heard an official reason for the backlog, but based on discussions with colleagues, she thinks it's probably a combination of manufacturing issues and increased usage. She said it also may be that more people diagnosed during the COVID-19 pandemic when it was hard for them to focus while working at home.
She suggests those with ADHD have discussions about making accommodations with their teachers or bosses for the time being until the drug becomes more readily available.