Axios is reporting an increase in Adderall prescriptions in the United States. 41.4 million prescriptions were dispensed in 2021, continuing a year-by-year increase that has been ongoing since at least 2017.
Part of the reason for the Adderall prescription increase is because getting a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) got significantly easier during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Axios, a wave of telemedicine startups hit TikTok and Instagram with advertisements suggesting that people should look into ADHD medication if they felt distracted.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported some startups diagnosed people with ADHD and prescribed stimulants after 30-minute video calls. This is a much easier and faster process than the typical psychiatrist visit.
Naturally, the Adderall prescription increase has led to a shortage. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration announced the shortage of all immediate release amphetamine mixed salts, including Adderall.
The FDA cited “ongoing intermittent manufacturing delays” with drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals as the reason for the shortage. The administration added “other manufacturers continue to produce amphetamine mixed salts, but there is not sufficient supply to continue to meet U.S. market demand through those producers.”
“Until supply is restored, there are alternative therapies including the extended-release version of amphetamine mixed salts available to health care professionals and their patients for amphetamine mixed salts’ approved indications,” the FDA said last month. “Patients should work with their health care professionals to determine their best treatment option.”
According to experts, the Adderall shortage could be deadly. Some are experiencing stimulant withdrawal symptoms. Others are turning to unregulated dealers to replace their prescriptions. There are also people turning to illegal and highly dangerous drugs as substitutes.
“If you have lots of people moving at the same time from the pharmaceutical market to the illicit market, lots of bad things can happen,” Leo Beletsky, an epidemiologist at Northeastern University, told WIRED. “Conditions are very much ripe for that to happen here.”