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Got ADHD? Try these strategies to manage stimulant medication shortages

| Healthy You | Mental Health

Female pharmacist talking with mother and child while holding a prescription bottle

Here’s what you can do when the pharmacy is out of your meds.

If someone in your family has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, you know how difficult this common condition makes everyday tasks. ADHD can affect your stress levels, performance at school or work, self-esteem and quality of life.

Treatment helps people with ADHD feel better and function better. But what if you run out of your medication and can’t get more? Unfortunately, stimulant medication shortages have become more common lately.

Fortunately, “there are other options for treatment available for ADHD,” says Patti Haywood Walton, PharmD, a pharmacy manager at PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, Washington.

Here’s how to help your family through a shortage.

First things first: How is ADHD treated?

A person with ADHD may benefit from more than one kind of treatment. This is good to remember if medication is harder to get.

“There are various medications as well as lifestyle and behavioral-mediated treatments, Walton says. “These vary based on person, so it is important to discuss with your provider what is best for you.”

The most common treatments are:

  • Therapy. This can include mental health counseling and behavior modification to learn coping skills.
  • Medication. Stimulant medications like Adderall, Ritalin and Vyvanse help with focus. Sometimes nonstimulant medications like Stratera are used if stimulants don’t work or cause side effects.
  • Academic and workplace support. Usually, schools can provide help for students with ADHD. For example, counseling, tutoring and educational program modifications may be offered. Employers also offer accommodations for people with the condition.
  • Alternative health treatments. Some people find changes to their diet, supplements and other natural health treatments help with symptoms.
  • Self-care. Certain basics are especially helpful for people with ADHD, for example getting enough rest and physical activity.

Coping with  medication shortages

Treatment greatly helps people with ADHD manage their symptoms. But for the last couple of years there’s been a shortage of Adderall, one of the most commonly prescribed and most effective ADHD meds. If you or a loved one are among the millions of Americans who use this medication, here’s how to navigate a shortage.

How can I avoid running out?

You or your child may experience changes to your mood, energy levels and ability to focus if you go on and off your medication. Here are some common-sense strategies to try. They can apply in any kind of medication shortage, not just for ADHD meds.

  • Don’t wait. Refill your prescriptions on the first date you can, even if you haven’t  run out. That way, you can deal with any problems as soon as possible. Here is a prescription refill calculator to help you keep track.
  • Call around. If your regular pharmacy is out, call other pharmacies in your area or use an online pharmacy. If you find what you need at a different pharmacy, you have a few options.
    • Ask your doctor’s office to send your prescription to the new pharmacy.
    • Take a paper copy of the prescription to the new pharmacy.
  • Communicate: Ask your health care provider to help find your medication, or change your prescription to a medication that is more available.

What if I DO run out?

Here’s how to get back on track as soon as possible, and take care of yourself in the meantime.

  • Consider switching medications. A different prescription may work well for your child, or for you. Call your healthcare provider right away and ask about alternative options. For example, you can ask about extended-release versions, generic versions and different dosages.
  • Get back to basics. While waiting for a refill, focus on self-care, like getting good sleep, nutrition and exercise to help manage symptoms.
  • Try therapy. This is a good time to work on coping skills with a mental health professional. If you don’t have a therapist, your primary care provider can give you a recommendation or referral.
  • Try holistic health. See if alternative treatments help with symptoms. For example, meditation can ease anxiety.
  • Communicate. Ask your pharmacist and healthcare provider for help. Ask others for understanding. For example, tell your child’s teachers and school administrators about the situation. If your ability to function at work is affected, consider telling your supervisor.

Finally, if you or your child needs stimulant medication and a shortage is making it hard to fill your prescriptions, remember that the situation is temporary. Don’t panic and don’t give up.