For months, patients, pharmacists, and doctors have been warning of a shortage of a popular attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication. Patients began noting difficulties when trying to fill their prescriptions as early as this past summer. In early October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an announcement that confirmed what many already knew – there’s a nationwide Adderall shortage.
The drug, also known as amphetamine/dextroamphetamine salts, or amphetamine mixed salts, is used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy. It is a controlled substance that is highly regulated by the government. Each month the prescription must be renewed. Patients cannot get early refills or transfer to different pharmacy. This makes the shortage even more complicated.
As of October 2022, nearly 90% of community pharmacists surveyed reported that they are currently experiencing Adderall shortages, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association. This percentage has jumped up from 64% over the summer months. The reason for this shortage may be three-fold; there is a rise in demand, a pandemic-induced labor shortage, and a heavily regulated supply chain.
Rates of Adderall use has been steadily on the rise for the past 20 years but shot up during the pandemic. Prescriptions of Adderall were up 10.4% from 2020, reaching 41.4 million prescriptions in 2021, according to data from IQVIA Holdings, as mentioned on NBC News. The manufacturer responsible for most of the generic supply, TEVA, is experiencing delays due to hiring issues. They had up to 10 products on backorder. Others are struggling to keep up with demand. Patients have a daily medication routine, sometimes taking the pills multiple times a day. For many prescription Adderall users, this shortage can have serious repercussions on their daily lives.
How the Adderall shortage may affect workers
Approximately 10 million American adults live with ADHD. Many of them will experience severe hardships if they are forced to go without their prescription. For some, symptoms of ADHD present as difficulties with paying attention or staying on task, working memory, or executive function – the mental processes that helps plan, monitor, and control tasks. This can obviously make maintaining a typical work routine much harder. Some people have been rationing their prescriptions, driving hours to pharmacies where they may have access, and others are forgoing the medication all together.
Consequently, workers may begin to show some inconsistency day to day. Sometimes they may be more easily distracted, more impulsive, or have lapses in memory. While this can cause frustration itself, it is often accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame. Additionally, some patients may experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking Adderall suddenly. These patients may face a variety of symptoms like irritability, mood swings, headaches and in some cases, suicidal thoughts.
What employers can do
Above all else, employers need to understand that this could be a very hard time for employees. The mental stress of a pandemic alone is enough to burn out an employee. Adding in the additional stress of trying to find medication and managing symptoms can be exhausting. It is best for employers to be proactive and open with their teams. If an employee has noticeably changed their behavior, it is best to check in on them. Let employees know that the door is always open for conversations. This may encourage them to discuss what they are currently going through, and how it is affecting their work. The Adderall shortage is anticipated to continue into 2023 and some grace for struggling employees should be offered.
It is also important to note that The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibit workplace discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It is crucial to abide these laws if an employee discloses their condition, asks for accommodations, and they meet the conditions of RA or ADA.