Send some friggin’ help

My Son Has ADHD, & The Adderall Shortage Is Dramatically Impacting His Behavior

He relies on his medication to focus his mind and calm his body to be successful in a learning environment.

Carol Yepes/Moment/Getty Images

It’s Wednesday afternoon, and I just got an email from my son's teacher. He is in second grade and was diagnosed with ADHD last year, which is something that impacted his learning before finding the proper medication. Since then, his ability to focus and complete tasks has increased dramatically, and his impulsive behavior is much more under control.

Today though, I read an email about his increased silliness and inability to pay attention. He is blurting out answers, distracting peers in small groups, and having difficulty competing assignments. And while disappointing, the email comes as no surprise. Because due to a nationwide shortage of generic forms of Adderall (the most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD), my son has been without his prescription for four days straight, which has a very big impact.

And after a bit of research, I am still confused as to what is going on and how we got here.

In October 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a nationwide shortage of Adderall. According to NPR, this shortage was partly due to increased recognition and diagnosis of ADHD since the pandemic, but pharmaceutical companies are not revealing what exactly is causing the shortage and leaving families like mine feeling very confused.

Sussan Nwogwugwu, Done Regional Nurse Practitioner Lead with, recently spoke to Scary Mommy, sharing that “the shortage of Adderall has had an impact on families with children, adolescents or adults that are prescribed the medication to help with their diagnosis of ADHD. Some parents have stated that their life has been impacted to the point that they have had to consider changing their child’s prescription, even though Adderall has been proven effective for their symptoms.” And that is exactly what my family is currently dealing with.

Because as evidenced by his teacher’s email, my son’s learning is directly affected by this issue. He relies on his prescribed medication to focus his mind and calm his body to be successful in a learning environment. He also benefits from medication in social situations, sports, and other structured activities. So withholding it, randomly, for days at a time, feels so unfair to his little seven year old brain.

As his mother, I feel immensely helpless and frustrated. And my attempts to remedy the situation have been met with little to no helpful advice. We have tried extra breaks, fidget spinners, and calming techniques, which are all the educational modifications and methods we used before trying medication for him. If those things worked for him, we wouldn’t be here. So I have spent the past four days calling all the local pharmacies and checking and double-checking their inventory daily.

And I am anxious about the impact this will have on his progress and confidence. If he lags in his meds every month, how will that change his behavior in the classroom and social situations? I see how it impacts him at home. He can be very short-fused, frustrated, and scattered. Even the smallest task can become very challenging, leading to sibling frustrations and arguments. And I feel terrible that this is all happening because he cannot get what the doctors know he needs.

For now, all I can do is stay proactive and encourage my son to use all the other tools in his tool box. But I also want grace — and some friggin’ help.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.