ADHD medication shortage: driving round in circles

Janine and Liz have written this article about the current ADHD medication shortage for Asylum, the radical mental health magazine. Read more about Asylum here.

Elvanse (ADHD medication)
Elvanse (ADHD medication)

We are writing this article while driving around to various places to obtain ADHD medication for Liz. She has had to take the afternoon off work, and if she didn’t have a co-operative employer and a car, this errand would be impossible.

There is currently a severe shortage of ADHD medication, due to what the government calls “high demand” and “manufacturing issues”. The former means that an increasing number of ADHDers are distressed to the point of sickness by our society, and the latter surely means that capitalism is not doing its job.

The shortage has pushed many ADHDers into crisis. Many have spent a long time going through titration, having awful experiences trying out different pills before finding the right one for them, only to now find it beyond their reach.

They have left behind their pre-medication habits, coping strategies, self-medication, risky behaviour and so on, and either can’t or don’t want to go back to them.

In a vicious spiral, not having your medicine can make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to take all the steps you need to take to make arrangements to get it from an alternative source.

Inevitably, people will drop out of the system, and not be monitored for heart rate and blood pressure because that is done when you pick up your meds.

Many ADHDers have co-occurring conditions, and the dysregulation causing by missing the ADHD meds will mean that they less likely to take their other medication properly.

In some places, because you have been prescribed medication, you can not get talking therapies – unless, of course, you pay for them.

This is a story not just of immediate problems through shortage of medication, but of the dangers of dealing with issues and experiences mainly through drugs – perhaps especially naturally-occurring neurological variants such as what is know as “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (that’s an awful lot of negatives in one diagnosis).

It would be better to change society so that it accommodates people whose attention comes in atypical spans and has a health service that looks at people and their wellbeing in a holistic way. But that’s not the society we live in. And until we do, people are entitled to the medication that helps them get by.

We’ve just picked up the last batch of meds for today. Actually, half the batch. The driving around will have to be repeated tomorrow.

Some facts about the ADHD medication shortage:

There is currently an ADHD medication shortage affecting the whole of the UK and other countries.

The medications in short supply are some methylphenidate and atomoxetine preparations and all lisdexamfetamine and all guanfacine preparations. These include: Elvanse, Equasym, Xaggitin, Concerta,
Xenidate and Intuniv, particularly in extended-release dosages.

In September, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued a National Patient Safety Alert about the ADHD medication shortage, which was described by the Chief Executive Officer of ADHD UK as a “sticking-plaster memo”.

The causes of the ADHD medication shortage are:

  • a rapid increase in demand in the UK and around the world, linked to the rise in adult diagnosis and the increase in online prescribing since the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • what the DHSC calls “manufacturing problems”. Dr Andrew Hill, a senior visiting research fellow in the department of pharmacology and therapeutics at the University of Liverpool, has said that the problem is caused by the NHS relying on one or two companies to supply important medicines.

More information about the ADHD medication shortage in your area is available from your local NHS.

You can use the NHS find a pharmacy page to locate outlets which might have your medication in stock.

What is your experience of the ADHD medication shortage?

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