ADHD children and their parents face many unforeseen dangers due to shortages of ADHD drugs!
Shortages of drugs used to treat ADHD in children and teens may cause much more risk than just increased behavior problems, poor concentration, and learning difficulties.
During recent shortages of ADHD medications such as Adderall, most parents assumed the biggest problem they could face would be due to the fact that their ADHD child would run out of medication and his or her attention span and impulsive behavior would worsen and they would start making failing grades again.
Unfortunately, as many ADHD experts will tell you, the side effects of not having ADHD drugs probably won’t come close to the other more serious consequences of ADHD drug shortages.
The more serious effects of children and teens not being able to get their ADHD medications lies in the risks of substitution induced side effects and experimentation with other drugs and chemicals to replace those ADHD drugs unavailable.
As ADHD drugs have become unavailable or scarce, parents are often scrambling to buy 12 pills here and 7 pills there, jumping from pharmacy to pharmacy. Many times, these drugs differ by maker, especially if they are generic. That means the strength of the drug available may vary and absorption times may be faster or slower. As a result, these drugs may not work as well; leading parents and doctors to either increase or decrease the dosages to improve behaviors.
Likewise, switching drug manufacturers may cause an ADHD child to experience more side effects such as headache, stomachache or a rapid heartbeat. Once again, this may lead to so many problems that parents and doctors will abruptly switch from one ADHD medication to another in hopes of getting rid of the side-effects. This is a poor option, especially if the child’s ADHD was effectively treated on the first drug and doing so usually leads to a failure in treatment as many of these drugs are not directly interchangeable.
Likewise, most teens and college students with ADHD have learned that their medications help them focus, help them concentrate, stay awake to study, and help them make better grades. As a result, they might be tempted to substitute street drugs for ADHD medications when they are unable to get their usual “fixes”.
After all, most ADHD drugs are derivatives of amphetamines which are readily available on the street. The problem with this lies in the fact that there is no consistency amongst street drugs. Some are contaminated with other street drugs, processing chemicals, and contaminants that may cause addiction and bodily harm.
In the recent past, our office has seen one college student who suffered withdrawal symptoms from not being able to get legally prescribed Adderall or an illegal substitute. He had the shakes and suspicious behavior of a druggie going stone cold, because he was abusing his stimulants to cram for tests. (I suspect that some of the “Adderall” college students buy off-the-street may really be fake-uppers made to look like the real thing!)
Parents of ADHD children and teens can minimize these risks by following a few tips when they can’t find an adequate supply of ADHD medications:
- If you must go to several drug stores to get an a month’s supply of medication, ask for the specific brand name or if a generic, ask for the same manufacturer and lot number if possible
- Do not flip flop back and forth between different stimulants just because one is available one month and another the next
- Do not buy ADHD drugs off the street or borrow them from others as you really don’t know what you’re getting, how it has been handled or stored, or even if it’s the “real thing”
- Discuss the dangers of caffeine loading, using high dose antihistamines, and substituting street drugs with your teenagers and college students with ADHD. If they didn’t discover in high school that these things can help them get by when they can’t get their ADHD drugs, you can bet your last dollar they found out the first week of college and when facing final exams….they’ll do whatever it takes
- Plan ahead…ask your ADHD doctor to write the prescription a few (5-7) days in advance so you have time for your pharmacy to obtain the drug or if they can’t, at least you can try to locate enough without waiting until that last frustrating minute just like everyone else
- Ask your regular pharmacy-the one you consistently use and can claim loyalty to- to put your child’s prescription on a priority check list. That’s the list of essential drugs that need to be undated for supply-ability on a day to day basis.
Protecting your ADHDer from the side effects of ADHD drug shortage is not as simple as it seems. There are many things that we must consider to help ADHD kids and teens “survive” during these trying times. As always, you should be a strong advocate for your child’s health care.
Here are a few articles you might find interesting:
Adderall Drug Shortage Will Continue in 2012, Government Officials Say
Lingering shortage of ADHD drugs unravels lives
Insight: Shortage of ADHD drug Adderall seen persisting
Yes, DEA, there’s an ADHD Med Shortage
Adderall shortage near finals could affect students