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Healthy Balance

Managing Your ADHD Through the Medication Shortage

Boy sits on floor, with lines and question marks on wall behind him.

If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) you know the importance of medication. Staying on medication leads to everything from being able to be efficient and effective in a classroom (or at work) to living longer. That ADHD medication shortages are so widespread seems especially unfair. To make things more complicated, there's no real way of knowing how long popular ADHD medications will be out of stock. Or once they're back in stock, how long till there's another shortage.

These shortages can be infuriating. If they’re affecting you, or someone you care about, these strategies may help you get through the next shortage.

Try a Different Dosage or Medication

Medication is the first line of treatment for ADHD for a reason. It works. “The research is clear,” says Haley Stephens, PhD. “Medication is the frontline treatment.” For 80% of people, medication is effective. “We know that medications work best to improve attention and organization as well as reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity.”

It also makes all the other interventions easier to start. Behavioral therapy, for example, works better when you’re focused. It’s also easier to plan and create coping strategies while you’re medicated.

If your medication is affected by the shortage, that doesn’t mean all medications that could work for you will be in short supply. Or that every dosage of your medication is impacted.

Try a Different Dosage

If you normally take 10 mg, ask your provider about trying 5 mg in the first part of the day and 5 mg in the second. Or, if you normally take 2 doses of 10 mg, they may suggest a 20 mg extended release.

Try a Different Medication

ADHD medications come in several categories. For many, it’s helpful to stay in the same drug family. For example, if Adderall works well for you, then Zenzedi may be a good substitute.

Medicine CategoryClassBrand Names
(Extended Release)
Adhansia XR
Aptensio XR
Contempla XR
Focalin XR
Journay PM
Metadate CD/ER
Quillichew ER
Quillivant XR
Ritalin SR/LA
StimulantAmphetamine Mixed Salts or Dextroamphetamine
StimulantAmphetamine Mixed Salts or Dextroamphetamine
(Extended Release)
Adderall XR
Adzenys ER/XR
Dyanavel XR
Non-StimulantSeratonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)Strattera
Non-StimulantAlpha-2 Adrenergic Agonist (Long-Acting)Kapvay
AntidepressantNoreinephrine Dopamine Reuptake Inhibitor Wellbutrin

Add Complementary Medicine

Many adults with ADHD take both a stimulant and an antidepressant. Some antidepressants can help make stimulants more effective. They can also help with ADHD symptoms on their own. But many of these antidepressants are not recommended for children.

Coping Without ADHD Medication

For people with milder ADHD, coping mechanisms can help take care of symptoms. These strategies can help even when you do have medication support.

Getting ADHD Help

If you or your child need help with managing your ADHD symptoms, talk to your provider about medication adjustment or behavioral therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

“Many children, teens, and adults find a combined approach of medication and behavioral therapy helpful. Behavioral health treatment for ADHD involves helping the individual learn strategies to circumvent their executive function deficits,” Stephens says. That means behavioral therapy focuses on building patterns that make it easier to function.

For children, this therapy mainly focuses on parent education. Teaching parents how to help their child with ADHD is incredibly effective. They’re with their child the longest and know them the most.

For adults, you have to identify the items that are causing the most harm to your daily life. Then work with a professional to craft a plan. Then keep up with the plan until it’s a habit. An example might be paying bills on the day they come in.

Plan What You Eat

It’s no secret that food affects almost every aspect of your life. When you eat well, you’re rewarded with energy, focus, and better memory.

But eating well requires thinking ahead. You also have to understand your body and control impulses. None of this comes easily to people with ADHD.

Creating menus in advance that focus on a balanced diet helps. Food prep is also a perfect fit for many people with ADHD. When you’re a multitasker, getting breakfast while getting ready for work might not seem like a big deal. But for people with ADHD, it’s often easier to make 7 breakfasts at once and then not have to think about it for a week.

If you’re preparing breakfasts for a child with ADHD, talk to your pediatrician about a balanced diet.

Prioritize Sleep

Lack of sleep leads to difficulty focusing. It can also make it hard to regulate your emotions and control impulses.

Getting a full night’s rest is crucial for everyone’s health. And it can definitely make your ADHD symptoms a little more manageable.

The habits that help you fall and stay asleep (sleep hygiene) Sleep hygiene are also important. This includes limiting screen time before bed, having some wind down time, and keeping a schedule.

Schedule in Exercise

Movement can be an important signal to your body. It helps you keep a schedule, be in touch with your body, and burn off excess energy. Some exercises, like yoga or weightlifting, even improve focus.

Adding a little time for a walk between activities can also help with ADHD symptom control.

Natural Remedies for ADHD

Caffeine is the go-to stimulant for folks with or without ADHD who want to get through the afternoon slump. And having a small amount can help your ADHD symptoms as well as your overall health. But too much can have serious consequences for your heart.

For most adults, moderate amounts of caffeine (up to 4 cups of coffee a day) is completely fine. And some studies show it helps ADHD symptoms.

For kids, no amount of caffeine is recommended before the age of 12. Caffeine can cause problems like increased anxiety, already a potential problem for people with ADHD.

Omega-3 fatty acids on the other hand, offer benefits for both children and adults. It’s best to get these from your diet rather than a supplement. Check out our guide on omega-3 sources that’ll appeal to even the pickiest eater.

Partner with Your Provider for Help Managing Your ADHD

The key to getting through these medication shortages is going to be finding a provider who listens and helps with strategizing. While the rest of these ideas are wonderful supplements, medication is the first line defense because it works. Telling your doctor when and why you can’t get the medication you need is crucial to figuring out a strategy.

If it’s simply a problem with your pharmacy, your provider can help you find a pharmacy that has the medication you need. You may even want to consider talking about it in advance. Ask your doctor what the plan is if you’re unable to fill your prescription. That way you can talk it out before it becomes critical.

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