Focus: The Great Adderall Shortage

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If this scenario seems unfamiliar to you, you’ve obviously never been to college:
It’s 4 a.m. You’re almost halfway done with your big presentation, which you have to give in four hours. You’ve downed enough coffee and Monsters to make your world resemble that of Over the Hedge’s Hammy the squirrel. As we all know (not from experience of course), highs can only last for so long and you’re starting to crash big time. This presentation is worth 30 percent of your grade this semester, so you must stay awake at all costs. What’s a desperate college kid to do?
Solution: pop an Adderall or two and work like the wind. The stimulant increases the availability of brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which regulate executive functions like organizing, multitasking, problem solving, and attentiveness. Though usually used to treat ADHD, it’s also the drug of choice for the college procrastinator who needs one night of pure attention and focus.
Unfortunately for those who actually have a medical or educational reason to use it, the high demand for Adderall has been causing shortages that don’t appear to be going away anytime soon. The 2011 Drug Enforcement Administration’s quota for Adderall’s active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) has made it impossible for manufacturers to make enough of the drug to satisfy consumers and distributors.
“I am very concerned about the future,” said Ruth Hughes, chief executive of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), to the Huffington Post. “No one seems to have much inventory to get us through the months ahead. There are real major life impacts for people not having access to medication. Someone needs to own this problem and take the initiative to fix it.”
Though the DEA, producers of Adderall and advocacy groups disagree on the cause of the shortage, I’m willing to point a finger at people looking to score quick drugs. There is a reason Adderall is a controlled substance: its addictive nature means it has the potential to be abused. Just look at what happened to Little Annie Adderall (take note, NBC: Community teaches important life lessons).
“Trying to determine the best thing to do can be a quandary at times because there is this question of whether the person is trying to get the medication for nonmedical reasons,” said Steven Cuffe, Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
I’ve watched enough episodes of Scrubs to know that – at least in fictional doctor world – clever addicts can scam doctors for drugs. I would like to believe you would have to be the Jack Nicholson of druggies to convince a medical professional to write you an Adderall prescription, but something tells me that might not always be the case.
This obviously isn’t the only reason for a national Adderall shortage, but it certainly isn’t helping matters. Anyone taking advantage of the medical system is part of the reason a student who has problems concentrating may not have access to the drug that will help further his/her education. To anyone using Adderall for any purpose other than managing their ADHD or pulling an all-nighter: enjoy it while it lasts.   
Photo: Cainad at

Junior > Journalism > University of Maryland

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