KTLA SPECIAL REPORT: What's Causing the Adderall Shortage?
Physicians say Southern California pharmacies are having trouble keeping the ADHD drug Adderall in stock and that widespread abuse of the drug may be the cause. (KTLA-TV)
Doctors prescribe a drug called Adderall to treat the disorder and doctors say pharmacies in Southern California can't keep the amphetamine mix in stock.
An average of 9 percent of children between 5 and 17-years-old are diagnosed with ADHD every year. If they can't get their medication, many complain of withdrawl symptoms like headaches, upset stomachs and irritability.
"Both children and adults who are diagnosed with ADHD really need this medication to function in school at work," said Dr. Michael Enenbach, a physician at UCLA Because of Adderall's psychoactive ingredients, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies the drug as a controlled substance -- meaning it can be addictive and has high potential to be abused.
And it's people who abuse Adderall that may be causing the shortage of the drug in local pharmacies.
"It's pretty easy to get your hands on," said a local college student who did not give her name in an interview with KTLA 5.
The young woman -- who had not been diagnosed with ADHD -- said she began using Adderall to help her stay on top of her school work.
"I just wasn't prepared enough for my final so I decided to take A for that extra push," she said.
And the girl is not alone. One in five students admit to using the drug without being diagnosed with ADHD.
Stressed-out college students aren't the only people abusing the drug. A mother and housewife -- who identified herself only as "Julie" -- said she used Adderall meant for her son. "I tried his Adderall that he was give for his hyperactiveness and it helped me," Julie said in an exclusive interview. "It gave me energy to get through the day, it gave me energy."
Experts say Adderall is an easy drug to gain access to, which may explain the frequency with which it is abused.
"It's true these medication are often prescribed inappropriately for students who need to do well on tests or for adults who want to succeed financially," Enenbach said. "We as physicians need to be involved and we need to be aware."
Adding to the high demand for the drug is a contentious relationship between drug manufacturers and the DEA. The companies say they can't meet the Adderall demand without looser limits handed down by the DEA.
"It's complicated," Enenbach said. "The DEA only releases so much of the active product to the pharmaceutical companies to make the medications and the reason for that is there isn't too much of the drug in the community to be abused."
Nationwide, doctors wrote more than 18 million prescriptions for Adderall in 2010.
Adderall is on the official FDA drug shortage list. President Barack Obama recently issued an executive order to take new steps to solve the scarcity.