'It frightens people': Adderall shortage impacting Chicago area

There is a nationwide shortage of Adderall — the most commonly-prescribed drug to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD — and it is now affecting Chicago area patients and pharmacies.

"It frightens people," said Dr. Robert Shulman, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center. "It frightens parents who have kids who are starting school right now. It frightens adults who are reliant on the medicine to get them through the work day. Patients can't get their medicines and we get a lot of phone calls, so it's a lot of extra work, and the patients have to call around to pharmacies to look and see where there is a supply."

Shulman attributes the Adderall shortage to several factors: demand and prescriptions for it at an all-time high following the pandemic, widespread misuse of the stimulant on places like college campuses, and limits on manufacturing imposed by the FDA.


"With the increase in number of providers, increase in demand, increase in ease, more prescriptions are being written," Shulman said.

If the shortage persists, there are alternative treatments for ADHD that don't involve prescription drugs. At the Chicago Mind Institute in Northbrook, psychologists Dr. Jared Treiber and Dr. Elie Saltzman treat ADHD patients with a therapy called neurofeedback, which they said naturally retrains the wiring of the brain to maintain focus, through a series of reward-based exercises.

"Neurofeedback is a way that we can train and encourage the brain to operate more optimally and we can avoid using chemicals," said Saltzman.

"There's no electrical impulses, no medications," said Treiber. "We get plenty of people on all different types of stimulants come through here and by the end of treatment they either lowered their medication to a minimal dose or are completely off their medication."

In response to this shortage, the Chicago Division of the DEA issued an alert, saying that shortages like this heighten the risk of people getting medication illegally. It says the only safe medication comes from licensed pharmacies and medical professionals, and that anything else is dangerous and potentially lethal, especially with a recent spike in victims unknowingly ingesting fentanyl.