ADHD drug shortage affecting families as kids go back to school

Prescription stimulants are used to treat ADHD, binge eating disorders and narcolepsy.

However, a shortage of these prescriptions is frustrating patients and their families.

“She will be in class and, like a normal child, she will talk, but it’s over the limit of talking and not paying attention,” KPRC2 assignment editor Millie Quintanilla described her daughter’s ADHD. “We noticed her grades starting to drop and that’s why I went to get her tested.”

Quintanilla said they searched for answers by getting her daughter tested for dyslexia and other learning disorders but she struggled in school so badly, they ultimately held her back a grade.

“That’s been the best thing that we could’ve done for her,” Quintanilla recalls how well the decision turned out in hindsight.

The year they held her back, they also began a low dose ADHD medicine and her daughter began making straight-As in school.

For families like hers, the FDA and DEA said they’re working within their power to solve the drug shortage. However, they cannot require a pharmaceutical company make more of a drug. The only thing really within their control, is getting down to the reason for the shortage.

Here are the main reasons they claim the shortage is happening now:

The shortage is thought to have started last fall when one manufacturer experienced delays, therefore putting a higher demand on other drug makers.

There’s also a record-high prescription of stimulant medications.

Data from 2012 to 2021, shows stimulant use increased by 45.5 percent in the United States.

Particularly during 2020-2021, when virtual prescribing was permitted during covid, the percentages in certain age groups grew by more than 10 percent.

Read the full statement here.

Luckily for Quintanilla’s family, they were able to find some medicine to start the school year but each month brings more worry that they won’t get it again.

“It is worrisome to think that during the school year there won’t be medication and she has very heavy classes. Is she going to fail? Is she not going to be able to handle it without the medication? It’s truly a struggle,” Quintanilla said.

Here are 5 behavioral strategies to help manage your child’s ADHD via Mayo Clinic:

1. Give praise and rewards when rules are followed.

Children with ADHD often receive and expect criticism more so than other children. This can really impact self-esteem. Some days, you might have to really look for the good behavior, but you should praise good behavior at least five times more often than you criticize bad behavior.

2. Give clear, effective directions or commands.

Make eye contact or gently touch on arm or shoulder to get his or her attention. Give brief, simple steps and short commands that get to the point rather than multiple directions or wordy statements and questions.

3. Establish healthy habits.

If your child is on a medication, it should be taken as prescribed. Contact your child’s health care provider if problems arise. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet consisting of three meals, a snack and adequate fluids daily, and has an outlet for some form of daily exercise. These healthy habits will help your child to feel his or her best and help minimize ADHD symptoms.

4. Develop routines around homework and chores.

Work together to make a checklist of what needs to be done surrounding daily chores, getting ready for bed and school for your child to refer to when he or she gets off task. Encourage your child to use a daily planner so he or she is aware of all homework assignments. Have an established time and location for homework, and use a timer to remind your child to show you how the homework is going two to four times per hour. Factor in brain breaks if your child needs them and movement between tasks or use of an appropriate fidget.

5. Help your child build relationships, strong social skills and maintain friendships.

Be a good role model of behavior you want your child to use. Factor in some special time three to five days a week with your child that is conflict-free and does not involve a screen to help maintain a strong parent-child relationship. Help your child develop at least one close friendship. With younger children, parents may need to take the lead to arrange and host play dates or get kids involved in activities where there are kids the same age. Get tips for helping your child develop social skills.

Click here for a screening tool for ADHD and other mental health issues.