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Alternative treatments for ADHD amidst Adderall shortage

An Adderall shortage is impacting people Wisconsinites who benefit from the medication. Dr. Jake Behrens offers alternative solutions.
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An Adderall shortage is impacting Wisconsinites who benefit from the medication. Dr. Jake Behrens offers alternative solutions.

Adderall is in short supply across the country and millions of people, including here in Wisconsin, who utilize the medication have been impacted. Both young people as well as adults who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are struggling with the impacts of the shortage.

Physicians across the U.S. are also coping with the shortage. Dr. Jake Behrens, founder and psychiatrist at Envision ADHD in Mequon, is familiar with alternative treatment methods for ADHD.

Dr. Jake Behrens, founder and is a psychiatrist at Envision ADHD in Mequon, WI
Dr. Jake Behrens
Envision ADHD
Dr. Jake Behrens, founder and psychiatrist at Envision ADHD in Mequon, WI

Adderall can assist those who experience ADHD by helping them to "pump the brakes," as Behrens describes. He likens the brain to a high-powered engine regularly processing thoughts, movements, memories, and emotions. ADHD can make it difficult to slow processing and complicates handling daily, routine tasks. Adderall can benefit these cases by decreasing the typical processing pace to execute routine tasks.

He explains, "It's about just trying to make it so that [the patient is] in better control — that we can organize, prioritize and inhibit those other things so we can attend to what we ultimately deem to be most important in our day-to-day."

A common misconception with ADHD is that it exclusively impacts young patients and always manifests through external, visually noticeable symptoms. Anywhere from 4-11% of the adult population has ADHD. But many adults remain undiagnosed.

ADHD can look different from what is commonly expected. For example, some stereotypes associated with ADHD include being excessively physically active and unable to sit still. However, some patients experience more internal symptoms, such as racing thoughts or excessive daydreaming.

While Adderall is an effective tool to address both internal and externally displayed symptoms, labor incidents, as well as regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, have caused shortages of the medication. There is a limit to how much of the medicine can be produced. There are also limits to how much of the medicine can be made by each manufacturer. If production is altered at one manufacturer, others cannot exceed their allotted amount to compensate for the absence. After a labor dispute at one of Adderall's manufacturers impacted their production rate of the medication, the current shortage soon followed.

Medication is one of several methods to address ADHD. As alternatives, Behrens recommends therapy, coaching, exercise, diet and exploring a full scope of medications before deciding on treatment.

Behrens also says to work with your psychiatrist to see if alternative medications could work with your body. Even though Adderall is in short supply, there are generic versions available.

"I've heard March is supposedly when [we] get back to that normal level," Behren says. "But in the meantime, what I always recommend is obviously whoever your prescribers [are], have a setup, so you have some form of direct communication with them to try and navigate this on the go."


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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