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'Unprecedented increase in demand': Adderall shortage impacts Colorado families

An Aurora father said they've tried filling his son's Adderall prescription at at least 20 different pharmacies.

AURORA, Colo. — Five months have passed, and there still is no end in sight for the Adderall shortage. 

In the past, the FDA blamed manufacturing delays for the shortage. Now, they're saying it's because of an "unprecedented increase in demand."

The Hahn family in Aurora is dealing with the shortage firsthand as they search for medication for their 6-year-old son, Troy. 

"I grew up with ADHD and learned to live with it myself, and so we saw it and we knew," father Phil Hahn said. "You know, disruptive in class, can't keep his hands off of other kids. So that's when [Troy's] teacher said, 'I recommend you go see his pediatrician.'" 

Troy's doctor prescribed medication. The problem is, for the last six weeks, it's nowhere to be found. Hahn said they've tried filling the Adderall prescription at at least 20 different pharmacies.

"This is my kid, you know," Hahn said. "If it was for me I probably wouldn't be doing that much, but it's my child and I want to make sure he's set up for success."

Tyler Branagan, a psychologist with UCHealth, said this shortage is unlike anything he has seen in his profession, and will have consequences. 

"This is a pretty unique situation I can't say that we've seen before in the psychology or psychiatry community," Branagan said. 

According to Branagan, in 2019 there were about 35 million prescriptions for Adderall. In 2021, there were 42 million. He said that 7 million increase is a big reason why we are seeing this shortage right now.

"Some of the ramifications are going to be some setbacks in learning that occur just because of inability to sustain attention, and then also some children and patients may be exhibiting some other symptoms of impulsivity that might lead to some behavioral changes," he said.

Hahn said the lack of medication is already making its impact on his son's education. 

"You can see it even when you look at handwriting from two or three months ago compared to last week," Hahn said. "You’re almost talking about it like two different kids."

Hahn isn't sure what the solution is. He just hopes one happens sooner rather than later. 

In the interim, Branagan encourages parents of kids feeling the impact to talk to their teachers.

"It’s the same way that they may make educational accommodations for children who have learning disabilities, which ADHD is closely associated with, and so teachers and educators might consult with school psychologists that are available and discuss ways that they may help modify the educational strategies and curriculum for a child with ADHD who currently don’t have access to their medication," Branagan said.


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