The severe shortage of Adderall, a medication used to help manage ADHD, has adversely impacted the lives of thousands of individuals diagnosed with ADHD, both adults and children. This shortage has lasted for many months and no resolution is currently in sight. The reasons for this shortage are many. One is the lack of understanding of ADHD.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is NOT a mental illness. It is simply a way the brain is wired. It is actually NOT a deficit of attention. It is an inability to regulate attention. ADHD affects more than 13 million Americans. Nearly five percent of adults in the United States have ADHD.
One of my clients has been brave enough to allow me to share her story in the hope that it will help those without ADHD learn more about its impact, especially the impact of the Adderall shortage.
MAVIS WITHOUT MEDS
When I first started taking Adderall, I remember thinking everything suddenly came into “focus” the same way you’d focus a camera to get a better thought. “Wow,” I thought, “this must be how normal people feel…now I get it!” So when I first stopped taking Adderall, I began to panic, afraid I would lose all the clarity that I had been enjoying for so many years. Sure, I’d gone a few days here or there without it before and they always felt like I’d been hit by a truck—I was cranky, sluggish and tired, struggling to stay awake or find interest in much of anything. I knew I’d be without it for quite some time now, so I had to plan ahead and try to keep my wits about me.
The first few weeks were difficult—I was forgetting almost everything and it was hard to stay awake during the day, especially when trying to write or do any “difficult” tasks. Mornings seemed darker, earlier, and altogether less pleasant. I was paranoid that other people would think I seemed “off” or “too emotional”, too scattered. In short, it was like imposter syndrome on top of my usual imposter syndrome—what if I was found out without my “medication crutch”? How did I do this before? Had I been “faking” it or somehow misdiagnosed? Did I just have some mysterious Adderall addiction? How could I need something so badly?
As the weeks went by, I was able to buoy myself along, mostly on caffeine and lots of scheduled dance breaks, but I still doubted my abilities. Had I been this forgetful before? Was I slurring my speech or interrupting people more than usual? Was I less fun at social gatherings? I was sure the answer was “yes”. Doing simple fun things like watching television or playing a board game were tricky, too. I became quickly absorbed by other activities in the room or colorful shapes and objects on playing cards and lost track of the game or the storyline at hand. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even notice I had gotten up to pet the cat or fold the laundry in the middle of the best movie scenes. It felt like juggling too many things at once and I was getting frustrated by my insatiable need to “do everything at once”. I became annoyed and exhausted at my own inability to focus, so I could only imagine what other people were thinking.
Perhaps the worst part was the sensitivity to everything…or complete lack of. More “unfiltered” than usual, I found myself carefully watching my every word, afraid I would offend someone or reveal too much. Sounds became more sharply in focus and even the smell or feel of my own clothes or skin made me irritable. There were days when I felt like I couldn’t escape every little whisper, itch, scent or drip that seemed to creep up on me.
Now, almost 3 months without meds and counting, I’ve gotten used to this “new normal” and have been taking things sllloooowwwwly most days, like navigating booby traps. I’ve been content to either stay contained at home or blow off steam with all-day outings with friends which is exhausting, but a good way to tire myself (and my wandering mind!) out. Snacking helps, going up and down the stairs, standing out in the sun, and researching new vacations have been good distractions and ways to either amp myself up, or bring me down to earth a bit. As long as I have something to pour the energy, anxiety or sluggishness into, I’m soothed. May my new journal be another anchor and bright point when I’m feeling adrift!
I invite you to learn more about ADHD and the Adderall shortage by following the links below. ADHD and the Adderall shortage may be impacting someone you know and even love.
For more information about ADHD, I think you’ll find this article by Kate Woodsome enlightening.
Here is the link to the NPR program Today Explained that talked about the adderall shortage. Open the link and then scroll down until you see the title The Adderall Shortage to access this recording.