Millions of people with ADHD have faced chaos and panic because of ADHD medication shortages. They’ve had to scramble to find ways to refill their prescriptions each month. And many have gone without the medication they rely on to function every day.
The shortages began in 2022 with Adderall. They eventually spread to other ADHD drugs like Ritalin and Concerta. Supplies of the ingredients used in these drugs are expected to increase this spring. But there’s been a huge rise in demand for ADHD medications. Many people may still have trouble filling prescriptions for a while.
With ADHD, sudden changes to medication routines can have a big impact on daily functioning. That can cause serious worry and anxiety. Some people can also feel ill, depending on their dosage and how sensitive they are to the drug. So, when people can’t get their prescribed medication, they need to have strategies to cope with ADHD symptoms.
Here are eight tips to help manage ADHD when there’s a shortage of medication:
1. Take steps to sleep better.
ADHD brains work very hard all day to process, filter, and manage all the stimulation around them. The best way to help with focus problems is to get enough sleep. Keeping consistent sleep schedules and using nighttime calming strategies are key.
2. Talk to your prescriber about medication changes.
You shouldn’t change medication routines on your own. Instead, talk to your prescriber about strategies you might try during the shortage. Maybe you could skip doses at low-pressure times, like weekends or days off, to stretch out what you have. Trying a different medication might also be an option. See what your prescriber says.
3. Try a “body double.”
Body doubling is an informal support where someone stays with you (or works alongside you) as you try to do tasks. It may be hard to see the benefit of something so simple. But having that physical presence helps some people with ADHD stay focused and motivated.
4. Listen to white noise/brown noise.
Some research has shown that brown noise cuts down on distractibility and helps with attention. The sound may mask other noises or even trigger brain chemicals that improve focus.
5. Use a timer or a timer app.
Timers can help people with ADHD track how long they work on a task and how long they are off task. They’re also great for limiting how long you work on certain activities. And they can help you budget your time — something that’s hard for many people with ADHD.
6. Reset your brain through movement.
Exercise, movement, and changing your body position during daily activities gives your brain a chance to “reset.” Changing from sitting to standing to even lying on your belly can improve focus for a little while. A short walk or stretching can be enough to spark your brain to attention.
7. Drink caffeine, but go easy.
Having coffee or an energy drink to boost focus and attention can work for a short period of time. But there are things to watch out for. Caffeine amounts can vary widely in different beverages. Energy drinks often contain herbs and supplements that can stimulate the body and cause stomach upset or even cardiac symptoms when taken in high amounts. Also, caffeine may be helpful during the day, but it makes it harder to fall asleep at night.
8. Do meditation and other calming activities.
People with ADHD struggle to “shut off their brain.” Calming activities like meditation and mindfulness can make a big difference for some people. They can increase focus, improve sleep, and decrease anxiety.
About the author
About the author
Andrew Kahn, PsyD is a licensed psychologist who has served as an evaluator and consultant in public schools for nearly 20 years. Kahn, who describes himself as neurodivergent, is a subject matter expert at Understood.