The impact of the ADHD medication shortage

Managing university and ADHD can is difficult - and even tougher when you have a medication shortage to contend with...

Jay Barber
23rd March 2024
Image credit: Unsplash
In October of 2023, the UK Government announced that the provision of ADHD medication would be affected by manufacturing issues and an increased global demand. Even now, six months after the initial announcement, there seems to be no clear end in sight for people like myself who rely on these medications for day-to-day life.

I’d love to be able to write about what caused this crisis, or when it might be resolved, but the lack of information provided means that I can’t. The most we’ve been offered is that supplies of ADHD medications like Elvanse and Xaggitin XL could be stabilised by April and, although I’d love to believe this, we were initially told that it would be resolved by January – naturally, I have my reservations.

Misunderstandings about ADHD mean that the severity of these supply issues are grossly underestimated and overlooked. In simple terms, ADHD medications increase the levels of chemicals like dopamine in your brain. Taking medication makes living with my condition easier. It increases my focus and helps me manage my executive dysfunction. Medication has, without any exaggeration, changed my life.

I haven’t had secure access to my full dose of medication since November. At first, I was able to take my recommended dose most days, reducing it on others as I saw fit. As problems worsened, I could take two thirds of my recommended dose, and now, only one third. This low of a dose barely scratches the surface of what I need it to do, but because I don’t know when my next dose will be available, I find myself rationing out my medication, weighing up how badly I need to function each day.

Living like this is exhausting. As a university student, I need to be able to manage my time, my coursework, my job, the little day-to-day tasks required for life. Other people with ADHD are facing similar problems, with the charity ADHD UK reporting that some have lost their jobs. Some are so desperate that they have resorted to buying medication on the black market, which comes at not just huge costs, but with huge risks.

We are being failed by the services meant to support us. There’s a two-fold problem with how the media is tackling the rising awareness of neurodiversity. On the one hand, there’s a moral panic about ‘over-diagnosis’, fearmongering rather than providing education. On the other, there’s an issue of symptoms being trivialised. Treating ADHD symptoms as quirky rather than disabling is but one of the reasons the condition is so misunderstood.

Accessing medication made me realise how much I’d been struggling before. The best way I can describe it like if you received glasses and could see clearly for the first time, only for someone to break them right in front of you. What I hope for now is greater understanding, awareness and support – and for measures to be put in place to avoid this happening again.

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