Prescriptions for stimulants have been skyrocketing as it’s become easier and easier to get a diagnosis.
Why it matters: The rise in demand for Adderall has triggered a shortage of the drug — raising fears that some people can’t get medicines they rely on, while many others may be misdiagnosed.
- Some are experiencing stimulant withdrawal symptoms. Others are turning to unregulated dealers to replace their prescriptions, and others still are turning to illegal — and highly dangerous — drugs as substitutes, WIRED reports.
By the numbers: A whopping 41.4 million Adderall prescriptions were dispensed in the U.S. in 2021, up more than 10% from 2020, according to IQVIA, a health research firm.
What’s happening: Getting a diagnosis of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD — which can be treated by Adderall and other stimulants — got significantly easier during the pandemic.
- A wave of telemedicine startups hit TikTok and Instagram with advertisements suggesting that people should look into ADHD medication if they felt distracted.
- Some startups diagnosed people with ADHD and prescribed stimulants after 30-minute video calls — entirely remotely, and much faster than a typical diagnosis from an in-person psychiatrist, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Yes, but: The trouble with such rapid diagnoses is that it can be difficult to tell whether ADHD is actually the problem, experts say.
- “Anxiety can present as ADHD, and depression can present as ADHD,” said Sanford Newmark, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco’s medical school.
- The new spike in diagnoses and prescriptions is raising questions about whether ADHD is being over-diagnosed.