Last Call for Adderall: Where'd all the 'neuroenhancers' go?

There are a bunch of Connecticut college students who are likely getting a little jittery right now, and it’s not from taking too many drugs. Their problem is a shortage of one of their favorite “neuroenhancers,” commonly known as Adderall.

Adderall is a drug made up of “mixed amphetamine salts” that’s commonly prescribed for people suffering from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, also known as attention-deficit disorder or ADD) to help them concentrate better.

The months-long shortage of the drug is obviously a pain in the ass for lots of people, adults as well as children, who need Adderall to deal with their medical condition.

But Adderall has also become an illegal favorite of college students looking for more effective ways to pull off all-nighter marathon study and writing sessions or to be able to both party and make classes the next day. The fact it’s a federally controlled drug hasn’t reduced its underground popularity one bit. By some estimates, Adderall use on college campuses is at the 20 percent level or higher.

Reports of Adderall supply problems have been making headlines across the nation for some time now and Connecticut hasn’t been immune.

“It’s probably been going on for a couple of months,” says Rick Carbray, a licensed pharmacist with the Apex Pharmacy in Hamden. He says the shortages in Connecticut at the moment involve “instant release” Adderall tablets in various dosage categories.

“There’s no problem with Adderall extended release,” he adds, but that’s no comfort for patients looking for the instant relief tablets.

Marghie Giuliano, executive vice president of the Connecticut Pharmacists Association, says reports from the group’s members across the state indicate that “supply has been sporadic.”

The Federal Drug Administration website lists a number of different reasons for the Adderall difficulties, depending on which manufacturer is involved.

The listed causes include chemical “supply issues,” “inadequate finished product supply to support current demand,” “increase in demand,” and “manufacturing delays.”

The FDA normally limits the amount of ingredients available to companies producing amphetamine-based drugs, but federal officials say those companies can apply to have those limits raised.

There were reports earlier this year of shortages of the extended-release form of Adderall made by Shire, and that the company boosted prices for that drug by 20 percent or more. A spokesman for Shire says there’s no current shortage of Adderall Extended Release.

Carbray says the problems at the moment seem to involve shortages of 5 milligram and 20 milligram tablets of the instant-release variety. The result is that pharmacists are having to mix and match different dosage combinations to get patients the right amounts for their prescriptions, according to Carbray.

He says it stands to reason that, if legitimate users are having trouble getting Adderall, illegal users like college students will be having even more difficulty. That’s because virtually all illegal Adderall usage involves someone getting the drug from a person who has a prescription.

One California study found that full-time college students in the 18-22 age group were twice as likely to have used Adderall as non-students. A recent report in a University of Virginia newspaper quoted one illegal Adderall dealer as saying sales of the drug spike just before mid-terms and finals.

While students who use Adderall as a “neuroenhancer” claim it helps them stay awake and focused for long periods of time, use of the drug comes with some ugly risks. Side effects from overdoses can include confusion, uncontrollable shaking, depression, irregular heartbeats, hallucinations, upset stomach and loss of appetite, even vomiting and diarrhea.


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