As the Adderall shortage continues, here’s how the Boston area is faring

“Probably not a day goes by without my office getting a frantic phone call saying, ‘I can't find it.’”

An empty bottle of someone's Adderall prescription taken Nov. 7, 2022. Kayana Szymczak / The New York Times

In January, Regina Scott found herself in need of a refill on her extended-release Adderall prescription. Diagnosed with ADHD by her doctor, Scott takes the drug every once in a while to help her stay focused on work. 

When she got to her pharmacy, they told her they were out of stock.

“I got a text from CVS saying it was ready, and I went, and they were like ‘No, we actually don’t have it,’” she said. “I was like, ‘That’s weird.’”

The pharmacy told her to call other stores, but she didn’t have any luck.


“Even out in Western Mass. I couldn’t find anyone with Adderall in stock, so it was absolutely crazy,” Scott said.

For two days, she set alarms and reminders to call pharmacies as they opened with the hope of getting her prescription refilled. 

“I had a whole spreadsheet of pharmacies — their phone numbers, what time they open — so I could try to be the first one to call them, and pretty much all of them had nothing,” she said.

Her usual CVS wound up alerting her that they had restocked and she could come collect, but she was disbelieving at first. She called to confirm, and they told her someone had missed their pick-up deadline so they were releasing the order to the next person on the list, which happened to be her.

Already on her way out of town for a road trip, Scott turned around to head back to the pharmacy and refill her prescription. 

Scott’s quest to find Adderall is characteristic of many people’s experience right now, as an Adderall shortage that started in the summer wages on. The FDA announced an official shortage of Adderall and generic versions of the drug in October.


Since then, people like Scott have been struggling to get their prescriptions filled. 

Dealing with the shortage

Scott, unlike some prescribed with Adderall, doesn’t need to take it every day. But there are many who do and going without their usual dose can make them feel out of sorts, said Edward Hallowell, who founded the Hallowell ADHD Centers, which has a location in Sudbury. 

“You don’t have access to your eyeglasses and you’re nearsighted, you’re gonna have a hard time,” said Hallowell, who also has ADHD. “You’re gonna walk around squinting and bumping into things and feeling frustrated and making mistakes. And that’s what happens to people who are on Adderall — where it works for them — when they don’t have it.”

Not all people with ADHD take Adderall, though, Hallowell said. He estimated that around 40% of his patients take the drug. Right now, he’s trying to help them deal with the shortage. 

For some, that means trying a new prescription, but for others that isn’t an option. He expanded the glasses metaphor, saying that it’s hard for people who’ve become accustomed to one set of eyeglasses to just try a new pair. He said many of his patients are still looking for a refill of their Adderall.


“Probably not a day goes by without my office getting a frantic phone call saying, ‘I can’t find it. I’m up the creek without a paddle,’” Hallowell said. “It’s been really awful for a lot of people.”

‘It’s all compounded’

In an email to, the FDA attributed the initial shortage to manufacturer delays. Now, it says shortages are “demand-driven.”

“Manufacturers are working to meet the demand and the FDA is helping with anything we can do to increase supply,” the company wrote, adding that it does not have the power to force pharmaceutical companies to make more of the drug. 

On its website, the FDA lists the drug that makes extended-release Adderall as no longer in shortage, but the non-extended release forms are still listed as “currently in shortage.”

Dr. Tim Wilens, chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Mass General Hospital, said in a recent phone call that half of his patients were having to ask multiple times for a refill because the first pharmacy they tried couldn’t accommodate them.

“My hope is that we’re in the worst of it now, and it’s gonna get better,” said Wilens, who has one of the largest practices in Boston that treats people with ADHD.

He added that some people in the industry have told him they believe the shortage might end in mid-April, but that may just be wishful thinking. With the original manufacturing issues and people running from pharmacy to pharmacy, Wilens said the issue has snowballed.


Tight-manufacturing allowances and quotas don’t help, he said. Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration has not announced plans to ramp up production and last year they issued a statement for 2023 saying as much.

“It’s all compounded,” he said.

Wilens added that it’s important to know that name-brand Adderall is expensive and most insurance doesn’t cover it, leaving it unattainable for many.

‘I’m really not looking forward to when I have to refill it again’

Thor Bergersen, the owner of and a psychiatrist at ADHD Boston, said his business has been “affected greatly” by the shortage and patients have been unable to fill generic and name-brand Adderall.

While people may not go through the stereotypical withdrawal that is associated with some drugs when they are taken away, Bergersen said his patients can suffer in other ways.

“Their ability to initiate tasks, sustain attention, and follow through — which is sort of the core of ADHD — is diminished,” he said. “They have to work harder, and spend more time, and stay up late, and fix their job performance and their school performance.”

In Scott’s case, she was lucky not to face any adverse effects from the lack of intake. She said her refill issues from before have made her “even more stingy” about taking it, and she now has to worry about what might happen when she tries to get her next refill. 

“I’m really not looking forward to when I have to refill it again,” she said. “I’m gonna make sure that I do it well in advance now. Like probably before I even am close to running out just because I don’t know how long it might take.”


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