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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Local CVS, Kroger faces Adderall shortage, students report inability to access medication

A national Adderall shortage was announced Oct. 12, 2022, and students report ongoing difficulties accessing ADHD medications.
CVS+Pharmacy+on+21st+Avenue%2C+as+photographed+on+Nov.+27%2C+2022.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FOphelia+Lu%29
Ophelia Lu
CVS Pharmacy on 21st Avenue, as photographed on Nov. 27, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Ophelia Lu)

The CVS and Kroger locations on 21st Avenue are being affected by a national stimulant drug shortage, including but not limited to Adderall. As a result, Vanderbilt students diagnosed with ADHD have reported difficulty in obtaining their medications and maintaining their academic performance. 

The Food and Drug Administration announced a national Adderall shortage on Oct. 12, 2022. The shortage began as a result of production issues at Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. According to the FDA, drug makers have cited an inability to keep up with demand, issues getting key ingredients and labor shortages as reasons for the Adderall shortage. 

According to the FDA, brand-name Adderall is no longer officially in shortage, but the generic medication — which the organization says most people with ADHD take due to reduced cost — is expected to be unavailable until late spring. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, the Adderall shortage is now spilling over to affect other ADHD drugs such as Ritalin, since many people that cannot access Adderall have been turning to alternatives.

The American College Health Association found that the population of college students with ADHD has increased from 2% to roughly 12% in the past 20 years. 

According to a Feb. 21 conversation with CVS technician Angel Sheeley, the 21st Avenue CVS is still encountering an Adderall shortage, with shipments on backorder indefinitely.

“All CVS locations have an Adderall shortage at the moment. It is the manufacturers that we aren’t getting it from,” Sheeley said. “Other non-CVS stores have different manufacturers that may have it.”

First-year and 21st Avenue Kroger Health pharmacy technician Areeba Alam confirmed Kroger’s Adderall shortage and said that the pharmacy has been encouraging physicians to prescribe alternatives.

“[Adderall] has definitely still been on backorder for a while,” Alam said. “Our pharmacy has had to stop taking new patients for Adderall due to the shortage in order to prioritize our existing customers, but we have still had to ask a lot of our patients’ physicians to prescribe replacement medications due to the long wait times for Adderall.”

Senior Joseph Sexton said he found out about the shortage after visiting CVS in October 2022 and repeatedly being told by CVS pharmacy staff that his ADHD medication was out of stock.

“I was told that they [CVS] were short on Adderall but that they’d call me when they got some in. A week went by, and I just walked in to check again thinking my phone number might have been lost; but they were in fact still just out of Adderall,” Sexton said. 

Sexton said that, though he takes the extended-release (XR) version of Adderall, he began searching for the immediate release (IR) version as a temporary alternative in response to the shortage. The XR version is preferred, according to Sexton, for its long-lasting effects and reduced likelihood of late afternoon and evening “crashes.”

“Unfortunately, people with issues in executive function (for example, those diagnosed with ADHD) aren’t the best at managing their time, commitments, priorities,” Sexton said. “By the time I confronted how bad the issue was getting for my own well-being, it was too late. Even the IR variant was out.” 

University Counseling Center lead psychiatrist Dr. Elise Scott said that the UCC is “deeply concerned” about the lack of available stimulants but expects the Adderall shortage — though not other stimulants — to resolve by mid-April.

“Unfortunately, this may not be true for other stimulants like Concerta where the shortage is due to a change in manufacturing of the generic agent,” Scott said. “We are training UCC staff on the impact of the shortage and ways we can bolster non-stimulant resources for ADHD during this time.”

After visiting the 21st Avenue CVS again in mid-November, Sexton said he was advised to go to another CVS — about 15 minutes away — which had Adderall in stock. 

“When barriers are put in place, the first to lose out are those who don’t have a car, insurance coverage or resources otherwise,” Sexton said.

Sexton added that students who do not have cars or responsive doctors have more difficulty accessing their medication, especially since Adderall requires manual refills each month. 

“Over the last several months, the role of privilege in characterizing who can and cannot get their medications has become vividly apparent in terms of Adderall,” Sexton said.

Scott said that the UCC has been communicating with academic deans, Student Affairs and Student Care Coordination about the effects of this shortage on students. 

“We are working to identify communities disproportionately affected by the shortage, including students with less financial resources, and ways to assist with any associated costs and transportation,” Scott said.

Senior Stella Wang said she was diagnosed with ADHD by a clinical psychologist unaffiliated with Vanderbilt during the Fall 2022 semester. Since clinical psychologists do not have medical degrees, they are not allowed to prescribe medications. As a result, she sought a prescription from the UCC but was denied one until she had completed a psychological evaluation, in accordance with UCC policy. She said the UCC prescribed her Adderall, but she was unable to obtain it at CVS due to high cost nor at Kroger Pharmacy due to the shortage.

“Having to get the evaluation and no Adderall being available really delayed everything,” Wang said. “Due to the lack of availability, I have switched to a different stimulant medication.”

Sexton also said he has had to make several adjustments to his daily life because of the shortage.

“I’ve been making greater use of behavioral approaches — for example, making lists down to the smallest details, like having separate boxes for each tenth of a homework assignment — and consuming other stimulants like coffee and energy drinks. Ironically, while Adderall is highly regulated, a large Panera Charged Lemonade has 390 milligrams of caffeine, which is about four Red Bulls’ worth,” Sexton said.

He emphasized that the shortage has been especially difficult to navigate alongside his academic and extracurricular involvements.

“[In February 2023], where I had a particularly bad workload, easily in excess of 60 hours between studying and extracurriculars, finding an hour to get Adderall felt impossible,” Sexton said. “To do so, I needed to either cancel meetings with professors or just not turn in assignments. In the end, it’s just a vicious feedback loop.”

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About the Contributors
Brina Ratangee, News Editor
Brina Ratangee ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science planning to major in medicine, health & society and neuroscience. When not writing for The Hustler, she enjoys solving trivia/crosswords, playing the violin and spending time with friends. You can reach her at [email protected].
Rhea Patney, Deputy Data Director
Rhea Patney (‘26) is majoring in medicine, health and society and communication of science and technology on the pre-med track in the College of Arts and Science. She is from St. Louis. When not writing for The Hustler, Rhea loves reading, starting new TV shows and struggling to finish them, playing sports and watching sunsets with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Ophelia Lu, Deputy Photography Director
Ophelia Lu (’26) is double majoring in biomedical and electrical engineering in the School of Engineering. She previously served as a staff photographer. When not covering events and sports games for The Hustler, you can find her listening to Spotify religiously, studying at Starbucks or attempting to make food out of the random things she bought. She can be reached at [email protected].
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