FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A Centers for Disease Control study reported a 10% increase in stimulant prescriptions for adults during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and general increases among a variety of age groups.
Stimulants are most commonly used to treat ADHD.
Melissa Danielson, a statistician with the CDC, said it was a large increase, something that hadn’t been seen before in prior years of data.
The issue is reflected in Northwest Arkansas, where pharmacists are continuing to see shortages of medication. Medical Arts Pharmacy in Fayetteville has been dealing with the shortages for months. Julie Stewart, a pharmacist at Medical Arts, said it’s hit or miss each day on whether they will have Adderall or generic Adderall.
“Some days we may happen to get one strength that is available in one or two bottles. The next day, nothing is available,” Stewart said.
According to Stewart, the increase may be attributed to more virtual at-home work and learning. She said people are overstimulated by their devices.
Dr. Marti Sharkey, the Fayetteville City Health Officer, said the local increase in prescriptions could have been due largely in part to more virtual schoolwork, which would lead parents to get their children tested for the attention disorder.
“We saw an increase in parents realizing that what teachers had been telling them about their child was true when they started having to teach them at home. And they were like, ‘Oh, my child really is struggling to pay attention,'” Sharkey said.
Another possible reason, according to Sharkey and Stewart, is an increase in telehealth services. Doctors were able to prescribe medications virtually to patients, making it quick and easy for a diagnosis.
To help address stimulant shortages, Dr. Sharkey said more manufacturing is needed, which will mean bringing manufacturing from overseas to North America.
She added increasing the amount of medication a pharmacy can get will be important. Sharkey said the DEA limits some of those since they’re controlled substances.
A concern for Sharkey if the shortages continue is people will resort to illegal stimulants. According to Sharkey, there have been reports of fake Adderall laced with deadly fentanyl.
According to Danielson, this increase in stimulant prescriptions shows how prevalent ADHD is.
“The pandemic situation may have allowed people to realize, ‘Oh, I have these symptoms. Maybe I should get evaluated for ADHD,'” Danielson said.
The 10% increase in stimulant prescriptions was reported among women aged 15-44 and men aged 25-44. However, there were general increases among various age groups.