ADHD Medication Shortage: Over the Counter Medications to Try Instead

ADHD Medication Shortage: Over the Counter Medications to Try Instead

"If you or your child had been taking Adderall but were forced to stop because of the shortage, it’s possible you may experience symptoms of acute withdrawal, such as lethargy, depression, appetite changes, or disrupted sleep."

The Adderall shortage that began in October 2022 continues to rage on nearly a year later. While this shortage is partly the result of the rising demand of ADHD medication during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may also be due to a growing concern over misuse of such medications and the rise of telehealth companies known to overprescribe without fully screening patients.

Read on to find out the real reasons behind medication shortages and explore OTC ADHD meds that you may want to consider instead. We have also included some supplements that can support, although they usually are not as impactful in targeting the source of symptoms as non-prescription medications.  

Why is There an ADHD Medication Shortage? 

As stated above, the FDA first confirmed a nationwide shortage of the ADHD drug Adderall in October 2022, attributed to a surge in demand for the medication during the COVID-19 pandemic.1 Teva, the primary manufacturer of Adderall, also cited workforce shortages and manufacturing disruptions due to packaging constraints as other reasons for its supply problems.2 

But several months later, with the medication supply chain still lagging behind, there may be another reason why drugs like Adderall are hard to find. It is speculated that the Drug Enforcement Administration may be trying to avert a repeat crisis of what was seen with opioid abuse by keeping stimulant manufacturing quotas under tight control.3 After all, the popularity of telehealth websites during the pandemic streamlined access to prescription medication like Adderall, and such websites are notorious for overprescribing. 

Will the Shortage Impact All ADHD Medications?

Adderall is far from the only medication experiencing a shortage. Dr. Sarah Cheyette, a pediatric neurologist who treats both children and adults who have ADHD at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, told NBC, “There’s a spillover from people who couldn’t get Adderall and have turned to other drugs.”4 When the Adderall shortage affected her patients, she switched them over to Adderall alternatives like Focalin, Vyvanse, Concerta, and Ritalin. Unsurprisingly, these drugs are starting to run out too, and are now on backorder for many patients.

What to Do if Your Pharmacy is Out of Your or Your Childrens’ ADHD Meds

Regardless of what’s causing the shortage, if you’re a regular user of prescription ADHD medication or your child is, you may be wondering what to do if and when your pharmacy runs out of your meds. First and foremost, it’s important that you never attempt purchasing counterfeit Adderall without a prescription, as such pills can be laced with extremely dangerous drugs like fentanyl, posing a serious health risk.5 Asking your doctor to switch you to another ADHD medication is one obvious first option you may take, but another one to consider is seeking out an over-the-counter (OTC) alternative requiring no prescription or official diagnosis. 

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OTC Alternatives

Not to be confused with counterfeit Adderall produced by an unknown source, there are a number of OTC medications and supplements designed to reduce common symptoms of ADHD like hyperactivity, inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity. Please note that some of the medications mentioned below are for adults and children, and some are for adults only.

1. Brillia

For children, teens, and adults

Type of product: Non-Prescription Medication

Brillia is a non-prescription medication clinically proven to reduce symptoms associated with ADHD and anxiety. Its active ingredient consists of targeted antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein, a key regulator of various intracellular and extracellular brain processes, including enzyme activities, calcium homeostasis, and communication between neurons. Regulating this protein is a gentle and efficient way to reduce undesirable symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and anxiety without affecting any other systems in the body. As a result of this regulating effect, the level of monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain normalizes. Adderall targets monoamines too, but the prescription drug is also known to cause side effects like headaches, upset stomach, dry mouth and nervousness. Brillia achieves results without causing harmful side effects or masking the personality. You can also start and stop the medication at any time without any “coming” off effects. Brillia’s safety and efficacy is supported by clinical studies, which show the medication has pronounced therapeutic effects in patients with mild to moderate ADHD. The research shows Brillia helps to reduce clinical symptoms of ADHD and neutralizes clinical manifestations of disturbances of behavior and attention (hyperactivity, behavioral disorders, and cognitive deficit), while also reducing anxiety.

Brillia is available in two versions: Brillia for Children & Teens 5-18 and Brillia for Adults. Another unique factor about Brillia is that it has no contraindications. This means you can take the medication alongside any prescription medications or supplements you are currently taking without worrying about harmful interactions. This can be especially helpful if you are considering switching over to Brillia. As you taper off current medications under your doctor’s care, Brillia can help fill the gaps so you don’t have to go without support. Learn more about taking Brillia with prescription medication.

2. Vyvamind

For adults

Type of product: Dietary supplement

The manufacturers of Vyvamind describe the supplement as a “broad spectrum over the counter neurostimulant for high-performance adults.”6 As a supplement, it is available without a diagnosis or prescription and contains ingredients like B vitamins, L-Theanine, citicoline, tyrosine, and caffeine. As a stimulant, it is said to be effective in reducing brain fog and distractibility while increasing mental stamina, but may cause some of the side effects associated with other stimulants like headaches, insomnia, and anxiety, but including L-Theanine in its formation is meant to counteract these symptoms, reportedly making the supplement energizing rather than anxiety-inducing.7 Some Vyvamind users also say the supplement benefits symptoms of depression and PTSD.8 Vyvamind is not suitable for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.

It’s important to note that clinical studies backing up Vyvamind’s claims are difficult to find. However, many of the ingredients used in the formulation are promising. For instance, one study found that citicoline and caffeine significantly improved sustained attention, cognitive effort, and reaction times in healthy adults.9 The inclusion of B vitamins is also helpful as low levels have been associated with an ADHD diagnosis and increased irritability.10 Tyrosine has also been shown to be helpful for inattention by increasing functions such as memory and focus.11 Studies on L-Theanine also show that the ingredient may improve cognitive function in children with ADHD.12

3. NooCube

For adults

Type of product: Dietary supplement

NooCube is another supplement used by some as an Adderall alternative. It contains a variety of nootropics, which are types of stimulants referred to as “smart drugs” designed to reduce brain fog while improving focus and memory. Like Vyvamind, NooCube contains L-Theanine along with the chemicals alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine, a natural choline compound, and huperzine. Both are said to enhance memory and improve learning,.13, 14 It does not contain caffeine. The supplement is mostly well-tolerated, though some users have reported side effects such as headaches, dizziness, and upset stomach.15 NooCube is not suitable for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.

Like Vyvamind, we found no clinical studies backing NooCube’s claims, but the formulation does use research-backed ingredients. In addition to  L-Theanine, NooCube also contains Lutemax® 2020 (lutein and zeaxanthin), which is derived from the marigold plant. Studies show these ingredients have powerful antioxidant/anti-inflammatory capacity  and improve cognitive function like enhanced memory and sustained attention.16

4. L-Theanine

For children, teens, and adults

Type of product: Dietary supplement

Found in green tea and some types of mushrooms, L-Theanine is an amino acid shown to improve attention, memory, focus, and executive functions, making it a common alternative or supplement to Adderall.17 Other studies show the supplement may also improve sleep in kids with ADHD.18 However, there is some evidence L-Theanine works best when combined with caffeine, which is likely why it is included in supplements like Vyvamind.19 Used by children and adults, L-Theanine is mostly safe and well tolerated, though some users have reported having headaches while taking the supplement.20

There are numerous studies backing L-Theanine as a cognitive enhancer for individuals with ADHD. In one 2019 study, combining L-Theanine with caffeine improved sustained attention and overall cognitive performance in children with ADHD, possibly by decreasing mind wandering during exertion of attention. It also helped to reduce impulsivity.21 A more recent 2021 study found L-Theanine to be safe and effective with “favorable clinical significance” in improving attention, memory, cognition, and hyperactivity, but this study also combined the amino acid with caffeine.22

5. Mind Lab Pro

For adults

Type of product: Dietary supplement

Like NooCube, Mind Lab Pro is a nootropic designed to support optimal cognitive function. The formula contains a whopping 11 ingredients, many of which you will have seen in some of the supplements above. These include citicoline, phosphatidylserine, lion’s mane mushroom, bacopa monnieri, L-tyrosine and L-theanine, maritime bark extract, rhodiola rosea, and a strong B vitamin complex (6, 9, and 12). The manufacturers claim the supplement enhances mental performance without the crash of stimulants. Taking it can help improve mood, memory, attention, focus, concentration, and potentially protect against mental decline when used long term.23 Satisfied users have reported an overall difference in their cognitive abilities after taking Mind Lab Pro for several weeks. This includes feeling more alert, energetic, and having better memory recall. Side effects appear to be rare, although excessive use may cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.24 Mind Lab Pro is not suitable for children or pregnant/breastfeeding women.

Mind Lab Pro is backed by clinical studies, which show subjects who took the supplement for four weeks experienced significantly improved memory.25 However, more research is required to determine its effects on subjects with ADHD. Another ingredient in Mind Lab Pro is lion’s mane mushroom, which has shown promise in reducing symptoms of ADHD.26 Researchers have confirmed that lion’s mane can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety in relation to autism and ADHD.

Is it Safe to Switch to a Different Medication?

If you are thinking of switching medications, it is important that you do so under the care of your physician. Stopping a prescribed medication immediately can cause unwanted side effects and withdrawal symptoms, especially when it comes to stimulant medication like Adderall. 

If you are considering switching to Brillia, it is recommended to start by taking both medications together to allow the active ingredient to build up in the system (for at least 3-4 weeks) and then with advice from your physician, follow their guidance on how to taper off of your prescription medications. Brillia is a gentle and cumulative product, so while some users may notice a difference after the first two to three weeks of starting the medication, it may take even longer. During this time and even after continuing to take Brillia, it’s important that you follow the healthy lifestyle factors outlined in the 5-Pillar methodology, which include following a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness techniques to maximize the medication’s efficacy. We also ask that you wait a full three months to decide if the medication is working for you.

Managing Side Effects that Might Result from the Medicine Shortage

If you or your child had been taking Adderall but were forced to stop because of the shortage, it’s possible you may experience symptoms of acute withdrawal, such as lethargy, depression, appetite changes, or disrupted sleep. It’s important that you bring such symptoms to your doctor’s attention, so they can help you come up with a plan of action. Taking any of the OTC ADHD medications or supplements mentioned above may help ease some of these symptoms, but drug withdrawal is not to be taken lightly. Always ask your doctor if you’re unsure of how to proceed.

Find out more about how Brillia works and find more resources  on how to manage symptoms of ADHD and anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26
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