How to cope with the ADHD medication shortage

BY Sarah Templeton

6th Nov 2023 Wellbeing

4 min read

How to cope with the ADHD medication shortage
If you are struggling with the current shortage of ADHD medication, campaigner Sarah Templeton shares her top coping mechanisms for ADHD
We are currently experiencing something those of us with ADHD haven’t experienced before: the sudden unavailability of the most popular and effective ADHD medications. This began in September, and pharmacists are telling patients they are not likely to be able to fulfil ADHD prescriptions until the end of December. For people who have had their lives transformed by the medication, this has thrown them into complete and utter panic.
"For people who have had their lives transformed by the medication, the shortage has thrown them into panic"
The shortage has been caused by a surge in diagnosis in adults. Adults were not being diagnosed with ADHD in the UK until 2009. Beforehand, it was believed ADHD was "a childhood behavioural disorder." This is wrong as it is now known that ADHD is a neurodiversity and something which you have for life. This unprecedented removal of critical medication has rightly angered and scared adults whose lives were transformed since being diagnosed and medicated. 
If this is happening to you, speak to your GP first to see if there’s an alternative ADHD medication they can offer. Different medications are definitely worth trying, and who knows—they might even be better than your regular one. If this isn’t possible, what should you do? 

6 Coping mechanisms for ADHD

Don't ruminate about what you can't have
Thousands of people in the UK are in this situation. You are not alone, and it is not the end of the world. So, keep positive and remember that a lot of people manage their ADHD without medication permanently. You are now joining their ranks, but only for a short time. We can learn from these people who manage without medication and use some of their tried and tested techniques.
Look into natural remedies
Your first go-to is the numerous natural herbs and remedies a lot of ADHD adults prefer. Lion's mane is hugely helpful according to numerous ADHD adults I speak to, although it is worth noting there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this at this time. I’m told it has the ability to calm the brain, allow you to focus and concentrate. Many ADHD adults have it on repeat order and won’t use anything else.
Woman holding up a herbal supplement
Saffron is another option, as well as magnesium and omega-3 supplements which are also thought to help. Spend some time on the internet, particularly on adult ADHD social media groups and see what new remedies people are recommending. We recommend speaking to your doctor before trying out new supplements, as herbal products and prescription medications don't always mix well
Increase your physical activity
Exercise is a known dopamine-source for people with ADHD and if you aren’t taking medication, it becomes even more crucial. An hour a day is recommended even when you are on medication so if you can find time in your day to increase your physical activities this will benefit your brain.
"Exercise is a known dopamine-source for people with ADHD"
Even a bracing one hour walk a couple of times a day, if you can manage it, will help. If like me, you find this terribly boring, a good set of headphones and music make it much more doable! 
Find ways to calm your brain
If ADHD medication calms you down, and now your ADHD "internal motor" is back, it’s time to look at ways to calm your brain. If you already go to yoga, pilates or meditation classes, see if you can attend more. And if you aren’t already going, find local classes you can join. If there aren’t any, then look online as there are plenty of options for doing this at home.
Women doing a yoga class
Also, check out phone apps and download meditation or mindfulness ones. A lot of them are free. Factor quiet time into your day—alarms on your phone will help you remember to use them.
Dunk yourself in cold water!
For the brave, an ice bucket or ice bath, easily found on Amazon and similar websites, is another option. Dunking yourself in ice cold water for five to ten minutes is said to be incredibly effective for ADHD brains.
"Dunking yourself in ice cold water for five to ten minutes is said to be incredibly effective for ADHD brains"
You don’t even need to invest in one of these if the funds are tight. After your morning shower, just turn the water to cold and this will have the same effect. I’ve yet to be brave enough to try this myself, but it’s cheap and allegedly, incredibly effective.
Find support systems
For those who rely on the medication to stop compulsive behaviours like over-eating, alcohol, gambling and the like, this is going to be much more difficult to manage and control. There aren’t any magic answers here, but awareness is critical and gaining support from others in the same situation is my best advice.
For example, if alcohol was your way of self-medicating your ADHD, try going to regular AA meetings. Similarly, with compulsive and binge eaters, seek support from others in the same situation and don’t be too hard on yourself if you have blips.
Sarah Templeton is an ADHD campaigner, founder of ADHD LIBERTY and author of Teachers! How Not to Kill the Spirit in Your ADHD Kids, available on Amazon, priced £22.99
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