How Do We Fight America's Adderall Shortage? Commercialize the Market


The New York Times has recently reported a shortage in the supply of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medication with “hundreds of patients” complaining to the Food and Drug Administration about their inability to get their prescriptions filled. The explanation for the deficit places the blame on the attempt by the Drug Enforcement Administration to decrease abusive usage by individuals, namely college students.

The DEA sets quotas for the drugs, of which Ritalin and Adderall are the brand name variety, in an effort to “control supplies and thwart abuse.” However, it seems that in doing just that, the DEA has failed to control and thwart the problem, as the shortage shows.

It would make sense, then, for the DEA to think up another strategy in order to better serve the population taking ADHD medication. About nine million adults and five million children in the U.S. are affected by ADHD. Setting finite quotas to serve that limited population while knowledgeable of the fact that there are more people taking these medications than just those who need them does not seem like a well-thought plan.

The most obvious solution to this problem would be to commercialize the market for ADHD drugs so the college students who abuse the drugs would not be stealing medication from people who actually need it. This would, of course, mean making it legal to have and use Ritalin or Adderall or any one of the generics without a prescription.

Ultimately, this conversation becomes the same as any pro-marijuana-legalization argument, the parallels even more clear given medical marijuana usage. The possible revenue that legalization could bring is not unappealing. To those who would say it is socially irresponsible to allow those without prescriptions access to ADHD drugs, how different is that from allowing people to purchase alcohol?

Yes, the primary purpose of ADHD is in support of those who actually need it, but the fact remains there has been a secondary purpose as a stimulant for those without ADHD discovered and there is a market for that secondary purpose. I see no harm in allowing people to decide to ingest that stimulant if they so choose.

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