CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Frustrations are mounting amid a shortage of stimulant medications.
It's preventing many across the country from getting the prescriptions they need, particularly for those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, binge eating disorder and narcolepsy.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration just released a letter acknowledging frustrations caused by the shortage and outlining the two federal agencies' efforts to work with drugmakers.
The stimulant medication shortage started last year after a manufacturing delay, officials said, and high prescription rates complicated the lack of supply.
"While this delay has since resolved, we are continuing to experience its effects in combination with record-high prescription rates of stimulant medications," the letter states. "According to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, particularly during 2020-2021, when virtual prescribing was permitted on a widespread basis during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, the percentages in certain age groups grew by more than 10 percent."
In the meantime, therapists like Veronda Bellamy are waiting for the shortage to end.
Bellamy owns the therapy practice Bridging the Gap of America Inc. Her company supports people with mental health and wellness needs.
"Bridging the Gap of America has been in the community since 2008," Bellamy said. "It's evolved over the years from just doing at-risk youth mentoring to becoming a therapy practice. We provide mental health, anger management, one-on-one therapy, coaching, depression groups, anything mental health, we even do some substance abuse. I call us a mental wellness company at this point."
Earlier this year, Bellamy said many of her clients diagnosed with ADHD were struggling to access the prescribed medications they needed, which in turn made parts of her job harder.
"It's disheartening for the client, their families. It's disheartening for the therapist," Bellamy said. "Because we feel the combination of therapy as well as medication management is not being met which is necessary for the client to be able to move forward in life."
Like many therapists, Bellamy was expecting the shortage to be short-lived.
"I'm appalled, I did not expect it to be months later — individuals still having a hard time," Bellamy said. "[Clients are] coming in frustrated. They're coming in feeling like they're defeated. They're coming in feeling as though [they're] going to lose their job because [they're] not being productive. It's really a stressful time for them. Some people actually have lost their jobs because they've been unable to pull themselves together."
Bellamy says nearly 30% of her clients need medications that are in low supply. She doesn't know how soon they'll be able to get the prescriptions they need.
"I thought about when there was a shortage on some of the other medications and how the turnaround kind of happened rapidly. It's not taking place with Adderall and drugs of that nature," she said. "I'm hoping there's a resolution soon. If not, I'll continue to come up with strategies to meet my clients where they are. What my hope is, people will begin to be educated about the impacts of medications. They will have a better understanding of what mental illness is and why medication is necessary."
"You can have a therapist, sometimes you need a therapist and medication," she said. "The two kind of work hand and hand."
Bellamy says she expects clients to use more therapy sessions during the shortage.
"When people are dealing with ADHD and they've been prescribed medication, more than likely they look forward to having someone professionally to support them. This is really going to guide them back into therapy if they've been out for awhile because they've been stable," she said. "There's an instability now without having the medications. They're coming back around to get into therapy to have their needs met with their professional."