ADHD Sufferers Are the Latest Casualties in the War on Drugs

Apparently, there is a shortage of certain ADHD drugs in states stretching from the Mid-Atlantic to the Pacific Northwest.  A spokesman for the Hyperactivity Disorder Support Network notes that "This poses a serious risk for people with attention deficit problems, who may find it difficult to engage in normal life activities without their--ooh, nice tie!"

When I started to read the article, I had naturally assumed that this might have something to do with Pharma's supply chain problems.  And so it is--but in this case, the kink in the supply chain is the DEA:

Matt Cabrey, spokesman for Shire PLC, the maker of Adderall and generic versions, said rising demand for the drugs due to increased diagnoses of ADHD, which in turn may be fueled by greater awareness of the disorder, can make it difficult to forecast ingredient needs. But the current shortage, Mr. Cabrey said, is due to a delay last year at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in releasing extra supplies of the drug's active ingredients. He said increased supplies are expected this month.

Because of the potential for abuse, the DEA regulates the active ingredients of some ADHD drugs as controlled substances. DEA spokesman Lawrence Payne said the agency has approved enough supply to allow for uninterrupted distribution of the drugs and it's up to manufacturers to allocate the ingredients among their various products.

Perhaps all our drug regulations are doing an absolutely splendid job of keeping Americans from suffering crippling drug addictions.  On the other hand, it's worth looking at the side effects.  Like the people suffering from chronic pain, who are often undertreated because the DEA prosecutes doctors unless they err on the side of assuming that a patient is faking pain to get drugs.  The cold and allergy sufferers who go without relief for their congestion because we've made it harder and harder to get pseudoephedrine.  The people who are killed in drug raids.  And now, apparently, the inability to get adequate supplies of common medications because the DEA controls the precursors, and is more willing to risk people going without their meds, than letting drug addicts get their hands on a slightly more convenient supply.

How far does all this have to ratchet before we say enough?  Preventing addiction is a worthy goal--but it's increasingly getting in the way of even more worthy goals, like making sure people have access to the medication that lets them live normal lives.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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