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Photo illustration of an empty pill bottle on a sink, Saturday, July 22.

Adderall shortage impacts Queer community at UNM

The Adderall shortage continues to impact those on the medication, including members of the Queer community who are more likely to be neurodivergent. Multiple studies find a correlation between neurodivergence and Queerness.

Adderall is the most commonly used medication for Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; 50-70% of autistic folk have ADHD and the drug has faced a shortage since Oct. of 2022, forcing millions to go without their medication.

“There is a link between certain neurodiversities and being Queer. They're also linked in that way where there is a disproportionate amount of people who identify as both Queer and neurodiverse in some way,” Tiziana Friedman said.

Friedman – a trans student at the University of New Mexico majoring in Africana studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality studies – was recently impacted by the Adderall shortage.

Not being able to fill their regular prescription, Friedman said, has impacted other areas of their mental health, including worsened anxiety and depression amidst constant anti-Queer legislation.

“Especially being a trans person at the moment in time that we're living in, my coping strategies were not as effective for dealing with the constant onslaught of anti-trans legislation,” Friedman said.

The UNM Student Health and Counseling pharmacy manager, Monica Martinez, said the shortage has been frustrating for students and staff alike. SHAC has been able to, on occasion, order and provide the drug. While everyone’s insurance is different, some students' plans have allowed them to fill brand names at a generic price, Martinez said.

What has caused the Adderall shortage has been deeply convoluted. Being a controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Agency sets caps on the amount of the medication producers can make.

Teva, a manufacturing company, has said that the cap has played a role in the shortage, Bloomberg reported. Prescription fills have also increased by 10% from 2020-2021, according to the CDC, which sources have also attributed to the shortage.

Attributing the shortage to an increase in diagnoses, Friedman said it is not productive and puts the blame on those who have been prescribed the medication.

Not having their regular prescription, Friedman compared their life to living in a fog; they can’t see the world as clearly and it forces them to move a lot slower. Adderall takes away the fog.

“When we're talking about medication that you need to function, there's only so much that coping strategies will do …  At the end of the day, this is a medication that I need to function, that I don't have,” Friedman said.

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Nadia Marsh, an internal medicine doctor at UNM Hospital, said many of her patients deal with mental health issues and has seen the impacts of the shortage at the clinic.

“This is a reflection of a for-profit capitalist society that does not have an organized system to make sure people have the medications they need, Adderall included. I don't think it's specific to Adderall and affects people who have the worst insurance or no insurance the most, I would say,” Marsh said.

Understanding how patients' identities can intersect, Marsh said, is important to providing the best care she can so patients not only have the individual medical support they need, but a safe environment around them.

“I would say the majority of patients that I'm seeing have mental health issues, and then you have –on top of economic oppression – lack of access to health care, facing discrimination, not having access to quality jobs,” Marsh said. “There's so many social issues that all of these things intersect, not theoretically, but in a dynamic way, making people very sick.”

Martinez said that students are welcome to call SHAC every day to see if they have been able to order the drug to try to fill an Adderall prescription.

Dealing with the shortage while in school as a non-traditional student, Friedman said, was extremely difficult. Earlier in the shortage, they switched to Vyvanse – another stimulant, which the shortage has since begun to impact, and Friedman said they still deal with rationing it.

“Being on Adderall was one of the things that really made me feel like I had the tools to be successful as a student. (This is my) second time around in college, and so not having access to that medication reliably made it extremely difficult to get all of my things done. And then, stay on top of my schoolwork,” Friedman said.

While professors have been accommodating during the shortage, Friedman said that this has not always been their experience seeking accommodations, and they attribute it to the Africana studies and WGSS departments.

“Because of the area of study that I'm in, my professors are tending to be a little bit more understanding, like ‘You're a student, but you're also a human being.’ I have been in other programs at UNM where I'm sure that that is not the case,” Friedman said.

Understanding how identities intersect is crucial for liberation, Friedman said. 

“Mental health and access to medications relating to mental health and neurodiversites is part of the struggle towards collective liberation,” Friedman said.

Maddie Pukite is the editor-in-chief at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at editorinchief@dailylobo.com on Twitter @maddogpukite

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