Parenting Through a Prescription Shortage

Crosspost Family GeekMom

Once upon a time in a faraway land, I might have thought that I had a changeling in my house.

Once upon a time many believed that children who behaved a certain way weren’t actually their children, but had been switched at birth for a fairy child.

Yes, much of what we now think of in terms of child psychology and behavior was once attributed to fairy intervention. I like to think of this sometimes when contemplating how best to help my son manage his ADHD.  Instead of fairies, twenty years ago they blamed the meds. Forty years ago they blamed the parents. Now that I am a mom, I just blame myself.

Images: Sarah Pinault

We went through a lot of physical and emotional support, and tried many different treatments before getting the right combination of support and medication to help my son navigate how his body wanted to navigate the world. With his input at every stage, and a great pediatrician, my son was eventually happy and content with the way he could manage his ADHD. Early on it felt like we were treating the Doctor’s office like the young days of Netflix. Sending one back when it didn’t work, requesting something else. Three days at a time, never more than one at once.

Then the pandemic hit, and honestly, the time at home really helped him a lot. He went back to school more emotionally and socially ready for elementary school. Having one-on-one teaching, from me mostly, and being able to be in his own space all day, really helped shake a few things around for him, that he had been previously unable to get under control.

Lately, helping him manage this has become a monthly nightmare. Post pandemic we are dealing with a prescription drug shortage that affects our ability to parent him well. For almost a year now it has become a monthly activity, to call around pharmacies, find who has the medicine in stock, then race to get the prescription sent in before that pharmacy fills someone else’s prescription. This most recent month, we realized we had run out of options after speaking to 36 local pharmacies.

Unmedicated and out of school for several days, we finally managed to get a different brand of his medication, but only after speaking with several pharmacists several times, his doctor several times, and going through two prescriptions before getting the right information to the right place. Not to mention the number of hoops we had to jump through with our insurance carrier, who wanted him on the other medication because it’s cheaper, and don’t really seem to be paying much attention to the fact that it isn’t available at the moment. A wonderful woman with our insurance carrier walked us through what to do, and how to do it, to best care for our child. So while the systems of the insurance company set us up to fail, the people who work there are really trying to help and care for us.

In the meantime we have lots of conversations with all of our children about what it means when our son is not on his medication. His siblings ramp up their allotment of patience for each other in ways I did not know was possible. His sister checks in on him to make sure he’s okay. His older brother tries not to be a jerk as much as usual! His school and his teacher help him navigate through the emotional changes of a different prescription.

And he rises to the occasion. Recognising his own limitations, he takes it all in his stride, where five years ago we would have all been screaming and pounding our fists on the floor. Time heals all wounds, and as hoped, time also has an affect on how ADHD can affect a small body. In the midst of all this we had his annual checkup with his physician, who has known our son since birth, and he was wildly impressed with how little man was doing. The goal of having a teenager or young adult not on any medication seems within reach. He continues to tell us how he feels, we continue to listen.

Using data from 2016-2019 the CDC has estimated that the number of children aged 3–17 years ever diagnosed with ADHD is 6 million, and by all accounts this rose during the pandemic. For parents and children dealing with it, it’s hard not to always feel like a statistic. For parents and children who choose together to medicate, it’s hard not to always feel judged. I am a huge advocate of responding to the needs of your own child and not someone else’s. And so my son and his parents, choose medication, where someone else might choose something else. I’d like to think that we all have more patience with each other now than we did a few years ago, but whatever other parents do around me, I know my family has more patience with each other. We all have little patience with anything that prevents our children from receiving the care that they need.

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