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September 6, 2022 11 mins

Telehealth companies got a big push during the pandemic when rules were waived that required people to see an in-person health provider to be prescribed controlled substances.  Now telehealth apps are spending millions to advertise on TikTok saying they can get a person a diagnosis of ADHD and a prescription for Adderall in as little as 30 minutes.  Content creators are also posting about living life with ADHD leading to billions of views and many to think they might also have the condition. Then they are targeted with ads.  Sara Morrison, senior reporter at Recode, joins us for how startups are pushing Adderall on TikTok.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's Tuesday, September six. I'm Oscar Ramirez from the Daily
Dive podcast in Los Angeles, and this is reopening America.
Telehealth companies got a big push during the pandemic when
rules were waived that required people to see an in
person health provider to be prescribed controlled substances. Now, telehealth
apps are spending millions to advertise on TikTok, saying they

can get a person a diagnosis of a d h
D and a prescription for adderall in as little as
thirty minutes. Content creators are also posting about living life
with a d h D, leading to billions of views
and many to think they might also have the condition.
Then they're targeted with ads. Sarah Morrison, senior reporter at Recode,
joins us for how startups are pushing adderall on TikTok.

Thanks for joining us, Sarah, Well, thanks for having me. Well,
let's talk about an interesting thing going on right now
on social media, specifically TikTok. We're seeing a lot of startups,
telehealth companies, telehealth startups that are pushing adderall on TikTok. Now,
obviously that used to treat a d h D. What
we're seeing on TikTok is a lot of these communities

pop up, people sharing their own stories of their their
life with a d h D. And then sometimes some
of these influencers might be actually doing ads for these
telehealth companies. Sometimes the telehealth companies will just put ads,
you know, in a really close proximity to their videos.
It all gets done very quickly and very easily. And uh,

you know, some of these companies are promoting, you know,
being able to get diagnosed with a d h D
and get your prescription and your treatment, you know, and
as quick as thirty minutes. So Sarah tell us about
a little bit more about what we're seeing out there. Well,
I think you summed up pretty well. Um. Yeah, I
mean it's basically you have UM like a pandemic. And

there was this rule that said, you know, doctors or
prescribers have to meet with somebody in person before they
can prescribe a controlled substance, which a lot of these
A d h D medications are UM. And then because
of the pandemic, they waived it so all a sudden,
you could remotely treat a patient prescribe a controlled substance,
which means completely through telehealth, you can be diagnosed with

a d h D and have these controlled substances prescribed
for you, which in a lot of ways is great.
Access is great, but then it also opens up you know,
people who maybe don't need those meds getting them easily,
people who don't have a diagnosis, get getting diagnosed that
they don't have, or not getting diagnosed with additional things.

Because these companies that are like too hasty or you
know whatever. And I'm not saying they are, just saying,
there's a lot of problems that could happen as well
as a lot of good. Yeah, and that's the big concern, right,
you know, in an effort to make things easier to
to get more access, especially during the pandemic, right when
people weren't going anywhere and they still needed to see
a doctor. Yeah, that opening up for that telehealth opportunity

was so important. But right now we're into this point
where it's possible that people could be abusing this system,
uh and not getting the right diagnosis. I think that's
an important part of it too. You could be missing
a diagnosis for something else that might have similar symptoms
as a d h D. Yeah, exactly, And so That's
why it's important that you know you're using a service

that you know does that diagnosis as you properly. And
again I'm not saying these don't, but if you were
coming across these things because you're on TikTok and you're
watching people who aren't medical professionals or experts, you know,
listing off all of these symptoms of a d h
D that may not even be symptoms or there's just
not like context and nuance. So they're again they're not

medical professionals, They're just people who are delaying their own experiences.
You might start to get into a point where like
you think, maybe I have it, and then you see
ad or those people are promoting these services that just
make it super easy as part of their selling point,
you know too, then maybe get a diagnosis and maybe
get a prescription, you know, very quickly. And I think

that's where these kind of these two things kind of
come together and you have a potential for, you know,
for for bad things happening. Let's talk about some of
these telehealth apps that are practicing in this right now.
There's two that you profiles in the article. One is
called done and the other one is called cerebral and
they're both spending a lot of money on ads on

TikTok and promoting their services. How are they faring right now? Well, cerebral, uh,
you know, spent a lot and they also do like
some other mental health conditions as well. They actually uh
stopped to prescribe and controlled substances for a d h
D because there was a lot of media coverage before
that said some of their things were careless and you know,

they weren't diagnosing correctly whatever they were over prescribing. There
are some federal investigations happening with that, so they've stopped,
they've pulled back. So then you have this other company
called Done, which is just a d h D treatment.
Who are all of a sudden, like I was looking for,
like which companies are the ones that are really advertising here?
And Done kept coming up over and over and over again. Um,

they're according to you know, this company called Pathematics, they're
spending millions on these ads. Uh. So really, if you
have a d h D and you're looking and you're
coming across ads like a TikTok for one D the services,
you're almost certainly it's almost certainly gonna be done that
you're seeing, so and that's why I looked good to them.
And the TikTok algorithm, as we've we know, you know,
we've done some stories about it is so powerful. Right

you start searching anything or you see some type of
videos and it notices you're lingering a little too much.
It's going to send you a ton of that similar
content and to that point, right, So there's the hashtag
a d h D hashtag a d h D TikTok.
They have billions and billions of views. Yeah. Yeah, And
you know, if you're you know, if you come across

that stuff and you're interested in it because you're like, oh,
this matches with my experience and the things you're seeing
are like relatively accurate. That can be a good way
for you to to to find out something. You know
that you have a condition that's been giving you problems, uh,
that you didn't know about, so it's a good thing.
Or it could be a way to get into a
community that shares that you know you have this diagnosis
and so do they and you feel less alone, right,

Like that's a good thing. But you know what if
you come across something and you know it's just really easy.
It sucked in and think that you have this because
all of these symptoms, a lot of them are shared
with other conditions. A lot of it may not be
symptoms of a condition like at all, and I just
like you didn't sleep enough last night. So there's a
lot of complicated stuff that goes into like having this condition.

And that's something that like a TikTok video that's thirty
seconds long that just says, you know, when women can
be impulsive buyers, Like that's not going to give you
you that it's not going to be complete information, but
it will very easily make you think, oh, I'm a
compulsive buyer. Do I have a d h D? Exactly? Okay,
tell me a little bit about Nick. He's a twenty
five year old food service worker who started seeing these

ads and these different videos on TikTok and started his
TikTok his d h D journey, or so to speak.
He's an interesting character because he definitely admits that it's scary,
easy and sketchy as hell, but it worked for him
to get his prescription. At the end, he even says that,
you know, he thinks the d e A is probably

gonna shut down apps like this, but you know, it's
still worked for me. He doesn't think these apps should exist,
but he's touting it as a whole benefit to himself.
He's a total contradiction, it seems like. But tell me
about his story at least. I mean, sure there's a
contradiction there, but I think it also that's sort of
why you know, I used him illustrate you know how

this isn't very this isn't so simple, right, Like he
thought he had this. He came across TikTok's, he kept
watching them, he got more and more content he started
seeing as he found this company, he used it. He
got a diagnosis that he wanted, He got the meds
that he wanted, but he found that they helped him.
So for all, you know, the diagnosis is accurate. He's
doing much better on these meds. That's that's a good outcome. Um.

But on the other hand, he's like, you know, I
guess if he didn't have that condition, he also got
these meds very easy, right, Um. So you know he's
like it was scary easy. Um, not just for him,
but I guess, you know, for anybody, is what he's saying.
And he's sort of like, you know, marveling at the
fact that it was that easy and that it it
keeps going. He's, you know, he's seen I think a

lot of people talk about bad experiences they've had but
done um and so he I think, I don't think
this is the article. But he said, you know, like, uh,
you know a lot of I guess I'm the only
one who had a good experience, but like I had
the same provider this whole time. I was able to
get my meds reliably. So for me, it worked. But
you know, beyond me, I guess he can see maybe

a lot of potential issues. Definitely, and you know what
we're seeing. There was actually a study that was done
analyzed TikTok videos about a d h D thumb that
more than half of them were misleading, you know, to
your point of what we've been talking about on all
this stuff. And then some of these telehealth companies right
now you mentioned Cerebral going through a bunch of investigations.
They I know they've toned it back done is still

a big player, but they're also finding it hard to
fill their prescriptions. Once people get their prescriptions, some pharmacies
aren't feeling the prescriptions if you've gone this route, if
you've gone this route through these telehealth companies, and there's
also a shortage of adder all in America. I did
not even know that one. Yeah, I think it's been
on and off for different reasons. I don't think we

can directly attribute that shortage to like telehealth companies prescribing
a lot of it, but um, you know, obviously that
plays into it. Uh. Yeah, when there was like some
reports about uh cerebral and done specifically, and questions over
are they over diagnosing? Are they over prescribing, which I
think both companies deny that they are. So let's skip

that out there. Uh, several major pharmacy trains just said
we're not on or we're not filling prescriptions written by
these companies. We have these concerns. So if you are
getting your prescriptions to these companies, all of a sudden,
you're showing up at like CBS or whatever and you
can't get your prescription filled and so you have to
find another place. Um, and then you know, and then

it's hard to find maybe out of all at all,
if there's a shortage that's affecting your area. So uh,
you know, obviously it's a little easier if the person
prescribing your or the company procribing your medication. Uh, you're
able to fill it wherever you want um, and that
might not be the case for these services. That's you know,
all of a sudden, there's a medication that you need,
that you expect to get and you're out of it

and you don't know when you'll be able to get
it again. That's really scary. Yeah, definitely, it's an interesting
intersection worth where we're at there. There's a lot of
promise with telehealth companies obviously, and you know, the the
ease of access is an important thing that we need
out there, but you know, you've got to make sure
you're getting that right diagnosis, you're not missing other things.
Uh and uh, you know, finding that misinformation is always

a hard thing to do on social media platforms. So interesting,
look for now at what's been going on. Sarah Morrison,
Senior reporter at RICO. Thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you. I'm Oscar Ramirez and this has been reopening America.
Don't forget the effort. Today's big news stories. You can
check me out on the Daily Dive podcast every mondy

through Friday, so follow us on I Heart Radio or
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