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ADHD in Children Health Center

ADHD in Teens

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What's the recommended treatment for teens with ADHD?

There are many opinions when it comes to treating ADHD in teens. Some experts believe that behavior therapy alone may work for teenagers. But according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 80% of those who needed medication for ADHD as children still need medication in their teen years.

Usually, a combination of medication and behavior therapy is best in treating teens with ADHD. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry all recommend behavior therapy to improve behavior problems that are a part of ADHD.

Stimulant medications are commonly prescribed to treat teens with ADHD. These drugs may make teens more alert and help them do better at school. Examples of stimulant medications include Adderall, Focalin, Concerta, Quillivant XR, Ritalin, and Vyvanse.

Non-stimulant medications such as Intuniv, Kapvay, and Strattera are also used to treat teens with ADHD. Non-stimulant medications for ADHD do not have the side effects of stimulant drugs. For instance, they don't lead to anxiety, irritability, and insomnia as stimulant drugs may. They also are not habit-forming and have less likelihood of being abused than stimulant drugs, making them a more appropriate option for teens with ADHD who also have alcohol or drug abuse problems.

Overmedicating doesn't help and can lead to thoughts of suicide, mood swings, and drug abuse.

How can parents help a teen with ADHD?

ADHD affects all parts of a teenager's life. As a parent, your first goal should be to talk openly with your teen. Be supportive and accepting at all times. You can also enlist your child's pediatrician for help in discussing ADHD and its treatment.

By taking the following actions, you can help your teen manage ADHD:

  • Provide clear, consistent expectations, directions, and limits.
  • Set a daily schedule and keep distractions to a minimum.
  • Support activities where your teen can have personal success (sports, hobbies, or music lessons, for example).
  • Build your teen's self-esteem by affirming positive behavior.
  • Reward positive behavior.
  • Set consequences for bad behavior.
  • Help your teen with scheduling and organization.
  • Keep a structured routine for your family with the same wake-up time, mealtime, and bedtime.
  • Set up a reminder system at home to help your teen stay on schedule and remember projects that are due.
  • Work with your teen's teachers to make sure your teen is on task at school.
  • Stay calm when disciplining your teen.
  • Make sure your teen gets plenty of sleep. Set firm rules for the TV, computers, phones, video games, and other devices. Make sure all of these are turned off well before bedtime.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on August 08, 2014
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