Every child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be involved in his own treatment plan. For most kids, that treatment involves medication.
From the start, your child should understand what ADHD is, how it affects him, and how his medicine helps his symptoms. He should also know what his treatment plan is and how it works.
Kids who feel involved are more likely to take their medication as prescribed. They may also be more aware of their symptoms. They’ll know when something changes or if a treatment isn’t working as it should.
When Can Your Child Manage the Meds?
Every child is different. Many ADHD experts think it’s best for you, not your child, to dispense pills each day as long as he’s living with you.
If your child is in middle school or high school, you may want to let him take his medication on his own. It’s still best for you to monitor how many pills are in the bottle, and watch to see that he takes them as prescribed.
If he manages that well, he may be ready to take pills without supervision. You know your child best, but talk to his doctor and other people involved in his ADHD treatment, like therapists and teachers, before you make that call.
Key Things to Talk About
If you decide it’s time to let him manage his meds, make sure he understands these key things before you hand over the pill bottles:
He has to take ADHD medication as prescribed. More is not necessarily better. Make sure he or she knows it may be dangerous to increase the dose without talking to your doctor.
Research shows that most college students who take ADHD medication are more likely to take it as prescribed during the weekdays, when they’re studying. On the weekends, they may skip it. This can make symptoms worse. That can make it harder to study or do tasks that require concentration. It can even increase the odds he’ll engage in risky behavior. If he thinks he doesn’t need as much medication, or is ready to go off it altogether, he should talk to his doctor before making any changes.
No one else can take his medication. Other students who don’t have ADHD may want to take his stimulant medication to help them focus while they study. But giving pills to another person is illegal and can get him into trouble with school and legal authorities.
He should stay in touch with his doctor. His doctor needs to know if something changes with his symptoms or side effects. If he’s far from home, he can check in by phone or email, or he can ask his doctor to recommend another ADHD health professional closer to him who can check on how he’s doing.
He can’t run out of medication. Part of managing medication means making sure there are enough pills to follow the treatment plan without breaks. His doctor may not be able to order certain ADHD stimulant medications over the phone, so he may need to work with a local doctor to get refills.
He can’t drink or use illegal drugs while on ADHD medication. ADHD medications are safe, but they can have serious side effects if he takes them with alcohol or other drugs.