Is Your Child Ready to Manage Their ADHD Medicine?

Medically Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on August 31, 2022

Every child diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be involved in their own treatment plan. For most kids, that treatment involves medication.

From the start, your child should understand what ADHD is, how it affects them, and how their medicine helps their symptoms. They should also know what their 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 they are living with you.

If your child is in middle school or high school, you may want to let them take their medication on their own. It’s still best for you to monitor how many pills are in the bottle, and watch to see that they take them as prescribed.

If they manages that well, they may be ready to take pills without supervision. You know your child best, but talk to their doctor and other people involved in their ADHD treatment, like therapists and teachers, before you make that call.

Key Things to Talk About

If you decide it’s time to let them manage their meds, make sure they understand these key things before you hand over the pill bottles:

They have to take ADHD medication as prescribed. More is not necessarily better. Make sure they know it may be dangerous to increase the dose without talking to their 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. For some people, this can make symptoms worse. That can make it harder to study or do tasks that require concentration. It can even increase the odds they’ll engage in risky behavior. If they think they don’t need as much medication, or is ready to go off it altogether, they should talk to their doctor before making any changes.

No one else can take their medication. Other students who don’t have ADHD may want to take their stimulant medication to help them focus while they study. But giving pills to another person is illegal and can get them into trouble with school and legal authorities.

They should stay in touch with their doctor. Their doctor needs to know if something changes with their symptoms or side effects. If they are far from home, they can check in by phone or email, or can ask their doctor to recommend another ADHD health professional closer to them who can check on how they are doing.

They can’t run out of medication. Part of managing medication means making sure there are enough pills to follow the treatment plan without breaks. Their doctor may not be able to order certain ADHD stimulant medications over the phone, so they may need to work with a local doctor to get refills.

They can’t drink or use illegal drugs while on ADHD medication. ADHD medications are safe, but they can have serious side effects if they take them with alcohol or other drugs.

Show Sources


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Stephanie Sarkis, PhD, adjunct assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University; sub-investigator at Clinical Research Studies at the Florida Atlantic University Schmidt College of Medicine in Boca Raton, Florida.

Naomi Steiner, MD, developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Boston Medical Center.

Gould, O. Journal of Attention Disorders, March 2016

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and

American Psychiatric Association: “ADHD: Parents Medication Guide.”

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