My Teenager is Refusing to Take Their ADHD Medication. What Do I Do?

He reads a few pages of the history book.

Stops.

Checks his phone.

Monitors the score on the football game.

Repeat.

If you have a teenager with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), staying on task may be a considerable struggle. That’s because the Disorder often leaves your teen unable to concentrate and with the desire to start new tasks while the current one hasn’t been finished.

So, what do you do if your teenager, especially a troubled boy, refuses to take their ADHD medication? There isn’t a ‘fits all’ answer to this question but that’s what this article is meant to help you do. We will give you a starting point to begin a conversation with your teen and hopefully teach you how to help your teen take their ADHD medication, and discover the reasons why they don’t want to take the medication in the first place.

What is ADHD and Why Might My Teen Stop Taking Their Meds?

ADHD is a brain disorder that makes the individual with the Disorder struggle with organization, concentration, and impulse control. For those struggling with the Disorder, there are medications such as Ritalin that help with the Disorder.

But just because the medication might be helpful doesn’t mean that your teen will comply with taking it. Here are some of the reasons why your teen and, specifically, troubled teens, might not take their meds.

1. They lack insight into their Disorder

Often, individuals with brain or mental health conditions lack awareness of their illness or disorder. They may think that their behavior and way of doing things are typical, when they may be causing harm. So, if your teen refuses to take medication, it might not just be them being in a state of denial, but also because they may be unaware of having a disorder.

2. They may genuinely be in denial of their Disorder

In some cases, a teen may be in denial of their ADHD. They may argue that there’s “nothing wrong” with them. Denial may also be a way of masking other emotions like grief and sadness. Grief stems from having a disorder in the first place and grieving over who they were (what psychologists call the loss of identity).

3. They don’t like the side effects of the medication

Your teen has gotten used to a particular lifestyle. Being on medication, then, shakes up this lifestyle by changing things like their concentration levels and impulsivity, but in a good way. Because every medication has certain downsides, your teen might complain that they feel they’ve “changed,” “lost who they were,’ and feel like they’ve lost their “spontaintey.”

2 Ways To Help Your Teen Take Their Medication

1. Find Out Why They Don’t Want To Take Their Medication

Find out the real reason why they don’t want to take their medication. If it’s due to side effects, talk to your teen about the benefits of medication. Remind your teen of how their medication helps them with concentration, impulsivity, and organizational skills.

You might also write a list of the pros and cons of medication with your teen so that they can come to this conclusion on their own.

2. Provide A Structure Where Medication is Prioritized in Conjunction with Therapy

Focusing heavily on medication may make your teen feel like you do not value them for who they are. That’s why in the mental health field, talk-therapy is often used in conjunction with medication on the journey to wellness.

So, one way to incorporate talk-therapy is by trying out a therapeutic-boarding school like Liahona. At our Center, we incorporate talk-therapy and other therapies to encourage students to manage their illness. Simply encouraging medication does not address the underlying issues because teens with ADHD often struggle with low-self esteem, depression, and anxiety.

When it’s all said and done, you will need to involve your teens’ teachers, mental health and behavioral health practitioners, and other family members so that as they work together, they can help your teen manage their illness.

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