Why Teens Stop Taking ADHD Meds

Teenagers with ADHD often stop taking their prescribed medication, increasing the likelihood that they will encounter academic or social problems.

Tuesday April 24th - 7:31pm

Teenagers with ADHD often stop taking their prescribed medication, increasing the likelihood that they will encounter academic or social problems. That's the word from Julie B. Meaux, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.

Dr. Meaux and her colleagues interviewed 15 college students with ADHD. Seven said they had stopped taking stimulant medication between seventh and ninth grades—even though they had taken the medication faithfully throughout elementary school.

Why did the students go off medication? Some said they did so because the meds made them feel "zoned out." Others said they were embarrassed at having to take the meds.

Once they entered college, some of the students who had stopped taking medication resumed using it—but often inappropriately. Some took more than the prescribed dose. Others took medication only to stay alert at night to study or write a paper.

Dr. Meaux urges parents to check with their child's doctor about adjusting dosages, to keep side effects from becoming a problem. In addition, she says, parents should have an ongoing dialogue with their child about the importance of taking medication as prescribed—and about other ways to curb their symptoms.

"If they do decide to stop taking medication, they should have other strategies in place to guide their behavior," said Dr. Meaux. She said that young people with ADHD "have to be taught strategies that other children learn on their own." The study was published last October in the Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing.

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