College Prep: How a Parent Should Help

College-bound ADHD teens need a crash course in managing meds, staying organized, and keeping it together for class. Parental planning could make the difference between passing and failing.


Filed Under: ADHD and College, Teens and Tweens with ADHD, ADHD Parents, ADHD Medication and Children

Make Sure Your Teen's Meds Are Managed

> Keep the supply flowing. Your college student must be able to monitor his supply of ADHD medication and plan to get refills on time. He has two options: working with your family physician or using Student Health Services (SHS) at college.

If you decide to use your family physician, discuss it in advance with him. If your son will be attending college locally, he should be able to get refills during winter and spring breaks and during summer vacation. If he will be going to school out of state, check to see whether the prescription written in your home state can be filled in the state where he is attending school. If it can’t, you will have to fill the prescription locally and mail the refill to him.

Using your family doctor will require logistics. Talk it over with your teen and decide how and when he will alert you that refills are needed in time to fill the prescription and ship it off.

If you and your teen go with Student Health Services to manage the medication, your family physician will need to write a letter to SHS. Present this letter in the spring or over the summer before school starts, and make sure that SHS confirms, in writing, that it will handle the medication for your student before he heads to campus. Most college SHS departments require meeting with the student briefly when picking up a refill, so your student will have to make an appointment to get his medication.

> Manage and adjust the dose. Taking medication was easy in high school: An eight-hour capsule in the morning would cover classes, and a four-hour tablet in the afternoon would cover homework. This model won't work in college. If your son is hyperactive and impulsive, he may need to be on medication all day, every day. If he is trying to manage distractibility, inattentiveness, and executive function problems only during classes, his medication schedule will probably vary each day. For example, your teen may have classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., while on Tuesdays and Thursdays, his classes may go only from 11:30 to 2:30. If medication is primarily needed for class time and study time, he might take an eight-hour dose at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. If he wants to relax, exercise, or socialize after class and start to study at 7 p.m., he should take a four-hour dose at about 6:30 p.m. However, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, taking a four-hour tablet at 10:30 a.m. may be adequate. Then he should plan on coverage for study time.

Be sure that your son or daughter understands how medication helps, how long it takes to start working, and how long it lasts.

> Watch for side effects. Has your prescribing physician explained possible side effects, and what to do if they occur? If not, arrange for a meeting with your doctor. If your teen experiences side effects, have him call you first to discuss what to do. You can decide with him whether he needs to call your family physician or go to Student Health Services.

> Limit alcohol. Stimulant medications amplify the effects of alcohol. The bottom line? You get intoxicated sooner. Instead of telling your teen not to drink -- partying is part of college, after all -- explain to him that he should drink less, because he will get buzzed sooner when he is drinking and taking ADHD medication.

For some teens, the best advice is not to take medication when they plan to imbibe. For others, though, being off medication leads to problems -- impulsive decisions or out-of-control behavior. Arrange a chat with your doctor to determine the best strategy for your teen.

> Deal with stealing. It is fairly common for students without ADHD to steal medication from those who are taking it. This is especially true for Adderall. Your teen should keep his medication safely locked in his room and never give it to anyone. If someone steals his medication, he should alert college security immediately.

Next: Secure School Accommodations

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