A Teen Reluctant to Take Meds


"I just discovered that my 13-year-old has been throwing away his AD/HD pills. Why would he do that, and how can I get him to stop?"

Dr. Larry Silver specializes in treating children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Middle-school children want to feel like "part of the group," so they often resist medication, tutoring, or anything that makes them feel different.

When I prescribe medication to a child, I explain what AD/HD is, how the medication works, and why it is important to take it. Answering children's questions and resolving their fears in this way seems to help them feel better about taking medication. If your son's doctor didn't do this, ask if he'd be willing to have this talk.

If your son persists in this behavior, set up an "experiment." Have him take his medication in your presence for a week, then let him skip it for a week. Don't let his teachers know when he's off medication, but ask them for feedback about his schoolwork and behavior.

Tell your son that, if his teachers note a significant improvement when he's on medication, he needs to reconsider taking it. If they note no improvement, discuss this with your son's doctor.

Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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