Ask the Experts

A Teen Reluctant to Take Meds

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

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 ADHD 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.

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