When and How Should We Adjust Treatment?

Dear ADDitude: My Son Stopped Taking His Medication

“My son, a senior in high school, recently stopped taking his ADHD medications. As a result, his grades have crashed from As to Ds and he’s suffering from debilitating moodiness. I think an emergency intervention is needed, but the school is acting indifferent and his IEP case manager is offering no support.”

ADDitude Answers

Call an IEP meeting to review and modify his IEP now that his circumstances have changed and he’s no longer on medication. Continue calling IEP meetings until things improve — they incentivize the school to take action. Ask for a Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) to be held with a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) to determine strategies for improving his academic performance.

I’m also wondering why your son has chosen to reject treatment for ADHD, and why he continues to do so despite the painful outcome. Teenage boys are notorious for doing this. If he’s complaining that he “feels like a zombie” on medication, it’s possible that his dosage is too high or that it may not be the right one for him. Get to the root of that issue and ensure some sort of treatment, even if it’s not medication.

If he resists any treatment, an ADHD coach is a neutral third party that can be a great resource for a teen that doesn’t want to listen to his parents.

Posted by Penny
community moderator, author on ADHD parenting, mom to teen boy with ADHD, LDs, and autism

A Reader Answers

Can you help to visually present the consequences of his actions? It is often difficult for those with ADHD to visualize things mentally; a picture really is worth 1000 words. Self-reflection is an executive function typically impacted by ADHD, so your son is not connecting the dots for this reason. Having a visual (coins in a jar, daily progress on a chart, etc.) allows him to understand the concept while bypassing this kind of processing.

If, after all of this, he is still averse to taking his medication, I would investigate why. How does he feel when he’s taking them versus when he’s not?

Posted by add_ld_re

A Reader Answers

I’m going through a similar situation with my 17-year-old son, who has been medicated since he was seven. Despite ten years of success with his medication, he has put his foot down and told me he doesn’t want to feel like a zombie anymore. I respect his decision to stop taking medication and have agreed on a gradual transition — we’re working with a neurologist, a therapist, teachers, and school guidance to ease him off.

It’s been a tough year for us as well. His schoolwork has taken a nosedive — it’s clear that he needs more support and organization without the medication. However, his social skills and confidence seem to have improved, especially now that he’s in therapy (both group and individual). Although it’s difficult with the academic downturn, I’m so glad I respected his decision to go off medication. Now, it’s time for him to learn how to navigate his life med-free, but I believe in him and know that he’ll get the hang of it.

Posted by LG154

A Reader Answers

If your child’s school isn’t complying with your IEP requests in a timely fashion, contact the district Special Education Office to inform them. Ask about filing a complaint. That should get them moving, but if not, go ahead and actually file. When I requested assessment for my child, I was initially met with resistance from the school district. After I sent a letter to the Special Education Office with a legal threat, they began the process for my child immediately. Unfortunately, this is what it takes to get things done sometimes.

Posted by E’s Mom

A Reader Answers

I suspect your son has a real and justifiable resistance — not only to the way the drugs make him feel, but also to the idea that he NEEDS a drug in the first place. I can definitely relate to that. Why assume that because your son gets in trouble more often when he’s off his meds it’s because he NEEDS the meds to behave properly.

Perhaps instead of assuming that your son needs the medication to do well in class, I would consider the possibility that he’s just going through an adjustment period. Maybe he’s just trying to figure out who he is — without the interference of the drugs — and consequently is struggling with his schoolwork. His grades are one part of the story, but so is his perspective on how he feels with and without drugs.

Posted by ConnectedInvisible 

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