Managing Treatment

“My Teen Refuses to Take Their ADHD Medication!”

Medication improves your teen’s ADHD symptoms… when they take it. What should a parent do when they refuse treatment? These ADDitude readers talk about it.

Mother and daughter have stressful conversation

Pill organizers. Visual cues. Alarm-style reminders. Constant nagging and probing. You’ve tried it all! Your teen’s ADHD treatment plan can feel like your responsibility, even as you encourage more independence. You know medication is the most effective way to manage a teen’s ADHD symptoms, but logic seldom helps when your adolescent suddenly refuses to take their prescription.

“I have two kids with ADD,” said an ADDitude reader. “One takes medicine and sees its value. The other has stopped. I worry for both and feel like I’m not sure what the best route is.”

Many parents find themselves in this position. The decision to start or stop medication involves not just you and the doctor, but also your teen, who is seeking increased independence and control in their life. You know that sticking to a consistent medication regimen can make your child’s life easier… but they might need to come to this realization on their own.

“They’re teens, and I have to trust that this part of life is for figuring out hard things,” the reader continued. “We are working together to build skills that will support their growth, regardless of whether they take medication. I’m also working really hard to let them know that even as an adult, I continue to try to improve my habits and figure out what works for me.”

If you have a teen with ADHD who takes medication, have they ever asked to stop taking it? Refused to take it? Or lied about taking it? How did you handle it? Read on to see how these readers broached the topic of medication with their teens.

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When Teens Refuse ADHD Medication

“My 15-year-old… has always opted not to take her medication on the weekends, and that’s a battle I choose not to engage in. When she stopped taking it on school days, I pointed out that there was no point in seeing a pediatrician if she didn’t follow the treatment plan. That strategy works. However, some mornings her ADHD is the barrier. I try to be available to subtly assess if my independent daughter needs help. If she hasn’t had breakfast, I offer to make it, and place the capsule beside it; if she refuses breakfast, I place the capsule in her hand.”

“We let her get away with [not taking medication] during the shortage. Incentives didn’t work because there was nothing she cared about, and she couldn’t keep her interest long enough to actually earn anything. We finally had to resort to threats of taking away the only thing she cared about: sports.”

“[My son] has said he doesn’t need it, specifically on the weekends. I don’t force it on him.”

“My child has refused to take medication for ADHD for the last two years. I don’t force her. I explain that it’s going to take a more concentrated effort to get things done. We also work with a therapist to consistently learn and implement coping techniques and focus strategies.”

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“I was the teen who wanted to stop medication. I felt so overwhelmed in high school by medication; I didn’t think I was the same person on and off my meds. My parents didn’t allow me to stop because we agreed that I would not put other supports in place (like an ADHD diet) to manage my symptoms. I’m glad we were able to have an open and honest conversation about it, and that I did not stop taking medication. I learned how to feel like myself both off and on medication, and I think it is now essential to managing my symptoms and being in control of myself.”

“My 13-year-old is on a variety of medications. Some help her focus, and one helps her sleep at night. She takes them willingly because she knows they help her. She has a check-in with her psychiatrist once a month to make sure they’re working. Every time there’s a medication change, we watch her carefully to make sure there are no side effects. Her psychiatrist is very careful with medications. ‘Go low and go slow’ is her motto.”

“I let [my teens] go off of [medication] for a bit to see how they would function without it… they went back on it after a few weeks.”

“I have a daughter who is 14 and has refused to take her medication for about a year and a half now. She says she doesn’t like the way it makes her feel, which is anxious. Unfortunately, I have tried multiple times unsuccessfully to convince her how much she needs it. Her ADHD symptoms have gotten worse and she doesn’t care about school or her grades. It is very frustrating. I have tried to convince her to try for a week or two so that her body adjusts, and the symptoms improve. I don’t have much advice, but maybe it will help someone to know they are not alone.”

Parenting Teens Who Refuse ADHD Medication: Next Steps

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