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What to do with teenager who refuses to take ADHD meds

corster profile image

What do you do with a teenager who refuses to take his ADHD meds because he hates the side effects? Do you let him fail his high school classes and pay the price by going to summer school? We’ve been to therapy, we’ve been to the doctor for new meds but he simply refuses to take them.

14 Replies

Hi, what are the side effects that bother him so much?

corster profile image
corster in reply to Aniusia

no appetite, difficulty sleeping, depression (suicidal thoughts) and stunting growth

Mmagusin profile image
Mmagusin in reply to corster

The stimulant probably not causing the depression. Don’t discount the effects of hormones and adolescence. Major identity crisis! Make sure you’re working with a psychiatrist to monitor both the medicine and his emotional health.

willandgrace profile image
willandgrace in reply to corster

there are non-stimulant medications you can try - Stralera (something like that) is one- There is another one too. My 14 year old started really pushing back about his Vyvanse (30mg) so I let him go two weeks without it- He wasn't listening in class and he didn't know what his assignments were, etc. But he hated taking the V because it made him irritable, sad, and he even had hot flashes, so the dr. said to reduce to 15 mg- When I did that I saw a big change. He is much better on the very low dose. Maybe you could reduce your son's dosage even more? But I wanted to let you know that there are meds that are not stimulants- That was going to be my next step if the lower dose of Vyvanse didn't work. Good luck- I know how hard it is.

Reduce down to 20mg vyvanse. It was a huge help to my son and I.

corster profile image
corster in reply to Azbee

yes we did this but it didn’t help enough with the focus

Azbee profile image
Azbee in reply to corster

How long did he try the lower dosage?

corster profile image
corster in reply to Azbee

six months on and off when he had tests and exams

My son has the same side effects and hates when he has to take medication. Although I hate that he has the side effects, it is the only way to manage his attention, poor impulse control and other chaotic behaviors. I have cut back on his doses and do not give it to him on weekends, holidays or during summer breaks.

First of all, please don't let him fail high school.....this will cause enormous problems in many other areas of his life, perhaps permanently. Second, also please realize that he does not have the maturity right now to know that he needs this medication. You wouldn't allow him to refuse meds for diabetes, right? He has to take his something for ADHD. I don't recommend Straterra because it's not very effective for kids and you can't start and stop it like you can stimulants. The side effects from the stimulants can be managed, but never completely. My son is now 24 and back on his Vyvanse....he still reports issues with sleep, and the "crash" as the meds wear off, but the appetite suppressant effect is not a problem now. I suspect that maybe your son's refusal is partly just his way of asserting control over his life. He doesn't really understand the consequences of his ADHD in regards to driving, social activities, etc. in addition to the problems with school. Our boys are about 2-3 years behind their non-ADHD peers with maturity, so when you take this into consideration, you realize they really need every advantage, and ADHD meds are the most effective. A final note on the depression: stimulants meds have been implicated in these thoughts. I would consider switching to a different stimulant if you think these thoughts are really related to the medication. It is true that many teens, especially ADHD teens, are depressed and need an antidepressant for a few years. We ended up putting our son on Prozac in high school and this did help. However, switching meds or lowering the dose may be your answer here.

Azbee profile image
Azbee in reply to seller

Agreed. Very well stated. All true and valid points. Many here should read your statement.

Jslizeski profile image
Jslizeski in reply to seller

I would definitely argue against the whole maturity thing. First off, you’re not the one taking the medicine. Its not a matter of maturity, its a matter of understanding that your child is in pain from the side effects. The real dilemma is trying to find a good solution so the child can succeed without sacrificing their over all well being. Also, sure kids can refuse to take meds because they want “control” over their lives, but you have to consider the possibility that the discomfort and pain of the side effects outweighs “succeeding” in school. I mean ya, you could just choose to forcibly medicate them and maybe they might have excellent grades for a bit. But their overall mental well being might be sacrificed in the process, Potentially increasing the chance of substance abuse and other bad coping mechanisms. Also adhd meds arent the most effective solution for everyone. Universally yes they are the most effective way of treating adhd, but this doesnt apply to everyone. I have adhd myself and was forcibly medicated at a young age. Im speaking only from my experiences

Interesting side to this discussion. Since none of us are doctor's we can't really say why this child doesn't want to take the medication.

But I am curious, what side effects did you experience?

From our child's experience with medication, he has expressed many times that he doesn't feel "that" different, but he know how much better his choices are and how much his behavior improves when he takes the medication.

I understand what the previous post is saying, children don't often see the consequences of their actions when they do them. Not sure what to label that, but this is why a parent's job is to do their best for their child. Like make sure they floss their teeth, eat vegetables... etc.

Thanks for discussing this side of a child refusing to take medication.

Anytime :) well i think i was put on way too high of a dose for starters. But basically i just felt like a machine. I had trouble emoting and i barely ate or drank anything. So when i came home from school i basically would do my homework and then just collapse on my bed shaking until i got “used “ to the dosage. It definitely destroyed my social life because i didnt want to do anything besides school work and sleep. I felt so detached from people because they would always disregard me as “too quiet” or too boring. But heres the important part. My grades were phenomenal. Everything looked great from the surface and a bunch of my teachers recommended me to great colleges , but i was really suffering emotionally. I took ap calculus and ap chemistry and other mandatory courses and i got straight A’s with an exemption of a b+ in calc. So yes i was technically really successful but i had a bunch of stress factors like 4 members of my family dying near finals. I guess my point is, is that mental health is equally as important as grades. When i got to college i totally flopped. Everything started falling apart because of my crippling anxiety and ptsd. So maybe the way to go about medicating children is to never use force unless the kid is so emotionally unstable that theyre a threat to himself/others . Instead it should be presented as a choice. If they resist, Yeah the kid may get poor grades but thats how they learn. Eventually most kids will come to realize that they need medication. Its imperative that the child discovers this on their own so they can feel like they are in control, making it easier for them to cope with negative side effects.

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