Should you medicate your teenager for ADHD?

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It’s estimated that 3.3 million adolescents between the ages of 12-17 have ADHD. While the impact of each case varies from person to person, some of the common symptoms associated with ADHD in teens include short attention spans, difficulty concentrating in school, forgetfulness, and making careless mistakes. 

It’s often difficult for anyone to deal with ADHD, but it can be especially challenging for teenagers. They already have so many other things going on in their lives, and this condition can add a lot of pressure and stress that makes navigating the waters of their teen years much more difficult. 

Because of that, it’s not uncommon for some teens to turn to medication to manage their ADHD symptoms. But, is that what’s right for your teenager? Are there other viable options that can help with their symptoms? 

If you’ve considered medication before, or your teen has brought it up, it’s an important solution to consider. Let’s take a closer look at what you should know before you decide on ADHD medication and whether there are other possible solutions that can help your teenager. 

What are the benefits of ADHD medication? 

As a parent, it’s normal to have questions and concerns before putting your teen on any type of medication. You might wonder if your teen will become a “zombie” if they start a prescription, or if they’ll become dependent on the drugs. Those are valid questions that you should talk to your teen’s doctor about. They’ll be able to give you more direct answers as it pertains to your situation. 

As you go through your concerns, keep in mind that there are many benefits to ADHD medication, and while prescriptions aren’t always recommended for children, they’re often safe for teens when they’re given the right type of medication and the right dosage. Some of the greatest benefits your teenager can experience include: 

  • Better focus
  • Greater listening skills
  • Less of a desire to fidget

Most ADHD medications work by reversing the deficiency within the brain. They target dopamine and norepinephrine – two chemicals that directly impact concentration and attention. Most ADHD medications start taking effect within 45-60 minutes, so your teenager will experience a difference in their symptoms very quickly. 

Remember, it’s your decision whether to medicate your teenager for ADHD. Doing so doesn’t make you a “bad” or lazy parent in any way. However, because of your teen’s age, it’s a good idea to talk to them about some of the pros and cons of medication, and whether they really want to take it. 

Are there any drawbacks? 

With any type of medication, you’re going to experience some potential “cons.” Understanding some of the risks and potential drawbacks might make the decision easier for you (and your teen). 

First, do your research on common medications. For example, one study found that Ritalin might increase the risk of an abnormal heart rhythm in young people. While it certainly isn’t the only medication used for ADHD, it’s a popular option. Researching both generic and brand-name medications can make you aware of any other noteworthy issues and studies that have shown the “good” and the “bad.” 

It’s also a good idea to learn what other people have experienced on different medications. There’s nothing like first-hand accounts from people who started ADHD medication as teens and are dealing with some of the effects now. 

Some of the biggest drawbacks associated with ADHD medication are the side effects. While they’re different for everyone, the most common include: 

  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Digestive issues
  • Nausea
  • Jitteriness

Because most ADHD drugs are stimulants, they can also put your teen at a greater risk of developing an addiction or dependency. This is one of the main reasons why so many parents choose alternative solutions. 

Medication-free alternatives for ADHD symptoms

While it’s important to talk to your teen’s doctor, no matter what, you can do your own research on natural alternatives to ADHD medications. Psychosocial treatment options are among the most effective for teens, including things like training in communication skills and problem-solving. 

Many parents also look toward natural remedies to help manage ADHD, including monitoring their teen’s nutrition. A vitamin-rich diet can make it easier for your teen to manage some of their symptoms as they directly impact the brain. Other natural solutions that can make it easier to control symptoms include getting enough sleep, exercising, and avoiding allergens. 

Encouraging your teenager to live a healthy lifestyle is one of the best things you can do. As they adopt healthy habits now, they’re more likely to stick with them into adulthood and have an easier time managing their symptoms on their own later in life. 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ADHD yet. However, because such a large portion of the population deals with it, there are plenty of options for symptom management. Medication is certainly a viable choice and can be effective. But, it’s understandable to be a bit hesitant when it comes to giving your teen a potentially-addictive drug. Talk to their doctor about your choices, talk to your teen about what they might prefer, and do your research when it comes to remedies that fit your teenager’s needs and wants for the future. 

Charlie Fletcher is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on her Contently.