How to Handle ADHD Medications: For Parents and Children Ages 11-14
You didn’t choose to have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), and dealing with it isn’t easy. Some people may think that you’re lazy, not very smart, or that you can “snap out of it” at any time. That’s not what happens for most people with ADHD. Here are the facts:
- ADHD is real. It’s not just a set of initials that people say when they think that you can’t sit still, or pay attention.
- Experts feel that the brains of people with ADHD work differently from the brains of people who don’t have ADHD. ADHD affects the way that messages are sent from one part of your brain to another.
- Researchers feel that ADHD can run in families.
- Many people with ADHD are really very smart.
Why am I taking this pill?
Ask yourself if some of the items on this list sound familiar. Do you:
· Have problems focusing on what you’re doing
· Feel restless or jumpy?
· Say or do things without thinking about them first?
· Have a hard time paying attention?
· Have problems with organizing or finishing your schoolwork?
· Have trouble finishing chores that you’re asked to do?
· Always seem to lose or forget things that you need for school or at home?
· Always feel like you have to be on the move?
If some of these problems sound familiar, then taking ADHD medicine may help you control your behavior; it will help to get the different parts of your brain to work better together. If the medicine works the way it should, then you might not forget things as often; you might pay attention more; and you might be able to stop and think first, before saying or doing something that you didn’t mean.
Taking medicine for ADHD, though, won’t magically get rid of all your problems. You’ll still need to take responsibility for the things that you do or say.
Besides taking medicine, what else could you do that might help with the problems on the list?
How to know if your medicine is working
Your medicine is probably working if your parents or friends say that you’re paying attention more, or that you’re acting better. But it’s best if you see these changes in your behavior, too. Self-monitoring will help. “Self-monitoring” means paying attention to what you’re doing, and writing it down.
For example, you could:
·Keep a list of your homework assignments every day, and check off each assignment as it’s done. Are you getting faster at finishing your work?
·If you get really angry at people (or things), then keep track of how often it happens. If the medicine is working well, then you might not get angry as often as you have in the past.
·Notice how often you leave your seat when you’re doing homework. Are you able to sit still for longer periods of time? Is it getting easier to pay attention to your assignments?
Keeping track of these things might seem like a lot of work – but if you really want to know if the medicine is helping, it’s worth the effort!
Talk about any changes that you’ve noticed from taking the medicine, or (if you haven’t started taking it yet) what you think might happen.
How to talk with your doctor
Whenever you have an appointment with your doctor, it’s a chance to be in charge of your health. After all, it’s your body! Ask the doctor any questions that you might have about ADHD, your medicine, or about how you’re feeling. Nothing is off limits.
How to get the most out of your doctors’ appointments:
· If you have questions for your doctor, make a list and bring it with you. Remember: There are no stupid or embarrassing questions. Doctors have heard it all before.
· Pay attention during your appointment: Turn off your cell phone, or set it on vibrate. Don’t read or write text messages until your appointment is over.
· Always ask your most important questions first.
· At the first appointment, tell your doctor if you’re taking any other medicine – even if it’s just allergy medicine that doesn’t need a prescription. Don’t forget to tell the doctor about natural or herbal medicines that you might be using, too; that includes herbal cough drops or other products from health food stores. Some of these “natural” medicines may cause problems if they’re taken with ADHD medicine.
· Be honest about how your ADHD medicine makes you feel. If it’s not working well, your doctor might be able to prescribe a different dose, or offer a totally different drug.
If any doctor is going to prescribe a new medicine for you, for any reason, be sure to tell the doctor that you’re taking medicine for ADHD.
Are you comfortable asking questions during doctors’ appointments? If not, why not? What would make it easier for you?
If your medicine has side effects
Most people with ADHD feel better when they start taking prescription ADHD medicine. You might notice some changes after your first dose, or it could take up to a week before there’s a difference in how you feel or act. Don’t worry if there aren’t any changes right away, though. Your doctor might have to change the amount of medicine that you’re supposed to take, or you might even need to take a different medicine instead.
There might be some side effects to the medicine that you’re taking while your body gets used to it. But always tell your parents, your doctor, the school nurse, or any other trusted adult about any side effects that are bothering you.
Here are some of side effects of ADHD medicine, and ways that you and your parents might be able to help you feel better:
If you don’t feel hungry, or find that you’re losing weight, then:
o Take your medicine with food
o Try to eat lots of healthy snacks, like protein shakes and bars, between your regular meals
If you have headaches, then:
o Tell your parents
o Take your medicine with food
o See if your parents can ask the doctor about trying a different medicine, or a type of medicine that you don’t need to take as often
If you have trouble sleeping, then:
o Talk with your parents about taking your morning dose earlier in the day
o Don’t eat or drink anything in the late afternoon or evening that contains caffeine, because it can keep you awake. Soda, iced tea, coffee – and even foods that contain chocolate, like chocolate bars or cookies – all have caffeine as an ingredient
If you find that you’re feeling crabby or moody, then:
o Write down the times when you feel bad, and tell your parents
Think of ways to keep track of side effects. What would work best? A calendar? A special chart?
How to handle talking about ADHD and your medicine
Having ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s not something that you have to talk about, either – even with your good friends. Why is that?
· Your body belongs to you, and you have the right to keep information about it to yourself.
· Some people who hear about your ADHD – and don’t understand what it’s like – may tease you, or give you a hard time.
· If word gets around that you’re taking ADHD medicine, some kids might want you to sell it to them, or share it.
If a friend sees you taking medicine and asks what it is, you don’t have to answer unless you feel comfortable. You could say that you need to take something every day to stay healthy. Then change the subject.
What about telling teachers or other adults?
· The only people who need to know about your ADHD medicine and diagnosis are adults who take care of you when your parents aren’t around. If you need to take medicine at school, for example, then the school nurse will have to know.
· You and your parents may want to see if your teachers have noticed any changes in your schoolwork, or in your behavior, before telling them about your medicine. They may not need to know.
Which people need to hear about your diagnosis and/or medicine? Who already knows? What could you say to people who ask questions?
Make sure your medicine is used the right way
You are using ADHD medicine that’s been chosen by your doctor, just for you.
· The amount that you take is based on your height and weight, your health, and any other medicines that you’re taking.
· Because your ADHD medicine is prescribed for you, it’s not safe for a friend to take your pills, or for you to take anyone else’s medicine – even if both of you have ADHD and take medicine every day.
· If someone swallows your medicine who isn’t supposed to have it, there’s a chance that the person could get sick. If the person is allergic to your medicine, he might even need to go to the hospital.
· If you try using someone else’s prescription medicine, these same problems might happen to you.
Be safe. Only use medicine that’s been prescribed for you.
How to handle friends who want to try your medicine
We already know that it’s not safe to let other people use your medicine. But there may be kids who still want to try it. What should you do?
Be smart, right from the start:
· Say no, and mean it. If you give the same answer every time, they’ll stop asking.
· Explain that your medicine is locked up in a safe place, and that your parents have the key.
· Tell your parents, a teacher, or another adult if someone keeps bothering you about your medicine, or is trying to get you to take medicine that’s not prescribed for you.
Think of times when you might be asked to share your medicine. Practice some different ways to say no.
Storing ADHD medicine safely
Your ADHD medicine needs to be locked up at all times, unless a parent is giving a dose to you. It’s not being locked up because your parents don’t trust you, though: It’s because this medicine is very strong, and it’s illegal for other people to have it.
· Your bottle of ADHD medicine should never be left out in the open where someone could pick it up by mistake and use it.
· If you see the bottle of medicine sitting out on a counter, bring it to your parents so it can be locked up right away.
If this medicine ever has to be thrown away, don’t flush it down the toilet, or put it into the trash where someone else could find it. Your doctor, or a pharmacist, will know the best way to get rid of any old ADHD medicine.
How do you feel about your parents holding on to your medicine? Does it help your relationship with them, or cause problems? Why?
How to stay legal
ADHD medicine has to be used and stored carefully – and not just to keep you and your family safe. ADHD medicine is called a Schedule II controlled substance. That means that the police and the courts think of it in the same way as they think of a drug like cocaine. The difference is that ADHD medicine won’t make someone with ADHD feel “high.”
According to the law, ADHD medicines can only be used in a certain way:
· You’re not allowed to carry individual pills in your pocket, or in a bag. ADHD medicine always needs to be stored in the prescription bottle from the drug store.
· Giving your medicine to someone else, or selling it, is a crime.
· If you need to take your ADHD medicine at school, your parents need to call the school nurse to find out the right way to get the medicine to the nurse’s office. Most schools won’t let kids carry prescription medicine in the building or on the bus.
Stay safe – and legal:
· Find out your school’s rules about handling ADHD medicine.
· Don’t let other people have or use your medicine.
Talk it over: What are your school’s rules about controlled substances? What do you think would happen if one of your friends told his parents (or the police) that he got this medicine from you?
· U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://healthfinder.gov (search on “ADHD medication”)
· U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health: http://medlineplus.gov (search on “ADHD medication”)
· CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: http://www.chadd.org
· Attention Deficit Disorder Association: http://www.add.org