There is currently no cure for teen ADHD, but many treatments are available to help control the symptoms. The first step in treating teen ADHD is to have a medical professional evaluate the teen's symptoms to eliminate other possible causes, such as learning disorders, anxiety, or depression. When a teen is diagnosed with ADHD, parents often wonder if they are to blame, but current research suggests that parenting techniques and home environment do not cause ADHD. The best thing for you to do as a parent is to learn ways to help your teen and your family cope with ADHD. A variety of medications and therapies are available to help teens with ADHD, and their families. Studies have found that combinations of therapy and medication treat ADHD most effectively.
Some types of medications prescribed for teen ADHD include:
- Stimulants, or psychostimulants, include Ritalin, Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Focalin, Metadate, and Methylin.
- Strattera, the first non-stimulant treatment approved by the FDA, though this drug may lead to suicidal thoughts.
- The high blood pressure medications Catapres and Tenex are helpful to some.
- Antidepressants, though these also may increase suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adolescents and teens.
Stimulants are by far the most common drugs prescribed for teen ADHD treatment, and have been used for years to manage ADHD. Most stimulants are considered safe and non-addictive; researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School have suggested that teens with ADHD who take stimulant medication may be less likely to use illegal drugs than those who don't.
Stimulants do have some side effects, including:
- Loss of appetite
- Mild stomachaches or headaches
Your doctor or psychiatrist will work with your teen to determine which medications and dosages work best, and to limit the seriousness of side effects.
Drugs often do an excellent job of controlling symptoms, but therapy is still useful for teaching teens skills and strategies to be successful in school, social activities, and at work. Family and individual therapy are also important in helping the teen with ADHD and his or her family members cope with the disorder. Some of these therapies are:
- Behavior therapy
- Social skills training
- Parental skills training
- Support groups
Other alternative treatments, such as herbal remedies, have some adherents, but none have been medically proven to treat or cure ADHD. Always tell your doctor before trying alternative treatments.
As a parent there are some things you can do to help your teen manage his or her ADHD. Some of these are:
- Learn all you can about ADHD, and stay current with recent discoveries or developments
- Set rules with your teen and communicate your expectations clearly; negotiate where reasonable, but if rules are broken deal with the violation calmly but firmly.
- Help your teen create an environment with fewer distractions, especially when doing homework
- Create a schedule with your teen and encourage him or her to stick to it
- Help your teen organize his or her things, such as items needed for school, or important personal papers such as birth certificate, driver's license, wallet, etc.
- Help your teen learn techniques for relaxation and stress management
- Encourage your teen to get adequate sleep, exercise, and a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Teach your teen basic life management skills like cooking, laundry, money management, time management, car maintenance, and personal care
- Take an active interest in your teen's education. If you feel your teen needs more help, take the initiative to talk to teachers, or to find someone else in the school system who can help you and your teen.
- When it comes time for your teen to drive, consider requiring your teen to have fewer distractions, like music and friends, while driving, or to drive with a parent for longer.
- Be patient as your teen learns new skills
Teen ADHD Treatment Sources:
- National Institute of Mental Health: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder [online]
- ADDvance [online]
- WebMD/The Cleveland Clinic [online]
- U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" [online]
- TeensHealth from the Nemours Foundation [online]