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Ask the Experts

Do I Have to Take ADHD Medication?

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist

Question:

My mom thinks I have ADHD and I think I am just being me. Plus I feel that everyone acts this way at my age.

I don't know what to do because on my pill I feel so slow and I have no energy whatsoever. It is a very small dose that I get, too. My mom just says that I have to take it because she likes me on it. I hate me on it. We have talked about it two times and both times she has gotten mad at me. When I told her that I stopped taking the pill she got real mad. But I just hate it because she always says, "I am the mom and you will do what I say," or "Without it, your grades go down." What should I do?

Answer:

ADHD is a pretty common diagnosis these days but unfortunately many kids still feel it is something awful. They think that kids with ADHD are hyperactive and out of control. Though some kids may act like that at times, there are other forms of ADHD, too. For example, some kids with ADHD have trouble paying attention and getting their work done. They daydream a lot and don't always get the details in class that they need. As a result, their grades suffer and they fall behind. Kids with both forms of ADHD do much better with appropriate treatment.

I don't know what difficulties you were having, but obviously something wasn't right, and your doctor and your mom felt that some medication might help you. This is a very emotional issue for both you and your mom. She strongly believes you have ADHD and need the medicine, and you strongly feel that you don't. When feelings are strong, it can be hard to talk to one another because both people want to get their point across.

It's great that you've tried twice to talk to your mom about your feelings! I think you need to try again, but this time with a professional in the room to help you not get mad at each other. The professional can be a school counselor or the doctor who prescribed your medication or a neutral counselor. Tell your mom (or your school counselor) you would like to do this, and soon.

When you do talk, have some questions ready about your diagnosis and your treatment:

  • What exactly is ADHD?
  • Why does anyone think I have it?
  • Why do I need medication?
  • Can I try a different medication that doesn't make me feel so bad?
  • Do I have to take it all the time, or can I only take it on school days?
  • How do I know I'm on the right amount for me?

Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

11/15/2010:
"I know my 10yr old daughter was on Concerta for 2 yrs and DID Not gain any wt. hardly only 6 lbs in 2 yrs. It made her Sleepy ALL the time and she felt awful.. She also in IS Epileptic, and was having at least 1 to 2 seizures a month... I As a concerned Mom decided GRADES weren't Everything, so I took her off the Meds, In April 2010. By summer she went from a Size 6 and 7 Pants and Small Shirts TO A 10 in pants and Med in shirts !!! She feels 100% better now !! We struggle with her school work but she LOOKS HEALTHY now and Has ONLY had ONE ( 1 ) seizure in all these Months!! I know the Meds are supposed to help, But my baby is alot healthier NOW without them!! Oh, she now is in a Size 12 Pants and has FINALLY CAUGHT UP to where she needs to be in size..And it is Only November 2010, 9 months later."
10/6/2009:
"I too have ADHD. Ask if you can be tested for it if you haven't. Either that, or try to stay clam unless you're around goofy people. (I must note that this is whay I do in my life, so it may not work for you.)"
07/28/2008:
"This is me again. I did what you said at our next meeting with the doctor, but my mom sent me out of the room because I got upset and yelled. I can't find anything else I can do I am now a totally different medication. This is now my 3rd. Also a low dose, still the same feeling as the last 2 times! Please help me my grades are good, except in reading class it is mostly the spelling but the reading is a big role but I love making storys.I also got help from my best friend Lexi and that helped. I don't see a issue!! Everyone else likes me off of it but her."
06/13/2008:
"Everyone doesn't have ADHD- so many students have issues especially in learning areas due to lighting issues. Not every child is an example of this but Irklen Syndrome-- check it out. SO much has been done abroad and it helps so much!!"
06/13/2008:
"Everyone doesn't have ADHD- so many students have issues especially in learning areas due to lighting issues. Not every child is an example of this but Irlen Syndrome-- check it out. SO much has been done abroad and it helps so much!!"
12/13/2007:
"I believe in balance. The new medicines don't have to be taken daily. They can be med free on weekends and holidays. Some children may need meds daily. Some may need to at least try a weekend free of meds. There are also alternatives to full day school. Parents who have the option can try a university model school. The children sign up for classes and take them 2-3 days at the school and do the other work at home. This has given us the freedom to try med-free education and save meds for when my son is older - if needed. We are doing this at a young age to train him at home and prepare him for public school when he is ready. We also get the accountability of trained educators in a school environment 2-3 days a week."
12/13/2007:
"I have a child that I believe is ADD that has not been diagnosed. He was recently a straight A student who has suddenly changed to all D and F's I'm having trouble getting him to pay attention in class he is a daydreamer and often frustrated easily and full of anxiety. He thinks that there is something wrong with me that I'm being over protective. He's very ashamed at the fact that I took him to a doctor and we never persue the next visit because he promised he'd do better. Any suggestions? "
12/12/2007:
"My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 8. His first three years of school were torcher! Finally, an educational psychologist diagnosed him and we started giving him a low dose of Focalin XR. He went from D's and F's to straight A's. The doctors told us that kids that have ADHD can't focus because they hear EVERYTHING around them -- it's kind of like putting six radios in a room, all on a different station so they can't process information like others do. My son is now 11, has made honor roll every year, plays musical instruments, is a super athlete, has great friends and makes good choices. Are meds for every child? Probably not, but my son would not have the confidence and the ability to do the things he can do today without the meds. He has not experienced any of the side effects. He is a very happy, bright kid and his parents are very happy too!"
12/11/2007:
"My granddaughter felt the same way...she hated being slowed down! Her other grandmother hated her on it too so the the mom sided with the other grandma and took her off of it and now she's failed the 7th grade twice!!! She hates school and I see 'dropout' written across her forehead!!! She lived with me at ages 4 & 5 and until I got her diagnosed with ADHD...she never ate a whole meal, ate like an animal, couldn't count or sing ABC's, always found her on the floor or upside down in her bed in the morning. After getting her meds adjusted for her she was able to control her anxiety and attention. Had her singing ABC's and counting in less than a week!! She ate with a fork and was actually enjoyable at the table. She slept so well at night, no more falling out of bed, she loved to read books, watch movies and play games. Unfortunately the other grandma says it's not right to drug the kid even if it means no schooling....breaks my heart....is that a form of child abuse????"
12/11/2007:
"I am all for improving education and the lives of our youth. However, I think we are taking the real life right out of our children with drugs. We fight drugs on one hand and then if they act up, just give them a pill, helps the lazy mom and teacher more than the children. STOP IT BEFORE WE RUIN A WHOLE GENERATION. oh by the way I am 64 yo and i daydreamed in class, is that wrong. sure was a pretty young girl next to me... we called it normal."
12/11/2007:
"I agree with this kid. I don't recall him stating his age, but he's right, he's probably just being a kid. My husband wants to put my 7 year old son on medication for the same reason, but I’d rather not because you never know what long term affects this medicine has on a child. If his grades suffer, then why not first try sitting him down and talk to him about the importance of trying to stay focus. This young man sounds really intelligent and his question was well written so he's no dummy. Perhaps he just learns in a different manner than the other kids. Has the mom found that his grades have improved since being on the medicine? If not, then why continue to make this little guy suffer. If this is a pretty common diagnosis then this behavior must be pretty common also. "
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