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AD/HD, Stimulants, and Substance Abuse

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By Kristin Stanberry

Teaching Your Child to be Responsible with Medication

When your child is in elementary school

  • It's your responsibility to dispense his medication as prescribed. You may want to develop a system of coordinating and documenting your child's doses with any other adult caregivers in your home. This will help you avoid missing or repeating doses.
  • If your child must take a dose of medication (e.g., a short-acting stimulant) during the school day, arrange for a school staff member to give him the medication at the appropriate time. Give the school a supply of medication in the prescription bottle, clearly labeled with your child's name, doctor's name, and current dosing information (time of day and dosage strength/number of pills)
  • It's never too early to start teaching your child why proper dosage and timing is important - and that taking too much or too little medication isn't desirable.
  • Be sure your child understands that his doctor has prescribed the medication only for him and that sharing it withy anyone else is unsafe.

When your child is in middle school and high school

  • Gradually give your child more responsibility for taking his medication on time, and in the proper dose. This transfer of responsibility will depend largely on his level of maturity and reliability.
  • If he takes a long-acting formula once a day, at home, you can maintain fairly good control over his medication. If, however, he needs to take any of his daily doses (e.g., a short-acting stimulant) - but he's too self conscious or too independent to make a special trip to the school office. - ask school administrators if their policy allows your child to carry his own medication. If the school allows this, be sure to dole out only the dose(s) your child will need during the day. Have him carry his medication in a prescription bottle (as described above).
  • Talk openly with your child about the fact that kids sometimes misuse their own prescription stimulants (e.g., to get high, or stay extra-alert while cramming for a test). Explain why this isn't safe and can, if done often, lead to later substance abuse problems.
  • Warn your child that some teenagers try to gain favor with kids who carry prescription stimulants, as a means for getting access to such drugs to "get high." A child with AD/HD who is socially awkward may be flattered by the attention and comply to gain acceptance. On the other hand, a teen with AD/HD who tends to disobey authority and/or acts on impulse might be tempted to share or even sell his medication to others. Either way, the consequences for your child can be dire. Help him understand that his safety and self-esteem are far more important than pleasing individuals who wish to take advantage of him.

Kristin Stanberry is a writer and editor specializing in parenting, education, and consumer health/wellness issues. Her areas of expertise include learning disabilities and AD/HD, which she wrote about extensively for Schwab Learning and GreatSchools.


Comments from readers

"No child, even in middle or high school should ever carry his medications on him. Teach your child that being responsible includes following proper medication protocol. Medications at school should always be kept with the school nurse or health room staff. Keeping medication on him could lead to loss or theft of medication, and perhaps sanctions for your child."