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Treatment of ADHD in Teenagers

May 10, 2016

Treatment options for ADHD in teenagers

There is no cure for ADHD. Treating ADHD in teenagers therefore revolves around controlling main ADHD symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The main aim of the treatment is to improve functioning of the teenager in the school, home and social environment.

Generally, treatment of ADHD in teenagers consists of a combination of the following:

  • education on the disorder;
  • behavior management therapy; and
  • ADHD medication.

Involvement of the school counselor and teachers is recommended to implement a multidisciplinary or multi-modal approach of treating ADHD in the teen.

ADHD education

Providing the teenager with education on the disorder and its effects on behavior is of extreme importance. Education should address:

  • what ADHD is;
  • how ADHD affects behavior;
  • what friends and teachers may feel about the negative behaviors of a teen with ADHD; and
  • treatment options for the teen to control and manage the ADHD.

ADHD behavior management therapy

Psychosocial treatment has been shown to be effective in managing ADHD symptoms. Treatment include:

  • training the teenager in problem solving and communication skills
  • providing recommendations and suggestions for classroom management to the teacher
  • providing advice to parents of teens with ADHD

ADHD behavior management therapy on its own has shown to have decreased ADHD symptoms. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend medication or behavior therapy or both forms of therapy to manage ADHD symptoms in teens.

ADHD medication

ADHD medication is no less effective in a teen than it is in a small child. There are two main types of ADHD medication:

  • stimulant drugs
  • non-stimulant drugs

Stimulant drugs are most commonly used to treat ADHD and are around 70-80% effective as treatment of ADHD in patients. They include:

  • Adderall and Adderall XR
  • Concerta
  • Dexedrine
  • Focalin and Focalin XR
  • Metadate CD and Metadate ER
  • Methylin and Methylin ER
  • Ritalin , Ritalin SR, Ritalin LA
  • Vyvanse
  • Daytrana
  • Quillivant XR

ADHD medication is available in various forms – short-acting or immediate release, intermediate-acting and long-acting forms.

If stimulant drugs are ineffective or if they cause too many unpleasant side effects, non-stimulant drugs may be considered. These include Straterra, Intuniv and Kapvay, all having been approved for use in children and teens.