Treatment of Teens with ADHD

Unfortunately, no cure currently exists for ADHD. Therefore, treatment focuses on symptom management. Although the symptoms of ADHD may change with age, teens with ADHD still require treatment to target these symptoms and may require treatment into adulthood.

Education is a necessary component to any treatment and provides teens and families with the tools to understand their disorder and treatment. It is likely that your family received this education when your child was first diagnosed with ADHD. This education may have been focused directly toward you as the parent, particularly if your child was much younger at the time. As your teen’s ability to understand his or her diagnosis and responsibility for treatment increases, it is imperative that this education occur again and be targeted directly toward your teen. Education should also address possible negative attitudes towards ADHD and treatment. However, education alone is not a sufficient treatment.

It is a myth that medication becomes less effective in the teen years. In fact, medications for ADHD should be as effective, but patterns of co-occurring conditions may require changes to the treatment regimen. Additionally, many teens may benefit from changing to long-acting medications to provide better symptom management throughout the day as many teens have activities after the school day has ended and into the evening hours. Another myth is that medication use may increase the risk of substance abuse. In fact, as mentioned above, medications reduce the risk of substance abuse for teens with ADHD. For more information, please see the Managing Medication for Children and Adolescents with ADHD as well as important warnings about Medication Abuse and Diversion.

Behavioral intervention is another common treatment approach for teens with ADHD. Proven psychosocial treatments include parent-teen training in problem-solving and communication skills, parent training in behavioral management methods and teacher training in classroom management. Please see Psychosocial Treatment for Children and Adolescents with ADHD for more information. Little or no research currently exists to support the use of dietary treatments, traditional psychotherapy, play therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or social skills training for treating ADHD. However, these interventions may be effective in treating co-occurring conditions if present. You can refer to Complementary and Other Interventions for more information on how to evaluate treatments for ADHD.

The most common and effective treatment for teens with ADHD combines medication and psychosocial treatment approaches. This is sometimes referred to as multi-modal treatment. For additional information, see Treating ADHD in Children and Adolescents.

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