Twenty-One Medication Rules Every Parent Needs to Know

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Rule #1. Before talking to your child or teenager’s physician about starting medications, you need to know what the diagnosis is, and how the diagnosis was determined.

Rule #2. Medications are not the only treatment option for ADHD, and they work best when combined with other forms of treatment.

Rule #3. Medication treatment should be considered only if the ADHD symptoms are currently impairing the child’s function.

Rule #4. The potential benefits of the medication need to outweigh the potential risks of adverse effects.

Rule #5. Keep detailed records of all medications that your child has taken.

Rule #6. Give an accurate and detailed family history.

Rule #7. Some medications have the potential to worsen underlying problems.

Rule #8. Not everything that happens while your child is on medicine is because of the medicine.

Rule #9. Don’t expect medications to fix every symptom.

Rule #10. Having a side effect does not always mean it is necessary to stop the medication.

Rule #11. The medication dosage amount is important.

Rule #12. Medications that are not specifically FDA-approved for children can still be used by children in certain situations.

Rule #13. Tell your physician all of the medications that your child is on, including over-the-counter medications and “natural” or “herbal” medications.

Rule #14. Involve your adolescent in the discussions about medications, and be patient with them through the process.

Rule #15. For most children, parents should be responsible for administering the medications; starting in the mid- to late-teens, most teenagers can begin to assume some of that responsibility.

Rule #16. Don’t look for a quick fix; be patient.

Rule #17. Begin new medications only when at least one parent is available to monitor any negative effects.

Rule #18. Closely note baseline sleep, appetite, and mood prior to initiating a medication trail.

Rule #19. The more times a medication needs to be taken, the higher the risk of missing a dose.

Rule #20. Lack of effectiveness of a medication does not mean that the diagnosis is incorrect.

Rule #21. Don’t feel under pressure to make an urgent decision regarding the use of medications for your child.

Mohab Hanna, MD, is board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist in private practice and author of Making the Connection: A Parent’s Guide to Medication in AD/HD. The idea for his book sprang from the many inquiries he had received over the years from parents looking for a useful guide about ADHD medications. He also came up with important medication rules every parent needs to know. These medication rules are reprinted below with permission.

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