ADHD medications can be extremely beneficial for students with attention difficulties. Yet, despite these benefits, many students resist taking medication, or they choose to stop. When a student chooses to stop taking medicine, even if he or she acknowledges that it has been helpful, you might find yourself in a tough position. Obviously we can’t force our students to take medicine because we think it’s best for them. At the same time, we want to make sure that they think through their decision carefully. If you have a student who wants to stop taking ADHD medication, here are some steps you can follow:
The first step is to ask questions. Try to understand why your student wants to stop medication. It’s easy to get caught up in statistics about how effective ADHD medication is or to rattle off the names of other medications to try, but before you can help your student understand the options, you need to understand why he or she wants to stop.
Once you understand your student’s perspective, you can help him see if there are ways to continue taking medication while addressing any concerns. If your student is worried about physical symptoms, such as loss of appetite or sleeplessness, encourage him to talk to his doctor about trying a lower dose or another medication. If your student is worried about social stigma or feels that he should be able to live without medicine, share alternative viewpoints. There are many great videos on YouTube of college students and adults who talk about how ADHD medication is part of their daily lives.
Make a Plan
Whether your student decides to try a new approach to medication or still wants to stop altogether, the next step is to make a plan. Working together, make a list of the ways that the medication has been helpful. Examine strategies for completing homework, studying for tests, focusing in class, and completing long-term assignments. Discuss the ways that these tasks might become harder once medication is stopped, and brainstorm additional strategies to address this. Do some goal setting. How much more time does your student think she will need to complete her work? How can she help herself focus in class? By creating strategies and setting goals to address the most likely areas of difficulty, your student will have a more detailed understanding of her decision to stop taking medicine.
Remember, it’s ultimately not your job to tell your students whether they should or should not continue taking their medication. Instead, you can help your students to make informed choices.
- Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director