Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common behavioral disorder in childhood. From 8% to 10% of school-age children and adolescents are subject to its influence. Despite the fact that this diagnosis is mainly given to children, many adolescents suffer from ADHD. His symptoms – inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, are intrusive, which means that they seriously affect the life of a teenager.

In some cases, ADHD is accompanied by other conditions. For example, simultaneously with ADHD, adolescents may experience learning disabilities, anxiety, and mood swings caused by certain substances. In addition, adolescent oppositional disorder or problem behavior may appear in adolescents with ADHD. Proper medical diagnosis and prescription of the correct treatment for ADHD and related problems is very important, because ADHD affects all aspects of the adolescent’s life.

Drug abuse in general and in particular by stimulants such as cocaine, even at an early age, can cause behavioral abnormalities that are very similar to the manifestation of ADD / ADHD.

What are the symptoms of ADHD in teens?

Symptoms of ADHD in adolescents are similar to those in children. Their list includes:

  • Abnormal distractibility;
  • Irritability;
  • Low ability to concentrate;
  • Hyperactivity;
  • Impulsiveness;
  • Insomnia.

In adolescence, especially during puberty, the symptoms of ADHD may worsen.

How does ADHD affect adolescent life?

Many adolescents with ADHD have problems at school because of problems with increased distractibility and low concentration. Performance may decrease, especially if a teenager does not receive treatment for ADHD.

The usual thing is that a teenager with ADHD forgets assignments, confuses textbooks and that he quickly becomes bored in class. He may become inattentive or, on the contrary, show heightened attention — not wait for his turn to respond. He can interrupt the teacher and classmates, too quickly to perform tasks. During the lesson, it is usually difficult for him to sit still, he constantly fusses and turns.

Often, adolescents with ADHD are so focused on something abstract that they forget about the actual task. This is especially noticeable when they do their homework or when playing sports, as well as in communication with their peers. Such inattention to the implementation of the current assignment often leads to poor results during testing and to the exclusion of sports teams, extracurricular circles and peer companies.

Does ADHD increase the risk of car accidents and alcohol problems?

Driving carries special risks for teens with ADHD. They are two to four times more likely to have an accident than young drivers who do not have ADHD. Adolescents with ADHD are impulsive, more likely to take risks, to assess the situation while being drunk, and chasing after sharp sensations. All these features increase the likelihood of a car accident and, as a result, serious injury. However, studies show that adolescents with ADHD who take prescribed drugs have a significantly reduced risk of car accidents.

Adolescents with ADHD are more prone to excessive alcohol use than their healthy peers. In addition, alcohol aggravates their problems. Clinical studies have confirmed that adolescents in ADHD twice as often abused alcohol for half a year before research, and also twice as likely to be addicted to drugs, and three times more often these substances are heavier than marijuana.

Proper treatment of ADHD in adolescents can reduce the risk of later alcohol or drug dependence.

What treatment is recommended for teens with ADHD?

When it comes to treating ADHD in adolescents, many different options are considered. Some experts believe that only behavioral therapy will suffice. However, according to the National Institute of Psychiatry, about 80% of patients who needed medical treatment in childhood, need it and being teenagers.

As a rule, a combination of drug therapy and behavioral therapy is the best approach for treating ADHD in adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommend the use of Behavioral Therapy to alleviate symptoms associated with problem behavior as part of ADHD.

Stimulant medications, such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta, are usually prescribed to adolescents with ADHD. These drugs can actually increase alertness and help a teenager improve school performance. Stimulating drugs work on the principle of gradually increasing the level of dopamine in the brain. The most recent addition to this list was Vyvanse.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. It is an important chemical that transmits signals between the nerve endings in the brain. Dopamine affects many bodily functions, including movement, sleep, mood, attention, and learning. Researchers believe that the use of stimulant medications for ADHD increases dopamine levels, thereby enhancing weak dopamine signals in the brain.

Studies have also shown that addictive substances, such as nicotine and cocaine, temporarily increase the dopamine activity of the brain. This explains why people with ADHD are more prone to substance abuse.

Non-stimulant drugs, such as Strattera, are also used in the treatment of ADHD in adolescents. Strattera is a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Its principle of action is to increase a chemical in the brain called norepinephrine. Non-stimulating drugs for the treatment of ADHD do not cause side effects such as stimulants. Thus, they do not increase anxiety, irritability and insomnia, which may occur when using stimulating substances.

There is no way to completely eliminate ADHD. Excess medications can backfire and lead to suicidal tendencies, chaotic mood changes and substance abuse.

How can parents help a teenager with ADHD?

ADHD affects all aspects of a teenager’s life, from relationships with parents and peers to motivation and productivity, as well as overall self-confidence. Therefore, the first task of parents should be openness in communicating with a teenager, along with support and understanding in everything that a teenager does. A parent can help a teenager deal with the symptoms of ADHD himself:

  • Express your expectations, guidelines and restrictions.
  • Follow the daily routine and minimize deviations from it.
  • Look for classes for a teenager in which he can succeed (for example, sports, hobbies, music lessons).
  • To help the adolescent in the formation of the correct self-esteem, encouraging his good behavior.
  • Establish an effective discipline system and respond to bad behavior with privilege deprivation or house arrest.
  • To help a teenager in planning time and organizing his activities.
  • Adhere to the family mode – a stable time of awakening, eating and sleeping.
  • Create a home reminder system to help the teenager keep to the schedule and do the things he needs.
  • Interact with adolescent teachers to make sure that he is good at school assignments.
  • Solve disciplinary issues calmly.

Parents can also help a teenager with ADHD if they make sure that he sleeps a fair amount of time. It is also important to establish rules for the use of a TV, computer, mobile phone, player and video game. Ensure that before going to bed a teenager turns off all these devices.

Parents should set clear limits and goals for an adolescent with ADHD. Praise him for good behavior and seek help if he often shows insubordination.