Managing Medications

Brush Your Teeth, Take Your Meds: How to Build an ADHD Treatment Routine

New to living independently with ADHD? Follow this advice to incorporate medication management into your daily routine.

A young woman is taking medication from her pill organizer.
Photo by milan2099 via Getty Images:

Young adults discontinue their ADHD treatment at higher rates than any other population group. An international study released last year found that 61% of patients aged 18 to 24 stopped taking their ADHD medication within a year of starting. This group also faces an elevated risk for substance abuse and addiction, both more common when ADHD is untreated.

In other words, it’s critical for college students and others who recently moved out on their own to develop reliable medication management routines without parental scaffolding — and to advocate for their own health care needs at the doctor’s office.

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Here is the advice I give to my young adult patients:

  • Incorporate medication administration into your daily routine. Use alarms or reminders on your phone, or associate medication with specific daily activities (e.g., breakfast or brushing teeth). Use a pill organizer to keep track of doses.
  • Understand the expected effects and potential side effects of ADHD medication, and the likelihood that ADHD symptoms will return if doses are skipped. Also know that ADHD medication reduces the risk of substance use and improves productivity at work and in school.
  • With your provider, brainstorm ways to adjust your routine to better support medication maintenance. Discuss different medication options, such as long-acting versus short-acting formulations.
  • Regularly monitor medication effectiveness and side effects. Keep track of changes in symptoms or adverse reactions. Talk to your doctor about these and any other challenges with your medication regimen, concerns about mixing your ADHD medication with other medications or substances, difficulties adhering to the prescribed schedule, or struggles with getting timely refills from your pharmacy.
  • If you experience significant side effects, worsening symptoms, or recognize a change or deterioration in your work performance, relationships, sleep, exercise routines, task management, or overall executive functioning skills, it’s important to tell your health care provider.

ADHD Medication Management: Next Steps

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