5 Reasons Why Your (or Your Child's) ADHD Medication Isn't Working

Health Writer

You might be just starting medication for ADHD and don’t think it is working or you might have been taking medication for several years and suddenly feel like it isn’t working as well as it used to. There are a number of reasons why your medication isn’t working as well as you would like.

You aren’t sure what you want the medication to do.

If you decide to try medications for ADHD, make sure you know why. While it can reduce overall symptoms of ADHD, you aren’t going to know whether it is working unless you have some way to measure it. Before you start medication, keep track of a few tasks for several weeks. Try reading a book, completing chores or paying bills. Write down how long these tasks take. It is important to keep track over several weeks, as there are other circumstances that can lessen your attention, such as not getting enough sleep. Find the average time it takes you to complete each task. Now, when you take medication, keep track. Do you notice a difference? Are you better able to stay on track and complete the tasks in less time? Having a goal in mind when you start medication (or when you want to know whether it is working) can help you decide.

You aren’t on the right dosage.

ADHD medication can help reduce or eliminate symptoms of ADHD but it can be tricky to find the right medication and the right dosage for you or your child. Sometimes, it is a matter of trial and error to find what works best. When first starting medication, most doctors start small and build up. That is, they start you or your child on a low dosage and if it doesn’t work, they increase it. That means you need to stay in touch with your doctor during the first few weeks of trying a new medication. Often, parents will start their child on medication and several weeks or months later stop because they haven’t seen any change. But, they also haven’t let the doctor know so no adjustments were made. During certain times in your or your child’s life, as the metabolism changes, you might need to talk to your doctor about a dosage adjustment. This often happens after a growth spurt, during or after puberty and during menopause.

You aren’t on the right medication.

You would think that all medications for ADHD were equally effective for everyone but that isn’t the case. While no one knows exactly why, one medication might work wonders for one person but not for another. There are different types of ADHD medications and if one is not working for you, another one may. Keep track of symptoms and how you feel on the medication. If it isn’t working or you can’t manage the side effects, talk with your doctor about other types of medication.

You are expecting medication to work miracles.

Medication doesn’t cure ADHD and it doesn’t work all by itself. Medication, combined with behavioral strategies and lifestyle changes works best. Many parents give their children ADHD medications and also institute behavioral strategies such as charts with stickers for desired behaviors and educational strategies, such as sitting in the front of the classroom. Many adults with ADHD take medications but also work to build organizational skills. Making positive lifestyle changes, such as exercising each day and getting enough sleep is also important. Medication alone often isn’t enough.

There is another condition that is undiagnosed or hasn’t been treated properly.

ADHD is frequently accompanied by other conditions, such as depression or anxiety. If these conditions are not diagnosed and treated, they can interfere with how well your ADHD medication works. If, no matter what you do, the medication doesn’t seem to help, talk with your doctor about having a complete assessment to determine if there are other, underlying conditions that should be addressed.

For more information:

How Do You Know if a Treatment is Working?

6 Things You Should Know About ADHD Medication

ADHD - Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Beginning Medication