Using Meds for ADHD Might Increase Risk of Being Bullied

Health Writer

Children with ADHD who take medication are more likely to be bullied than those that don’t, especially during the middle and high school years, according to a new study completed at the University of Michigan.

While previous research has shown that all children with ADHD are at a higher risk of being bullied, this is the first study that looked specifically at whether or not taking medication for the condition played any type of role. The scientists, led by Quyen Epstein-Ngo, found that those who take medications were twice as likely to be bullied than children without ADHD. This was true for both boys and girls.

The reasons for the bullying were not discussed within the study. However, 20 percent of the children and teens who were taking medication reported being approached by other students about sharing or selling their medication - and half of those students did agree to share or sell their medicine. The study authors aren’t sure whether this was one of the causes for the bullying.

Children with ADHD often have a hard time making and keeping friends. They may be more emotionally immature than their classmates or be lacking in skills for reading unspoken communication, such as body language and voice inflection. While this is true, it doesn’t explain why the rate of bullying would be higher for those taking medication. Epstein-Ngo believes there is a combination of factors that might lead to the increased bullying. These include children with ADHD might put themselves in risky situations more often than children without ADHD and the possibility that the bullying is a result of being coerced or forced to give up their medications.

Parents shouldn’t stop medication because of a fear of bullying but they can take the extra step of talking to their children about the danger of sharing or selling their medication. They can also discuss the importance of deciding who to tell that they are on medication. It’s also important for parents to talk about what is going on at school and ask their child or teen if they are being bullied. Teaching and practicing social skills might also help children make friends - those who have a supportive group of friends at school could be at a lower risk of being bullied.

Today, there are a number of medications that are extended release, which means your child takes one pill in the morning and doesn’t need to take another during the school day. As parents, it would be easy to notice if pills were missing or if they ran out before the next refill date, however, some students might pretend to take their medication in the morning and then take the pill to school to share or sell. Consistent communication with your child’s teacher might alert you to days your child is more hyperactive or forgetful during school hours. Or, you might notice that some nights your child has more difficulty focusing and completing homework. To head off any potential problems, it might help to address issues as soon as they come up, rather than taking a wait and see attitude.

For more information on bullying:

When Your Child is Being Bullied

Bullying: Tips for Parents

Childhood Bullying and Its Consequences

ADHD and Cyber Bullying

Is There a Connection Between Bullies and Mental Illness?