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ADHD teenagers

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the UK's most common behavioural disorder and affects around 2-5% of school children and young people.

More than 2 out of 3 children diagnosed with ADHD will still have their symptoms when they become teenagers.

Although teenagers with ADHD may be less hyperactive than when they were younger, impulsiveness and inattention can still cause problems.

ADHD symptoms combined with the usual teenage turbulence caused by hormonal changes and puberty may need extra attention.

Drug abuse in general and stimulant abuse such as cocaine abuse in particular, even at a very young age, can cause behavioural changes that mimic ADHD.

What are symptoms of ADHD in teens?

Symptoms of ADHD in teens are similar to those of ADHD in children. They include:

  • Distractibility
  • Irritability
  • Poor concentration
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity
  • Insomnia

During teenage years, especially as the hormonal changes of adolescence are going on, symptoms of ADHD may intensify.

How does ADHD affect a teen's life?

Because of problems with distractibility and poor concentration, many teens with ADHD have difficulty in school. Marks may fall, particularly if the teen is not receiving ADHD treatment.

It's not uncommon for teens with ADHD to forget homework, misplace textbooks, and become easily bored with their daily class work. Teens may become inattentive, or excessively attentive - not waiting for their turn before blurting out answers. They may interrupt the teacher and classmates, and rush through assignments. Teens with ADHD may also be fidgety and have a difficult time sitting still in class.

Often, teens with ADHD are so busy focusing on other things they forget about the task at hand. This can be seen especially with homework and sports skills and in relationships with peers. This lack of attention to what they're doing often leads to poor performance on tests and being rejected from sports teams, extracurricular activities, and peer groups.

Does ADHD increase the risk of car accidents and problem drinking?

Driving poses special risks for teens with ADHD. In fact, teens with ADHD are two to four times more likely to have a car accident than teens without ADHD. Teens with ADHD may be impulsive, risk-taking, immature in judgement, and thrill seeking. All of these traits increase the chance of a car accident and serious injury. Still, studies show that teen drivers with ADHD who take the prescribed medication have a significantly reduced chance of accidents.

Teens with ADHD are more likely to be heavy drinkers than teens without ADHD. They are also more likely to have problems from drinking. In clinical studies, researchers confirmed that teens with ADHD were twice as likely to have abused alcohol within the past six months. They also found that teens with ADHD were likely to abuse drugs and three times more likely to abuse drugs other than cannabis.

Getting the correct treatment for ADHD in teens may cut the risk of later alcohol and drug abuse.

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