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The Role of Medication in Teen Mental Health Treatment

By March 23, 2023May 10th, 2023Mental Health

In recent years there have been an increasing number of new and different psychiatric medications used with children and adolescents struggling with mental health conditions. According to a national survey, approximately 1 in 12 children in America under age 18, which is equal to 8.5% of the adolescent population, are on “medication for ADD/ADHDautism/ASD, or difficulties with emotions, concentration, or behavior.” The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry outlines the following different types of medications used in teenagers:

  • ADHD medications: Stimulant and non-stimulant medications may be helpful as part of the treatment for attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). They come in several different forms, such as pills, patches, and liquid forms.
    • Stimulants: Target the core symptoms of ADHD including, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention.
    • Non-stimulants: Treat the core symptoms of ADHD but may be less effective than stimulants. They are most used with children who have anxiety along with ADHD.
  • Antidepressant medications: May be used to treat depression, school phobias, panic attacks and other anxiety disorders, bedwetting, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and ADHD.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: SSRIs are used to treat anxiety in children and adolescents. There are other medications used to treat anxiety in adults but are rarely used in children and adolescents (e.g., benzodiazepines, antihistamines, and atypical antipsychotics).
  • Neuroleptics: Also known as antipsychotics, are used to treat psychosis, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and aggression. They are also used to treat behavioral symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and symptoms of Tourette Syndrome.
  • Anticonvulsant medications: Are used in the treatment of bipolar disorder and aggressive behavior.
  • Mood stabilizers: These medications may be helpful in treating bipolar disorder, severe mood symptoms and mood swings (manic and depressive), aggressive behavior, and impulse control disorders.
  • Hypnotics: also known as sleep medications may be used for a short period to enhance sleep onset and quality of sleep.

Psychiatric medications can be an effective component of treatment for several psychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence. Results provided in the paper, The Role of Medication in Supporting Emotional Wellbeing in Young People with Long-Term Needs, that was published in Healthcare (an international, peer-reviewed, open access journal) indicate that the “emotional wellbeing among young people will be supported by the effective use of medication to alleviate symptoms of both physical and mental health conditions that might otherwise be seen as lifestyle-limiting.” When properly prescribed by a child and adolescent psychiatrist, pediatrician, or qualified physician trained in children’s mental health, and taken exactly as directed, medication may reduce or eliminate unwanted symptoms and improve the daily functioning of teens with mental health disorders.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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