13 Tips for Parenting a Teen with ADHD

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

ADHD teens, alcohol, and drugs

Alcohol and drug usage is a frequent topic among teens. The inclination toward experimentation and testing boundaries, a sense of invincibility and immortality, and poor judgment regarding long-term consequences for their actions provide the "perfect storm" for many teens. An adolescent burdened with uncontrolled ADHD is a setup for disaster. Parental expectations -- specifically enumerated -- provide a necessary foundation. No alcohol or drug use is to be tolerated. No attendance at parties where alcohol is consumed is acceptable, even if adult supervision is anticipated. Monitor alcohol types and quantities at home. Know your teen's friends and never hesitate to call their parents if you are concerned regarding unusual or suspicious behaviors. Watch for signs and symptoms of alcohol/drug use: unusual redness in the whites of their eyes; characteristic breath odor or frequent use of breath mints or mouthwash (which may itself contain alcohol); changes in personality (for example, emotional lability, moodiness, etc.); or deterioration academically. Don't hesitate to monitor your adolescent's activities and expect resistance. Be strong; it's your job.

Alcohol use by children

Below is a current survey of American children and alcohol usage. The message is alarming.

12th Grade

  • 75% admit to having at least one complete drink
  • 40% admit to having drunk alcohol within the last 30 days of the study
  • 3% admit to daily alcohol consumption
  • 30% admit to heavy drinking

10th Grade

  • 58% admit to having a least one complete drink
  • 22% admit to heavy drinking
  • 37% admit to being drunk at least once

8th Grade

  • 36% admit to having a least one complete drink
  • 12% admit to heavy drinking
  • 16% admit to being drunk at least once

Starting to drink at less than 15 years of age is associated with a four times higher likelihood of developing alcohol dependency and a two times higher likelihood of abusing alcohol than starting to drink at 21 years of age or older.

A "complete drink" is defined as 12-14 oz. of beer or 6 oz. wine or a 1.5 oz. shot of distilled spirits (for example, rum).

"Heavy drinking" is defined as consuming five or more drinks in a row during one episode of alcohol consumption.


Adger, H. Jr. and S. Saha. "Alcohol use disorders in adolescents." Pediatrics in Review 34.3 (2013): 103-114.

"Adolescent and School Health: Alcohol & Other Drug Use." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 7 June 2012.

"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Facts About ADHD." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 25 May 2010.

"Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Data & Statistics." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 12 Dec. 2011.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/2/2016
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