Help Your Teen Comply with Medication Regimens


Handfull of pills Teenagers are a wondrous species:

  • They are smart and funny, part child and part grown up.
  • They are trying to pull away from parents, but very dependent on their peers.
  • There is peer pressure to engage in risky behavior.

As a result, adolescents are at risk for injury and health problems. And for teens with chronic disease (some examples might be: asthma, transplants, cystic fibrosis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) who want to be responsible for their own health, there is an even greater danger.

The latest research on teenagers with chronic diseases and medication and treatment compliance indicates that, unfortunately, teens are less adherent than children when it comes to taking their medications for chronic diseases, especially when their medication regimens can be complicated and time-consuming. My goal with this post is to help you keep your teenager out of the hospital due to medication non-compliance.

Reasons for Low Medication Compliance in Adolescents

Teen boy using an inhaler First, you’ll want to know the real reasons that may be keeping your teen from complying with their medication regimens:

  1. They may not understand the reason for all the medications.
  2. They don’t want to be different from their friends. Some may even be teased or bullied.
  3. They may feel isolated (e.g. low blood counts may prevent them from hanging out with friends or asthma may keep them from participating in sporting activities).
  4. Some have low self-esteem and may be suffering depression or anxiety over their health.
  5. They may also feel like their health is  unpredictable and frightening and that they are expected to be able to handle the stress and “know better.”

All of these things can contribute to a teenager not taking medications or treatments and having a hospitalization that is avoidable.

Helping Teens Cope and Comply

The good thing about the research is that I've also been able to read about strategies which have been effective in helping teenagers cope and comply with their treatments.

Teenagers need individualized education to understand their diseases and medications, why they are necessary and when to take them.

  • Make sure your teenager understands each medication and what it does for their health and their body.
  • Next time you are at the doctor’s office, ask for individualized instruction for things like blood glucose checks, albuterol inhalers and, of course, medications.

Social Support
Social support is key for adolescents. They feel better when they can share with others who have the same conditions. Many parents have concerns about Facebook and social networking, but when teens feel isolated, Facebook could be the best medicine. If they can’t find a social network that fits their needs, encourage them to start a group. You may see your teen receiving moral support from peers and providing it for others as well. Teen Girl Texting

Support from Mom and Dad
Try using tools your kids already use, such as text messaging, to send supportive reminders. Also, be realistic about compliance and monitor it in a non-judgmental way. Even though your teen wants to be independent, recognize that being a teenager makes non-compliance very likely. So, don’t leave it all up to them.

What Works in Your Family?

Do you have a special system that works in your family? If so share it here so others can benefits, especially teens.