Getting Kids to Take Their ADHD Medication

A teen taking her medicine.

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Since many kids can't begin to swallow pills or capsules until they are about 10 years old, or simply refuse to take pills, it can sometimes be difficult to get a child with ADHD to take their medicine. Unless your child is taking Concerta, which can't be opened or split because of its special delivery method, there are some tips that will make it easier.

How to Get Kids to Take ADHD Medicine

Talk to your pediatrician if your child has been taking their medicine for a while and is now refusing. That is a separate issue from a newly diagnosed child who is simply having a hard time taking pills.

Here are some tips that work for many parents of children with ADHD who have trouble swallowing pills:

  • Ask your pediatrician for an ADHD medication that can be opened and sprinkled on applesauce or another food, such as Adderall XR, Focalin XR, Ritalin LA, and Qelbree. Vyvanse, a once-daily ADHD medicine, can even be sprinkled in water.
  • Consider getting a prescription for Quillivant XR, a long-acting form of Ritalin, which is available as a liquid that your child can just drink. ProCentra, a short-acting liquid form of Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine sulfate), is also available.
  • Consider Daytrana, a Ritalin patch, which can be a good option for kids who can't swallow pills.
  • See if your pharmacist has a recipe to turn the pill into a liquid. Some people are already doing this with Strattera, but you will likely have to go to a compounding pharmacy to get it done.
  • Consider an orally disintegrating tablet (ODT) such as Adzenys XR-ODT (amphetamine) or Evekeo-ODT (amphetamine sulfate), which can be placed on the tongue and dissolved.
  • Consider a chewable medication such as QuilliChew (methylphenidate hydrochloride).

Certain medications should not be crushed or opened, and in fact, doing so can be dangerous. If you're not sure if your child's medication can be taken this way, consult your doctor.

How to Help a Child Swallow Pills

Of course, you could always teach your child to swallow pills, which is not always as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few ideas you could try that will help your child learn:

  • Have your child drink through a straw while the pill is in their mouth. With this method, many kids concentrate on the straw and don't think about the pill, so it goes down easily.
  • Put a spoonful of applesauce, yogurt, or pudding in their mouth along with the pill and then have them swallow it all together.
  • Have your child chew on a piece of bread or a cookie and then put the pill in their mouth just before they would swallow it.
  • Put the pill under your child's tongue and then have them drink a glass of water.
  • Have your child practice swallowing smaller things first before moving on to a pill.
  • Put the pill on your child's tongue and then have them fill their mouth with water so that their cheeks are full and puff out. Then have them swish it all around and then swallow it.

Keep in mind that some kids are very resistant to swallowing pills and don't learn until they are teens. Others get tired of all of the workarounds they have to do to take their ADHD medicines and learn to swallow pills fairly early.

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9 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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