ADHD Medication – Safe Storage
This post is sponsored by Adlon Therapeutics L.P, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma L.P. Personal opinions expressed within this post are my own.
Who is ready for our students to get back to a normal academic and social life?
The pandemic has brought us closer as a family so much that I am NOT feeling a huge need to take our annual family vacation. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with my family and making memories together. Still, after over a year of eating, breathing, and working together, we have had a lot of time to get really close and make memories! My overtired and somewhat irritable mind is fantasizing about me, alone, at a resort that serves my favorite food and drinks while cleaning up after MY messes!
As a parent of a soon-to-be college student, I struggle with the mix of my lingering unabashed mother patrol. My intentions are purely to install good work and cleanliness values, but they are often in conflict with the desire for me to “let go.”
Some of the joys of trying life out on their own have been delayed. They are over-eager to get back to what they envision life to be like for them. For my daughter, it is an independent young adult ready to take the world on and prove that my over-bearing parenting worries are all false. I am feeling the time has come to let her try it out.
I am ready for this new chapter too. I can envision myself sipping fresh fruit drinks at the pool as my young adult happily departs home to chart her own course in life. But I have that deep feeling in my gut to give just a little more parenting around how to manage life responsibly.
Some may say I am overreacting. When ADHD runs in your family the way it does in mine, this is not going overboard. You get used to a predictably unpredictable life of happenings due to a family history of impulsive decision making. This is when I think of an exit plan just in case, I have to dash back from my dreamy solo vacation to intervene. Or at least have a solid phone connection. Those without an impulsive streak in their genetics would think that my thought patterns were absurd and co-dependent but believe me….I do not seek any pleasure in this!
So, how does one help their exuberant college student who cannot wait to escape the shackles of parental oversight help them enjoy the new freedom while using good decision-making choices?
In a perfect world, I see this transition to take responsibility for their life as a right of passage with me waving good-bye with joyful tears in my eyes.
Then I get a second vision where the joyful tears turn to joy FEAR tears.
I read books about the desire for a child to exert self-management skills as early as 3 years old when they say “NO! I do it myself!” This was cute back then, and I remember chuckling and marveling at the fact that my daughter “COULD” dress, brush her own teeth and buckle herself in the car seat. The outcome was not perfect, and I often jumped in candidly to assist, hoping she didn’t notice my takeover.
Now, at 18, she is really ready to exert freedom and self-management skills as an adult. I have to face the reality of my inability to fix things. I had to let go and hope that the years of parenting had some effect on developing a capable young adult who could make good decisions.
This is a mild concern for the neuro-typical kid as I have witnessed from being around moms throughout the years. For the student with ADHD, the only way I can think to describe it is using this metaphor:
Freedom is a dog without a leash
Think of a dog who is always leashed up. The owner can quickly correct the behavior by redirecting them. They are picture-perfect while walking with their owner. People may even comment on what a well-behaved dog you have trained. You take great pride in those comments, yet secretly you know if they were off the leash, the people would be running away from you, fearing for their lives. Not that your dog is mean or vicious. It just has an exuberant amount of energy and loves to interact with people. This leads to them forgetting the social norms you taught them about not getting in peoples’ faces, where and when to do their business, what they can run after and what to leave behind.
Basically, they forget all the rules you taught them in a flash of a second.
This is how I felt the day I dropped off my daughter to the dorms of her freshman year of college.
She was like a dog off her leash for the first time – despite all the trial runs we had practiced for years in advance. I just had the feeling her impulsive behavior would take over!
The fear was deep-rooted in many stories over the years. One of my concerns was her medication and the unbridled opportunity for misuse. I was hoping she had learned a lesson about the dangers of medicines from an incident back when she was 10 years old and was exerting independence and self-management.
I had to learn the hard way about safe storage of ANY type of medication. That toddler who said, “mommy, I do it myself,” continued to develop her independence skills year after year. The problem was, she didn’t always think through the outcome of her actions or consider all the factors it takes to make decisions.
She was competent, and that was the problem.
She had so much confidence in her ability to make decisions, nothing was off-limits.
I used to say she would do EVERYTHING once.
She learned from her mistakes experientially and did not have the type of wiring to think abstractly through her actions. This kept me on my toes as a parent for the most part. I had a real awakening the day the first time I left her alone. I took a quick 15-minute trip to fetch her younger sister from a dance class while she was watching her favorite show.
What could go wrong?
Well, I found out after interrogating her for hours after the incident what went wrong. The fast-acting and impulsive mind took over. Within minutes of me being gone, she noticed that she had a headache. She went to my medicine cabinet and found my aspirin. She never read the label, but decided she needed a few since her headache was bad. She logically followed the routine I did when she was not well. The problem was that she wasn’t using children’s medicine, instead, she grabbed my adult extra strength. I had no idea exactly how many she took because she became so frightened by my actions of calling poison control. I feared she took more than “a few” because the headache wasn’t going away. After watching every breath for the next few hours, I realized that she was fine, luckily. I still get that panicky feeling today reminiscing about that incident.
Adding to what some may call loosely parent PTSD is another incident to set the stage for my fears that day.
The very day she got her driver’s license, she immediately backed into a person behind her at the gas station because they had blocked her in. Yes, she did driver’s safety, driver education, practiced, practiced and practiced. But somehow, we missed that if you get blocked in at the gas station, don’t try to get out of the lineup; even if you are going to be late. Like I said, I had come to terms that she was the one that would do everything once!
It was exhausting as a parent.
I was SOOOO looking forward to the day she was 18 and going to college and yet had that visualization of the dog at the park off-leash for the first time!
Now off to college with her prescription medication in hand. I had a whole new worry.
How would I guide her on her own to navigate these things with the same level of vigilance I gave it?
I thought I had to create a sense of value for her medication safety the way she values her money stashes and cell phone. I approached the subject with a prelude of all valuable things to her: her cell phone, debit cards, computer. Would she allow a friend to borrow any of these things? We ran down the reasons she did not want to “loan out” her items and how to keep the things safe when she couldn’t carry them with her. We had good traction and then came my interjection of how she valued her medication. Surprisingly, it went well! The timing was good and I had segued into this topic smoothly: a win.
We even laughed about her headache story and how scary it was for me and how she would not want to experience that as an adult. So, I felt the timing was right and asked if she could see her medication as valuable and sacred to keep it safe with the other things. We found humor as we talked through the seriousness of her prescription medication. We used a creative analogy of how wonderful it would be to develop a Pez candy dispenser for her medication that had a code she only knew. We came up with a more realistic plan to buy a safe to keep in her room where she could keep all her things secure.
This empowered her to start her true “adulting” behavior. What followed was a conversation that led to a review of tips for keeping her medication safe.
Here are the points we talked about to be an enlightened medical consumer and be “SPAFE” (slang for Especially safe)
Create a daily ritual
build the habit –more likely to follow through
Feeling a “laze-day?” DON’T
Just snap the cap and play it safe
Spin the dial
Lock it up in the SPAFE place
When it goes south
In the unfortunate event the SPAFE place was violated.
Know the count:
If you have a plan with your daily pills, this should be easy
Brave the ask
While hard to confront, ask if you suspect someone did it.
Have a Say
Know what you will say if you are asked – here is a video for ideas
It took quite a bit of energy to create a situation for a conversation like this to happen without the typical family triggers. The effort was well worth it to help ease my fears of the dog off the leash scenario happening given her past history.
Creating a relatable situation that she could truly identify with set the groundwork for this to be successful. My tip for you beyond the ones above is this: Find that sacred thing your son or daughter values so much that they put as their highest priority in any given moment. Use it in developing a strong analogy that will truly stick with them well after you leave them on their own.
For more parent tips and advice check out this link
Michelle R. Raz, M.A. Ed., is a professional executive function coach and educational consultant. She specializes in helping people with executive function challenges associated with ADHD be the best version of themselves in their academic and career journeys.