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Parents of ADHD Teens and Young Adults

16 Year Old Boy Out of Control

I’ve personally always been averse to labels, even the ADD label.  I know that my boy has my brain.  My life is full of post-it notes and unfinished projects, but as an adult, I’ve mostly figured out ways to manage myself, including the use of great quantities of caffeine.  It seemed to me that most people can ‘figure it out’ as I have done.  Well, earlier this year he tried some adderall given to him by a friend and felt wonderful enough to ask me if I would take him to the dr. to see about getting some.  He’s struggled his fair amount in school, largely due to his visual learning style and incredible lack of organization.  He has tested as a highly gifted student, but you would never know it by his school performance. 
So off we went to the doc and psychologist who promptly identified him as ADD Inattentive. 

He was started on Vyvance as the doc felt good about its sustained effects as opposed to Adderall.  We saw some real positive differences in his behavior, but he had the unfortunate side effect of Peripheral vasculopathy, basically a lack of circulation to his hands and sometimes feet. 

About 3.5 months he started taking Straterra 25mg once daily and moved up to 60mg where he’s been for about 3 months.

We haven’t really seen any positive change in him on the Straterra, and in fact his life has been on a downward spiral since April, when he was busted with marijuana.  At court in May, he was put on probation and has since been ticketed two additional times for possession and/or minor under the influence of drug and alcohol.  He has become increasingly dark and angry.  Has simply stopped going to his job without outright quitting.  His involvement in his one remaining pro-social activity at school, the vocal music department, seems to also be coming to its end. 

I will also say that although this current behavior is unlike any we have seen in him before, he has, in fact, been in trouble previously with some possession, but he seemed to want to get past it and make things right in his life.  This time, he seems to just not care.  It’s as if he thinks he’s in so deep that nothing he does or doesn’t do will really matter.

At this point every time the phone rings or the doorbell rings we get a pit in our gut because it’s as likely as not to be law enforcement or the school with news of a new situation. 
When I say this kid has become reckless, it is an understatement.  He has always been a risk-taker, but it has gotten to the point that he is willing to walk directly into the fire and dares the universe to set him aflame.  No matter how many times he is caught or what consequences happen or are threatened, he continues on this path. 

We’re desperately searching for the reason our once incredibly happy, life-loving kid has turned into this reckless, self-destructive person. Our daily goal has become to simply keep from blowing up his life.  I want it NOT to be that he has just become ‘this person’ and that there is no way to change him.  So we’ve become really open-minded in our search for understanding.

It occurred to me this morning:  Is it possible that this extreme erratic behavior is a side effect of the Straterra?  The timing certainly fits. does list a side effect that talks about mania, grandiosity, aggression and hostility.

So with all of this back story, my question to anyone is:  Have you ever heard of or had experience with this type of behavior on Straterra?


Of course, if the Straterra isn’t working - take him off it. IMHO.

But…we went through this ourselves with our son and he was on Lexipro and Focalin when this all started.  My boss also went through this with her 16/17 year old ADD son.  I could spew a bunch of theories, but it doesn’t help.  The question is what do you do? 

In our case - we took a parenting class that essentially taught us to get out of his way of failing.  That no matter how painful it was, we had to quit coddling and protecting and let him learn through his own mistakes.  And thus…he burned down the graduation stage the night before his own high school graduation doing nearly $150K worth of damage with another young man already on probation.  It was a completely impulsive act and he spent time in jail and home monitoring reqreting and reflecting.  And it was hard for us and he is a changed guy now - 3 months later.  He starts Junior college tomorrow, is back to church, and reconnecting with this sports-team friends.

In my boss’ case, she moved him to another high school and got him focused on getting into the military.  they had a rough spring of heaving drugging and drinking, and the summer started off that way too.  Then he was found passed out in a gutter and his mom had to pick him up at the hospital.  4 weeks later - clean and sober - he passed the early entry medical test and started his senior year at a new high school. And he likes it.

I am so sorry you have to go through this.  I rejected this advice for about 2 years, but until I let him fail on his own terms - he wouldn’t change. 

Please find a parenting group - most drug rehab places have them.  And a loving community to help you.  I feel so bad for you.  Peace.

Posted by ymasnave on Aug 25, 2014 at 1:18am

You are showing incredible will and courage. Being open minded and alert to possible solutions is the best strategy. I totally agree with ymasnave as to strategy.

Posted by John Tucker, PhD, ACG. ADHD Coach on Aug 25, 2014 at 1:33am

Wow, ymasnave, you have obviously traveled this road, so I take your words to heart.  We have attempted the hands off approach, thinking that SOMETHING will eventually scare him enough to make him quit this nonsense.  And then when the next terrible incident occurs, we step back in and try to enforce a ‘shut down’.  Currently, he is now 2 weeks without his phone or vehicle.  This, of course, has only made him more angry and dark.  The probation officer tells us to tell him whenever he breaks curfew, etc., and I don’t do it on a daily basis, but I have informed him that, in general, is does not follow rules.  He appears to have decided not to be parented.  Period.  You may very well be correct that we need to let him do what we are so afraid of - blow up his life.  But omgosh, that is so incredibly difficult to do.  I thank you for taking the time to read and respond :o) Wish the best for your son and family on your renewed journey!

Posted by baylakates on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:43am

And Dr. Tucker, do you have any thoughts on the Straterra as a possilbe factor in any of this?

Posted by baylakates on Aug 25, 2014 at 2:47am

I have been through all of this with my gifted 19 year old son. My son took Strattera briefly at age 9 and it made him very sleepy, morose and defiant. Only stimulants have helped him with ADHD. We had a bad experience with Vyvanse also. Focalin has worked the best for my son, but not is he is smoking marijuana daily. I don’t know if Strattera is the culprit, most likely not. It is probably the illegal drugs! That being said, who knows what the drug interactions are with Strattera, but if it is not helping, take him off it! The marijuana today is very potent and can cause a lot more damage than people realize. My son did a total crash and burn beginning about age 17. He barely graduated from high school and flunked out of college. Went into a deep depression, attempted suicide, etc. We were referred to an Educational Consultant and he convinced my son to go into drug rehab in another state. Through all of this we found out that he was doing a lot more drugs than we realized and that had a significant effect on the effectiveness of his prescribed drug treatment - anti-depressant and ADHD med. He is currently finishing up his primary drug rehab program and will be moving to an aftercare program. During treatment he was found to have developed a drug induced psychosis that we hope will go away the longer he stays off drugs. It is very frightening. The whole thing has been very costly, but if it works, it will be worth it to save our son from a life on the street or suicide. At age 16, you can put him in a treatment program, even if he refuses. We made the mistake of waiting until after our son turned 18, when he has to agree to treatment. If you have insurance, hopefully they will pay for some, but likely not all of drug rehab. Most will only cover a month or less. From my research, the longer you can keep them in a program, the better. They need a least a year of sobriety for their brain to heal from the damage done by illegal drugs.

Posted by artistmom on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:17am

It definitely could be the Straterra. It has some significant side-effect warnings. My son is super-sensitive to medications and I have seen this type of reaction first-hand (my son is 11, but the symptoms were similar.

I encourage you to talk with the prescribing doctor about taking him off Straterra and trying something else. Once he tapers down and has had a few weeks off of it, you’ll know if the Straterra was escalating his behavior. Then you will be better informed to make new treatment decisions. As bad as it was that he took another kid’s prescription medication, if he has seen that Adderall works well for him, push the doctor to try that next, or a stimulant in the Ritalin class (

It is very possible he’s having a very rare adverse reaction to medication—push the doctor to consider that. 

ADDconnect Moderator, Author & Mom to Tween Boy with ADHD and LDs

Posted by adhdmomma on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:04pm

It’s definitely worth a shot of taking your son off of Strattera.  I also saw a similar reaction with my son. My once hyper son suddenly became lethargic, aggressive at school and weepy.  It was awful to watch. The Strattera worked for several years, but honestly, when we took him off, I didn’t say anything to the teachers and nobody noticed.  It appears that it stopped working the right way and I didn’t notice. My son had almost an immediate change once he stopped taking the medication. It was a really scary time.

Posted by Nemo on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:59pm

To Baylakates-It makes me so sad to read your story.  If your son said that adderall made him feel good, why not try it?  I do agree with another post-if the medication is not working, get off it!  We need to remember that science is an experiment and we will have to try different medications at different doses until one is found to be as effective as possible without many and/or major side effects.  The doctors work for us, if your son has tried something and he felt good about it-find a doctor who will prescribe it to him.  We also tried Strattera, which is a non-stimulant medication-bad news for us. Our son ‘G’, slept all day when we were trying it out.  We now know that G needs a stimulant medication. Currently Vyvanse works for G with least amount of side effects. The only effect we’ve noticed is the lack of growth. He also takes Cyproheptadine, an allergy medication. The side effect of this medication is hunger.

As for your son, get him help now! Don’t let him tell you otherwise. I’ve had to learn the hard way with our other son, ‘J’. J is very smart, played the guitar by sound-didn’t read music. He could listen to a song on the radio and just start playing it. J has also been under the indirect watch of the courts since he was 16.  Tried many different drugs. Knowing what I know now, I think ‘J’ may have undiagnosed ADD.  But now J is an adult and has to make his own choices in regards to his health. The one thing he did agree on was getting help for his drug addiction.  J also had many tickets for curfew, speeding-now has no license-and other charges. One charge is a felony-possesion of heroin- and he is having a hard time finding work. J is on probation till 2016-and has been off and on.  He doesn’t act like a young man, more like his teens. I ‘m sure all the drugs have damaged his brain in some way.

Take advantage of your son’s age (if he is under 18) and call the shots for him. Once he turns 18, he gets what he gets.  Get second opinions and get third opinions until you both get the results you want.  And keep researching-the more you know, the better you will be able to help your son.

Posted by pricemama on Aug 25, 2014 at 4:56pm

This is very similar to what we are going through with our 15 year old son.  He also is extremely smart but so unorganized and unfocused he struggles with academics.  In 7th grade we finally saw a psychologist and started him on Vyvance.  He is extremely impulsive and always has been but was always so happy and full of life!  The Vyvance helped tremendously the next year and he did great in school and a lot of the hyperactive behaviors teachers saw in the past were gone.  He also tried marijuana that year and we grounded him for a long time.  He seemed to get it together and being doing well.  Then freshman year of high school comes around and everything seemed to spiral out of control.  He got caught lying, stealing, smoking pot again and giving or selling his vyvance.  Again we grounded him and started drug testing him and he seemed to be OK with it.  Unfortunately during that time his resentment towards us built to a point where he just doesn’t seem to care.  The defiant, sneaky behavior continued and it seemed nothing in our house (medicines, siblings stuff, money) was safe from him and he didn’t seem to care or realize the consequence of getting caught.  I started to become overwhelmed with fear he has a drug problem and trying to figure out how to parent him was causing serious conflict in our home.  We started counseling first just my husband and I and then with him.  We got him on some behavior contracts that seemed to help but things still continue to come up.  He is not doing well in school and doesn’t seem all that concerned although I know it really stresses him out.  He always seems angry and the smallest thing can cause a “tantrum”.  I am completely at my wits end with him and don’t know what else to do.  He isn’t taking his meds anymore and I am honestly torn because I worry they sent him down this path of drugs but everything I read says it will help keep them off drugs.  It is an unbelievably sad, painful process to go through with a child.  I feel helpless and like I just don’t know what to do to help him.  The more I try to help him the more defiant he becomes. I feel like I don’t even know him anymore and he can not be trusted at all.

Posted by mom39 on Sep 04, 2014 at 7:23pm

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