An ADHD drug holiday might sound appealing for many reasons. Not taking medication every day can simplify your daily routine, you won’t have to worry about when and where to take it, and you can take a break from experiencing any side-effects. Most importantly, you will allow your body to rest so that you do not build up a tolerance.
On the other hand, taking an ADHD drug holiday might present several drawbacks. After all, you didn’t start taking your ADHD medication just because. ADHD medication plays an important role in managing ADHD symptoms, keeping you both focused and organized.
Ultimately, with weighing out the pros and cons, you might find many reasons both to take and not to take a break from medication. To know if an ADHD drug holiday might be right for you or your child, you need to be sure that you ask the right questions. In this article, we want to go through some of the issues that play an important part in making a good decision.
What is an ADHD drug holiday?
To get started off right we need to be certain that we understand what an ADHD drug holiday is. While an ADHD drug holiday sounds straightforward and easy, in reality, it’s more complex and fits within a medical treatment plan. Doctors refer to a drug holiday as a "structured treatment interruption."
To have a structured treatment interruption, you must make a conscious, determined decision to stop taking your medication for a set amount of time. An ADHD drug holiday does not include forgetting to take your medicine once or twice. Nor does it include letting your prescription lapse without a refill. Rather, just like the decision for taking medication in the first place, a holiday involves consultation and recommendation from a doctor.
The last point plays the most critical part. To have an actual ADHD drug holiday, you need to make the decision to go off your medication only after speaking with your doctor. Never make this decision without having your doctor on board with the decision.
What are some reasons to take an ADHD drug holiday?
The reasons for taking an ADHD drug holiday might vary widely from person to person and situation to situation. While it might not be possible to cover all the possible reasons, let’s look at a few of the most prominent.
1. Your symptoms are under control
One of the main reasons to take an ADHD drug holiday might begin with feeling good about your symptoms. We can manage ADHD symptoms in a variety of different ways, medication being just one option. Some other management strategies involve working on your physical activity, improving your diet, and taking supplements. We refer to any approach that involves multiple of these aspects as an ADHD comprehensive treatment plan.
Since medication oftentimes only plays one part in a larger plan, there might be instances in which you won’t need as much medication as you have had before. For instance, if your overall health has improved with diet and exercise, your mind might not need medication in the same way. As a result, you might want to take an ADHD drug holiday to test whether you can remove medication from your current treatment plan.
2. I don’t feel right while on the medication
Sometimes, people on ADHD medication just don’t feel like themselves while on the medication. This feeling of being off might come and go or occur daily. For kids especially this feeling might present itself regularly during the school day.
Wanting to feel more yourself might be one reason to want to take an ADHD drug holiday. A good idea of when to take the holiday might be when you don’t need to focus as much. For kids, this makes summer break an ideal time to try a break from medication. During summer break, your child can try not taking the medication for a while and see how the change affects their general feelings about themselves.
3. The side effects are too much
A final reason to try to take an ADHD drug holiday might be because the side effects have become too distracting. Any medication, including ADHD medication, comes with its own side effects. Depending on the person, these side effects came range from mild to extensive.
For ADHD medication, many people experience side effects ranging from insomnia to suppressed appetite. If these side effects become too much of a daily burden, an ADHD drug holiday might provide a brief reprieve. Again, you want to talk to your doctor about the symptoms and how they affect your daily life. Under your doctor’s supervision, you might try a holiday out to see what happens to the side effects from the medication.
What are the potential benefits of an ADHD drug holiday?
After you have identified your reasons, you next want to look at the potential benefits of an ADHD drug holiday. After all, a holiday should provide benefits, or why else take one? You wouldn’t take a holiday from work if it only made your life more stressful and complicated. Would you?
If you feel like you have your symptoms under control, going off your medication might provide a good perspective to judge whether you need medication still. If you have changed other areas of your life since being diagnosed, you might not need medication anymore. One of the potential benefits of an ADHD drug holiday could be that it shows you that you don’t need drugs to manage your symptoms.
Additionally, another potential benefit of a holiday might be to let your creativity flow. For many children or adults with ADHD, they might not have gone off their medication in quite some time. An ADHD drug holiday for a few weeks or months might allow you to see how you feel differently without the medication. It might provide you an opportunity to judge how the medicine affects your creativity or other personality traits.
What are the negatives of an ADHD drug holiday?
While there are benefits from taking an ADHD drug holiday, you should also be aware of some of the negatives. Doctors prescribe medication because medication provides benefits for managing symptoms. In removing medication, you run the risk of some of these symptoms returning or getting worse. For instance, if your child with ADHD struggles with emotional outbursts, these might get worse or intensify.
Additionally, going off ADHD medication for any amount of time might result in some withdrawal symptoms. The effects of the withdrawal might cause as many problems as the side effects while on the medication. Your body could react negatively to removing the medicine that it has grown accustomed to.
While there might be negatives to an ADHD drug holiday, again you want to talk to your doctor to judge whether the negatives might outweigh any potential benefits.
How to take an ADHD drug holiday?
Now that you have weighed the pros and cons of taking an ADHD drug holiday, you want to be sure you do it in the right way. To have the best holiday, you want to be certain that you have the right support and processes in place. Let’s look at some key elements of having the right structure for an ADHD drug holiday.
1. Take one only under consultation with your doctor
As we have already mentioned, we want to emphasize again that you should only take an ADHD drug holiday under the guidance of your doctor. Your doctor only has your best interest in mind. She knows your symptoms and overall health just as well, if not better, than you do.
You might feel like you need a break from drugs. Unfortunately, though, we can’t always trust how we feel. Many times, we need a second opinion or two. Make your doctor one of these opinions and trust their input to make sure your ADHD drug holiday doesn’t take a turn for the worse.
2. Watch your symptoms
Taking an ADHD drug holiday should be about your symptoms. A holiday gives you the opportunity to understand how well you have your symptoms under control. When taking a holiday, you want to pay most attention to symptoms, their intensity, and their frequency.
If it is yourself or your child taking the break, make a list or chart of when symptoms occur and rate their intensity. If you notice that the symptoms occur more frequently or start getting worse, you might want to end your holiday early. Again, your focus should be on effective management. If you find you need medication to manage your symptoms well, switch back to using the medication as soon as you can.
3. Maintain a routine and structure in your schedule
Just because you take a holiday from your medication doesn’t mean you should take a break from the rest of your routine. For those of us with ADHD, we know that routine and structure play important roles in keeping symptoms in check. When taking a break, you never want to remove all your management tasks at once. Rather only take a break from one thing at a time.
If taking an ADHD drug holiday, pay extra attention to sticking with your ADHD daily routine. Keeping the routine in place will better help you keep your symptoms on track. The routine will make sure that you can make the most of your drug holiday.
How to know if an ADHD drug holiday is right for me
Ultimately, when we get to the bottom of this, you just want to know whether or not an ADHD drug holiday might be right for you. Going through this post, you might already guess how we might respond: it’s complicated. To begin with, you should at least consider that an ADHD drug holiday might be a good option.
To move forward from there, we recommend taking an honest picture of the rest of your life, routine, and regimen. If you want to think about taking a break from medication, you need to make sure you have good processes and support in place in other areas of your life. If you don’t have these things in place, a drug holiday could be the worst thing you might do.
Alternatively, if you have a good support network and routine, an ADHD drug holiday might be just what the doctor ordered. We mean this quite literally. If you feel like you have reached a good place in your ADHD management, your doctor might recommend a brief break from medication to assess if you still need it. To find out for sure, talk to your doctor about your options.
An ADHD drug holiday doesn’t have to be a scary proposition. We hope this post has given you a good balance of both the potential positives and negatives. Take some time in making a decision. Judge if this might be right for you. If you see more positives than negatives, consider trying an ADHD drug holiday.