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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD Drug Holidays: Should Your Kid Get One?

Experts debate the pros and cons of giving kids a break from ADHD drugs.

Deciding on a Drug Holiday

Again, flexibility is important when discussing drug time-outs with the doctor, Wolraich says.

That conversation should happen at the time the child is diagnosed with ADHD and placed on medication.

"We have a discussion right from the beginning," Wolraich says. "I get a sense of the family's and patient's preference and we come to a decision about when they need meds. We'll review when children are having problems and need coverage, and weigh the benefits of covering those other times of the day.''

A good guide for deciding whether a drug holiday is OK is the subtype of ADHD the child has, and how well his environment is organized.

"With kids who don't have hyperactivity, parents will report it as mainly a problem in school and not at home, so they feel they don't have to cover periods after school or on weekends," Wolraich says.

If hyperactivity is part of your child's condition -- and it interferes with his relationships inside and outside the home -- the medication should probably be continued.

"It's not just symptoms, but to what extent they are causing dysfunction. You want to keep them successful in academic work or in their social and family life," Wolraich says.

That's far easier to do if the structure is in place at home, Wolraich says.

"If you have a parent who is good in terms of how they structure their home and their child's homework, there isn't as much of an issue of having medication all the time," he says. "If parents have a really good structure at home, it's compensating well for their child's deficit.''

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Reviewed on June 28, 2013

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