ADHD Drug Holidays: Should Your Kid Take One?
Deciding on a Drug Holiday
You should talk with your child’s doctor about drug holidays when your child is put on ADHD 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.''
The type of ADHD your child has, and how well his environment is organized, needs to be factored into your decision.
"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.
A well-organized home life can help keep a child on track, even when he isn’t on medication. "If parents have a really good structure at home, it's compensating well for their child's deficit,'' Wolraich says.
Will Your Child Need to Take ADHD Drugs Forever?
Maybe not. Another virtue of taking a break from meds is to see if a drug -- or the same dosage -- is needed, Vitiello says.
"ADHD is a developmental condition that oftentimes persists, but not necessarily; symptoms of hyperactivity, especially, tend to decline with time," he says. "I don't know how often it happens clinically, but it happens that children may really need the medication through a certain period of development, and after that they're more able to control themselves and need less of medication or none at all.''
It’s also important to recognize that a child’s environment changes as he grows up. Symptoms that may cause problems in elementary or middle school may be managed differently in college or at a job.