ADHD and holiday medication

Giving holiday medication to my ADHDer

Over and above the debate about whether or not to medicate a diagnosed ADHDer, this is possibly the next most contentious issue- with parents and professionals differing in opinion.

Many parents are told by their child’s doctor- if they decide to medicate their ADHDer with stimulant medication- that it is okay to stop meds over weekends and during school holidays. Contrary to popular belief, the main reason this practice was even started was because one of the side effects of stimulant meds is a suppressed appetite, and sometimes these kids battle to pick up weight. The idea of “meds holidays” was a way to let the child gain some of his or her appetite whilst off his medication.

Here’s why I don’t agree with taking a break

Medicating an ADHDer aids him in quieting his brain so that he can take in what he’s hearing in any given situation. It aids him in not getting out of his seat or calling out in class without realising he’s doing it. The right dosage of the right meds can do wonders for an ADHDer at school.

But that’s not all.

Having a less rushed, more organised thought process allows an ADHDer to learn from social cues as well. When he can focus, he can pay attention to you as his parent when you are trying to teach him a life lesson like not interrupting an adult conversation, or waiting his turn for the swings in the park.

When he can focus properly on what is going on around him, he will most likely take a bath, try to tidy his room, or get ready to go out for a visit almost when you ask him to.

If like my son Damien, your ADHDer has ADHD combined type- inattention and hyperactivity- then every single aspect of his life is affected by his disorder and he will need full time treatment. Why risk subjecting him to possible ridicule or let his self-esteem take a hammering in social situations? Look back a little on your own experiences as a parent to your ADHDer. When you do not medicate him, and you spend time with friends and family on weekends and during holidays, does your ADHD child have any fun? Do you? Are you constantly asking him to sit still, to talk softer, to eat “nicely”, not to shout, not to climb on granny, to get off the table…?

That said, if your ADHDer only battles with concentration but not with hyperactivity and his biggest issues are school related, then perhaps a medication break or a reduced dose over weekends will not have as big an impact as on a hyperactive ADHDer.

I do suggest that you take into account your child’s own history, personality and behaviour before deciding to stop his medication entirely, simply because the doctor said you can or because your child isn’t going to school that day.

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Angel Swemmer

Angel Swemmer

Angel Swemmer, a  mom to a teenage-almost-adult ADHDer and what I write is purely my opinion on things I feel strongly about, based on my experience as an ADHDer parent.

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9 Responses

  1. Interesting
    Sometimes we have no choice when Liam gos to his father/s they dont medicate him.
    Not proper in my opinion as he has that “deer in the headlights” look when he returns

  2. Ah yes, I didn’t even touch on the weekend parenting issue.
    It makes me rather sad when other people in an ADHDers care structure don’t take the child’s best interests to heart.

  3. From what I understand certain medication also has a “cumulative” effect, so by not medicating you almost have to start all over again. This can only be disruptive to the child. I’m not concerned about the parents, it is the child’s needs and what is best for them that is my concern. I’d medicate through the holidays to ensure my child isn’t needlessly affected and can lead a “normal” life all the time. It is selfish of “weekend parents” not to medicate in my opinion.

  4. Sharon – thats right. The meds that need to build up in the system are non-stimulant meds, which I didn’t even mention here. A doctor should certainly not be telling a parent that its okay to take a break from those.
    Like most anti-depressants for example, the non-stimulant ADHD meds cannot be stopped or have their dosage altered according to circumstances.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. My DH and I have been discussing this very issue over the past few months and definitely want to medicate him on weekends and in the holidays as well. Our Psych is not happy with it at all. She feels that we must rather try a smaller dosage and only when we are going out, say to a party or to church just to tide him over for an hour or 2. Thing is, he doesn’t suffer any real side effects aside from the loss of appetite. We have found ways to work around this and see that he gets a really good breakfast. We also give him a shake during the day (one with loads of nutrients and stuff) and we insist that he at least snack on some fruit and yoghurts etc.
    I am going to show my DH this article and we are going to do this. Thank you for putting it into perspective. We really battled to articulate this to our Psych and I’m thinking that maybe this is why she wasn’t completely ok with us doing this.

    1. Julia- there are many many “professionals” who suggest it, and I honestly believe its because they know how to prescribe dosages but have not done enough research into treating AD/HD as a whole.

      Brigitte- so with you on the quality of life for myself! I am far from patient or organised, so our relationship really suffered when I forgot to give Damien his meds.

      Lindy- Exactly!

      Chantel- there’s no doubt the meds is expensive, and if yours is anything like mine then your medical aid starts running out in July or August already! I have heard of the doctors trying to aid in costs and I appreciate the sentiment. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  6. I don’t stop with Donny’s meds over holidays or weekends. His quality of life is so much better when he is on his meds – and so is mine. LOL!
    I feel it’s almost unfair to not medicate constantly because of the difference they feel when they are on meds and when they are not. And also it makes them realise that it’s not something they can just stop taking “just because”.
    Good article, something that needs to highlighted for LOTS of parents. It’s best to medicate than to not medicate.

  7. I agree with you, I do not let Matt take a break from his meds because it does improve his quality of life too, His relationship with his sister is better, even with friends, he is not overly sensitive and is able to be on the same level as the others. I honestly believe that parents who give breaks for meds do not fully understand what they are doing to the kids, its like any other med, which no break is taken, so why just because we can not see the actual ailment/problem (for what of a better word) should be do that. Its crazy, I am glad that you have written this article perhaps some parents will read it and understand that its not just what doctors say – but actually its parents who know and who live with these children and we can see the positive difference in giving meds on a daily basis with no breaks in between.

  8. Hi. My “ADHD doctor” also advised to stop or reduce meds over holidays and week-ends. His reason is very understanding … to reduce the cost of the meds. After a discussion at my daughters schools’ ADHD support group, I realised that I may be saving a little money on meds, but at what price emotionally? Not just for my ADHD daughter, but also for the rest of the household! I totally agree to keep the medication constant. It gives extra stability to all involved, especially the ADHDer. Thanks Angel for your advice and support. Chantel

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