Is Summer Vacation a Good Time to Take a Vacation from ADHD Medication?

If you are parenting a child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may be wondering if the summer is a good time to take a break from ADHD medications.  Stimulants are commonly considered the treatment of choice for ADHD, and when combined with behavioral interventions and supports, can be highly effective in managing core ADHD symptoms.  Generally, stimulants are quick acting, there are minimal side effects, and there are no withdrawal symptoms, so starting and stopping the medication is not harmful.   By managing troubling symptoms, ADHD meds help children to navigate many situations and settings with greater confidence and success. During the school year, when the ability to pay attention, sustain focus and control impulses is necessary for academic and social success, the argument for taking ADHD medications is clear.    But are meds really necessary when school is out for the summer?   The decision to take a vacation from ADHD medication is a personal one, with compelling arguments on both sides of the issue. 

In making the decision to discontinue meds over the summer, it is important to consider your child’s symptoms and ability to function in a variety of settings with and without medication.  If hyperactivity is a significant issue that impairs your child’s relationships, then staying on the medication may be advisable.  Children who are participating in structured camp or recreational programs over the summer will be expected to stay on task, follow directions, and interact appropriately with peers.  Taking them off ADHD medication may be a set-up for frustration and failure.  Some professionals believe discontinuing medication can also cause a child to revert back to previous undesirable patterns of behavior, resulting in stress for both the child and the family.  This can be the case, even when the home environment is structured, the daily schedule is consistent, and parents are supportive and understanding,  

Many parents decide to reduce or discontinue their child’s ADHD medication over the summer, believing that it is detrimental for their child to take medication year round, or that controlling ADHD symptoms is only critical in the school setting.  Parents may also worry about over-medicating their child, or may be concerned that reliance on medication could prevent their child from learning and practicing important coping skills.  As a child matures and learns new ways of managing symptoms, it is possible that ADHD medication can be stopped or at least reduced.  Therefore, some physicians recommend taking an occasional break from these medications to determine if they are in fact still necessary.  Because ADHD medication can decrease appetite and affect sleeping patterns, taking a break for the summer would also temporarily eliminate these concerns.  This may be particularly important for children who are lagging behind in height and weight and could benefit from some catch up time.    

The decision to discontinue ADHD medication over the summer depends on a number of factors including the individual child, his/her core symptoms, the family environment, and the types of activities planned for the summer months.  Before making a decision, it is advisable to consult with your child’s doctor.   Every child is different, and there is no “right” or “wrong” answer.        

If you have struggled with this decision, or have advice to share, we want to hear from you!   

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