Parents of kids on stimulant medication for ADHD frequently ask if their kids should take a summertime “drug holiday.”
A planned, brief medication stoppage is referred to as a “drug holiday” or “structured treatment interruption” by medical professionals. During the summer or long holidays, parents who are concerned about side effects often take advantage of the fact that children with ADHD don’t have to perform academically, and they can stop their usual Ritalin or Adderall regimen.
Some parents are averse to the disruption because they think their kids’ behavioral issues may resurface and become too much to manage. A doctor may occasionally recommend a drug break to assess a child’s development and decide whether medication treatment is still necessary.
Medications provide assistance to children beyond the confines of the classroom as well
Children with ADHD who adhere to their treatment program year-round achieve better results than those who experience interruptions, according to data. Child and adolescent psychiatrist Alan Ravitz, MD, advises against drug holidays unless there is a compelling reason for them. This is due to the misconception that ADHD just impacts a person’s academic achievement.
According to Dr. Ravitz, children receiving treatment for ADHD perform better outside of the classroom as well. “Managing behavior in a variety of different circumstances is the focus of medication.” During the summer, children still need to get along with family and friends and participate in group activities like sports and day camp since their social behavior and emotions are still growing.
A woman shares the tale of how her son’s baseball coach begged her to resume his medication because it had a significant impact on his performance.
She returned her son’s Ritalin to him after realizing how much satisfaction and self-worth came from playing the game well.
A respite from adverse consequences
Another issue is that there is proof that stimulant prescription use can impact a child’s physical development, an effect that parents hope a summer drug sabbatical will lessen. In the past ten years, a number of studies have demonstrated that children who have been on medicine for as little as three years can fall behind their peers by up to six pounds and an inch in height.
However, another study conducted last year revealed that there were no differences in height or weight between children who took stimulant drugs and those who did not in adults who were tracked for ten years.
The “delay tends to be most prominent in the first year or so and tends to attenuate over time,” according to research findings.
Due to the drug’s ability to suppress appetite, weight loss is sometimes the most obvious and worrying change in some children. Dr. Ravitz says it might be time to stop the medicine if children are eating far too little and it starts to become problematic.
In general, a parent ought to think about how their child’s wellbeing will be impacted by a drug holiday. The biggest arguments for continuing medication are typically made for hyperactive or mixed forms of ADHD, as the behavioral issues that arise from stopping medication can make a vacation unpleasant and ineffective.
Conversely, inattentive forms of ADHD show fewer behavioral issues. “I don’t make a big case for taking meds all the time if there are no behavioral problems, even though there is scientific data suggesting those kids do better taking meds 365 days a year,” Dr. Ravitz adds.
Since social development and academic performance are impacted by ADHD, it is prudent to follow the recommended treatment plan without altering it. Ultimately, choices on this matter should come from a discussion between the family and the healthcare provider; there are no hard and fast rules. Dr. Ravitz states, “I would rather maintain the treatment alliance than take a position of fighting with parents.” “As medical professionals, we simply try our hardest because we recognize that some families have strong feelings about this.”