Taking a Vacation from the ADHD Meds: An ADHD Story

When we began this journey almost 2.5 years ago, our doctor told us that medicating ADHD would be tricky. It was NOT a one stop shop, set it and forget it type thing. And boy, that is the truth!

The major symptoms we noticed were inability to be still (in situations that require it), difficulty focusing on tasks, issues respecting personal space and random anger outbursts. I have written about his early years and you can find that here.  

I should note, this post is ONLY about ADHD medications. There are many other things that can help such as dietary changes, essential oils, vitamins and others. 

I should also add that our son has only been on one medication at a time. I realize many patients with ADHD are on more than one medication and so taking a "vacation" would take more planning. 

The first medication we tried was Ritalin. Although I have heard nothing but horror stories about it, the doctor really wanted us to give it a try. So... we did. And, honestly, it worked... for awhile. Probably about 3 months.

What does "it worked" mean? Well, we noticed that he was able to focus on his homework better, he could sit at the dinner table without bouncing around, he could be still for longer periods of time when needed and he was able to keep his hands off his younger brothers (especially the 5 year old). But then, we had to increase the dose, and about 3 months after that, we needed to increase it again.

The down side was it suppressed his appetite severely. He ended up losing a couple pounds during the 3-6 months we gave the medication. 
Also, he got an eye "tick", where his right eye would just blink randomly. Of course, when I noticed it, I told him about it, and I think at some point he started doing it purposely for attention, in addition to the real "tick". 

Lesson learned, don't tell people the symptoms you notice... especially kiddos!

At that point in time, I decided to ask about trying something different.

Next came Intuniv. Interesting enough, I have heard really GREAT things about this from many people, but for us... it was an absolute NO GO. The first dose I gave landed him flat on the floor screaming in pain of a severe stomach ache. Ok, what happened? Oh right, he has an empty stomach, ok, next time, I'll just make sure he has food. Problem solved! Ummmm, nope, the next dose was given with food.... and this time, he not only complained of an intense stomach ache, but he threw up. So, clearly, this medication was not going to work!

So, then we moved on to Dextroamphitamine. I had not heard much about this medication at the time.  At first, it seemed to help him calm him down and focus. 

However, it made him ANGRY. He would growl at everyone and everything, he was living up to his nickname of "Bear". 

He was sensitive to every word that came out of anyone's mouth. You couldn't talk to him without feeling like you were walking on eggshells.
At some point during the third medication, my husband and I began questioning ourselves... again... about medicating our son. That has been the struggle from the beginning for me... is medication the right route? And, do the benefits outweigh the risks? 

We did decide to go ahead and explore another medication choice. However, there were many obstacles that presented themselves. We couldn't get in to see the doctor, we ran into an insurance glitch and a few other things. With all the added stress, we decided perhaps it was time to try a medication holiday (the deliberate interruption of pharmacotherapy for a defined period and for a specific clinical purpose). I should add, we decided this totally on our own, we did not discuss it first with our doctor.     

We planned a date to begin the vacation. But, we forgot to let the school nurse know our plans, so our son did get a dose of medication on his vacation... ooops. 

We decided we would give it a solid month to see how we felt about it. 

Here is what we noticed: 

Start Date
Saturday,  Nov 12th

Day 1 - not much change.

Day 2 - very emotional, was crying several times.

Day 3 - He got one dose at school. 

After about a week, my husband and I both noticed he was not as angry and not flying off the handle at every little thing.

Inability to be still when needed started picking back up, but not as bad as a couple years ago.

Still not going to bed really well, but was asleep by about 11 p.m. now instead of 1 a.m. (so that is an improvement).

Appetite slowly starting to pick up.

Still being quite mouthy (Or is it his age and stage?)

After about 3 weeks of him being off his medications, we got his 2nd quarter report from school. Interestingly, his teacher did mention she had had to remind him to speak respectfully a handful of times in the last few weeks. That goes along well with what we had noticed. She did not mention anything about him not being able to be still when needed or not being able to focus. 
Once the month had gone by, we decided to give it a little more time as he would be out of school for Christmas vacation, and we were curious how he would act without the structure of school days.

To our surprise, he did ok. Of course there were still a few times that were rocky, but overall, he seemed to be doing fine, without medication. 

I wish I could say we have incorporated other things to "take the place" of the medication, such as better diet, more regular exercise, vitamins, etc. But, the truth is, the only change we made was to stop giving the medication. 

At this point, he has not had medication for about 2.5 months. He is not nearly as angry about every little thing, though he does still have some anger outbursts. He is having a hard time sitting still at the dinner table, but, other times when he needs to be still, he seems to be better able to handle it. And a lot of this could just be timing... it is so hard to know! 

The eye tick also seems to be gone.  

We are still having to give him medicine to help him sleep. 

His appetite has improved, now we are just dealing with the "pickiness" part! 

He is still fairly mouthy, but, his Dad and I can be too... so, is it our influence... or him... or a combo? 

For our family, I am glad we took the vacation. It has been a good opportunity to see where he is now, after about 2.5 years of different medications. I am not sure what we will do from here, but, for now, I think he/we are doing ok without the medication. 

I'm fully aware things may change in the future, so nothing is set in cement! But, at least for now... taking a vacation has worked out. 

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