Q. I recently heard another mother talking about giving her child an ADHD “drug holiday” where she takes her child off his medicine for the holiday break. Is this a good idea?
A. This is a common question that often arises among families and patients about ADHD. Basically, physicians don’t know if a “drug holiday” is a safe way to manage a patient with ADHD or not. Therefore, parents should make this decision only after talking about their child’s individual case with the prescribing physician. Some principles, however, can help guide the decision. First, if your child has been on medication for almost two years, it may be a good opportunity to try a drug holiday to help determine the current severity of symptoms. Hyperactivity, for example, generally fades with time. Second, nonstimulant medications for ADHD are not best suited for “on and off” use. Their good effects take time to build up, and they can have some bad effects if stopped all of a sudden. Third, not all patients have the same symptoms, so some will tolerate a drug holiday better than others. A child with problems of attention and forgetfulness may tolerate no medications for a weekend or an entire summer. A child with problems of impulsiveness may not do as well off medication. The degree of your child’s symptoms and the impact of those symptoms on his or her life will determine if a drug holiday will be benefi cial or in fact harmful. I encourage you to discuss the idea of a drug holiday with your child’s doctor before starting one on your own. And don’t forget, a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet, and plenty of exercise will go a long way towards helping your child start each day with their best foot forward.
Matthew W. Good, M.D., FAAP
Pediatric Chief of Staff
4519 Hixson Pike
Hixson, TN 37343