If you have an ADHD child who is on a treatment plan that involves taking stimulant medications, you may face a vexing decision when summer vacation arrives. That is, whether to give your kid a “drug holiday” – discontinuing their medication during the summer break from school. You may believe that since your child is not in school, with its pressing demands for attention and focus, the stimulant medications are less necessary. And, if your child experiences side effects from the medications, you may want to give them a break from the drugs.
Though summer means that most children are not engaged in academic tasks during the day or homework at night, summer time is definitely not a break from environments that require children with ADHD to attend to instruction, regulate their emotions and behavior, and interact in a socially manner with peers and other adults.Summer activities often take place in structured environments where following rules is important – e.g., engaging in structured sports activities. A child with ADHD who is impaired because they are on a drug holiday, might miss out on opportunities to enjoy time with friends, and get that self-esteem that can come from summertime achievements. Also, when on vacation with family members, an ADHD child on a drug holiday can become impulsive and disruptive and make the vacation difficult for parents and siblings to fully enjoy.
One benefit of a maintaining a medication regime during the summer break is to lessen your child’s anxiety. Numerous studies have shown that stimulant medications, when used for ADHD, help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. This is important because about 25% of children with ADHD also experience anxiety.
There are many factors to consider when contemplating a summer drug holiday for your ADHD child. Be sure to give it as much consideration as you did when starting the medication treatment in the first place, and consult your child’s physician before discontinuing any ADHD medication even for a short period of time.