ADHD Adderall Drug Holidays for Children

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Since Adderall doesn't have to build up in your system from day to day, it is possible to give it on an as-needed basis. Some parents choose to skip giving ADHD stimulant medications on weekends, holidays, summers, or other breaks from school in what are called "drug holidays."

These scheduled breaks from medication might be used to manage side effects or evaluate how someone does without it. However, the resulting ADHD symptoms can interfere with your child's behavior, relationships with family members, and how they do socially. That makes drug holidays less popular than they used to be.

Pros and Cons of ADHD Drug Holidays

There are pros and cons to taking a drug holiday. If you're thinking about a drug holiday, make sure that the benefits outweigh the risks, just as you likely did when you first started your child on Adderall. And always consult your child's doctor before making any changes.

Pros

A drug holiday might be used to:

  • Alleviate side effects. Appetite problems and poor weight gain can be big problems for some children taking stimulants. If their medication is working very well for them otherwise, not taking it on weekends can be a good idea so that they eat better at those times.
  • Evaluate the effect the medication is having. Trying a drug holiday can give a sense of what difference the medication is making, and to see if your child needs to keep taking it.
  • Manage drug tolerance. If a medication isn't as effective as it once was, instead of increasing the dose, a doctor may try a drug holiday.

A 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology found that drug holidays were one factor that helped increase weight in a group of children whose BMI had declined after starting stimulants.

Cons

The main problem with skipping medication during certain periods, such as weekends and summer, is that a child's ADHD symptoms won't be under control during those times. While that may not be a big problem if your child simply has some attentional problems that interfere with schoolwork, not taking medication can become a bigger problem if they are also very impulsive and hyperactive.

Also, some children do have more side effects on Mondays after being off their stimulant for the weekend as they get used to it again, so be on the watch for that.

Remember that ADHD isn't usually just a school problem. If your child really functions better with medication, then it is probably a good idea to take it every day and not skip doses on weekends or other school holidays.

Managing ADHD Medication Issues

If your child is experiencing problems with their medication, speak with their doctor. There may be another option that is better for them, depending on their issue.

Side Effects

If troublesome ​side effects are the reason you're considering a drug holiday, talk to your pediatrician about adjusting the dose or trying something else. A different stimulant, like Concerta or Focalin XR, or a non-stimulant medication, like Strattera, might be better alternatives.

Although ADHD drug holidays were once popular, there are now so many different medications and dosages of each medication that it is much easier to fine-tune a child's dose and avoid side effects than it used to be. That makes it easier to avoid ADHD drug holidays and allow your child to take their medication every day.

Mornings and Evenings

You wouldn't want Adderall or any stimulant medication in your system 24/7 or you would have a very hard time sleeping. So it's beneficial for it to be out of your system after 10 to 12 hours. However, this can make early mornings and late evenings difficult for many children with ADHD.

One option to manage this is to try a non-stimulant medication like Strattera. Jornay PM, a methylphenidate-based stimulant, is another option that can at least make early mornings easier. It's taken the evening before and is designed to release very slowly until morning, and then the effect carries through until the late afternoon.

Discuss any concerns with your child's pediatrician and find the best medicine for your child.

Skipping a Dose of ADHD Medication

In most cases, if you simply forget to give your child a dose of their ADHD stimulant one day, then you can usually just restart it the next day.

You do want to be careful that you don't give an extended-release stimulant, like Adderall XR, Concerta, or Focalin XR too late in the morning or afternoon, or your child will likely have a lot of trouble going to sleep that night. You also don't want to give an extra dose without talking to your pediatrician.

A Word From Verywell

It's important to speak with your child's doctor before having them take a break from or stop their medication. Be sure to work with the physician and tell them the issues your child is experiencing on Adderall and why you might be considering a drug holiday. This will help them solve the issue at hand in the safest, most effective way.

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  2. Ibrahim K, Donyai P. Drug holidays from ADHD medication: International experience over the past four decades. J Atten Disord. 2015;19(7):551-568. doi:10.1177/1087054714548035

  3. Waxmonsky JG, Pelham WE, Campa A, et al. A randomized controlled trial of interventions for growth suppression in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder treated with central nervous system stimulants. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 2020;59(12):1330-1341. doi:10.1016/j.jaac.2019.08.472

  4. Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Time for a medication vacation? Consider possible benefits. June 21, 2018.

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