AD/HD Medications And Summer: To Take or Not To Take

November 14, 2012 | By

It is that time of year again: The grass is green, the birds are singing, and the school bells will not ring for another couple of months. Since the demand for sustained attention and concentration often are less in the summer, some parents of children with AD/HD question whether or not their children need to take medication when school is out. Opinions are varied on this question, and there is no set answer; it depends on the child.

The first step in making this decision is to discuss it with the prescribing physician. It is important to keep in mind that AD/HD has an impact on multiple parts of your child’s life, more than just in the classroom (if there). It is common for children with AD/HD to have behavioral and social problems, and perhaps some emotional issues, like frequent frustration. These factors can make it hard for your child to play with peers, or participate in group activities such as sports or summer camp, as these high-stimulation and low-structure activities place too high a demand upon some AD/HD children’s attention span, impulsivity, and self-control. For children with these challenges, remaining on medication during the summer can help to prevent setbacks, and the possible damage to the child’s peer relationships and self-esteem. Your child also needs to learn life skills and other non-academic information. The out-of-classroom learning opportunities that summertime provides are numerous. The learning (and remembering) of social skills, how to behave, and how to follow rules require focus and concentration, both of which will be better on medication.

In short, if your child’s AD/HD symptoms are significant or severe, it may be better to keep your child on medication over the summer, due both to setbacks that might be prevented, and the learning that he or she might otherwise miss. If you and your doctor feel that your child’s AD/HD symptoms are less serious, a “drug holiday” (or trial period of not taking AD/HD medications) may be in order. If your child, off medication, is reasonably able to make good decisions, stay out of trouble, participate in sports or other peer group activities, and successfully relate to his or her friends, then the drug holiday should not be a problem. You usually will know if it is going to be a good idea or not in a short amount of time, as most of the common medications prescribed for AD/HD (i.e., stimulants such as Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Focalin) will be out of your child’s body quickly. If the drug holiday is successful, it is still a good idea to re-introduce the medication about 2 weeks before school starts. This will give your child a chance to adjust, and get back into the habit of taking medication. Again, be sure to discuss it with the physician before attempting a drug holiday, or making any changes to their prescription.

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