Q: Can My Teen (and My Family) Survive a Medication Break?
Violent, nasty rebound effects in the afternoon have pushed us to try an ADHD medication vacation. Off meds, our son is more engaged with the family but he also suffers from more disruptive symptoms. What can we do?
Q: “My child is on a medication break. Without meds, he plays outside and participates in family activities; I have missed this sweet boy. But his lack of awareness about appropriate behavior, volume, and respecting others are very difficult. While on meds, he is more withdrawn, and the rebound has us walking on eggshells to prevent violent behavior, such as yelling, refusing to go to school, or punching holes in the wall. Help!”
It sounds like a visit to your son’s doctor is in order. If your son’s rebounds are that violent and dramatic, it’s possible that he’s not on the best medication for him.
When the medication for attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) is a good fit, there should be very few side effects, such that you don’t really feel the need or the desire for a medication break. But when the medication is not a good fit, it’s time to re-evaluate your treatment plan. While medication for ADHD is very effective for many kids, it’s not for everyone.
Keep in mind that recommended treatment for ADHD basically has two goals: to improve the brain’s ability to respond appropriately, and to help your child understand his challenges so that he can begin to take responsibility for managing them over time.
Look for ways to “activate the brain” to support your child in managing his volume and his behavior. Many kids achieve this with medication. But you can also improve brain function with regular exercise, regular sleep, mindfulness meditation, and eating protein-rich meals.
Behavior management starts with parent training, which helps you understand the specific areas of challenge common with ADHD, including executive function issues. Once you understand, you can help your son see what challenges he’s facing and start learning how to manage himself, little bits at a time. Whether or not he uses medication, conscious self-management is key to long-term success.
One more thing: Try not to take aim on too many behaviors at once. Identify one behavior you’d like to see changed, and help your son address it. You want him to begin to feel successful in self- management, and that happens best in baby steps.
The opinions and suggestions presented above are intended for your general knowledge only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your own or your child’s condition.