There's a boy living down the street from us who has the worst ADHD I've ever seen. During the school year, he lives at warp speed, talks even faster, and will twitch if he's made to sit still. And impulse control? Forget about it. I feel for the kid because the way his body acts is the way my brain feels. He drives me crazy, but he also makes perfect sense to me. He's nutty but manageable for 9 months of the year.
And then comes the summertime.
For some reason I do not comprehend, his parents take him off his medication for the summer. His mom says it's "to give his brain a break." His father says "That stuff is just too d***ed expensive." It doesn't really matter what the reason is. It leaves him a wreck.
His parents both work, and so maybe it's because they don't have to see what he lives with during the day. Yesterday, for example, he saw me outside and lurched in my general direction with his head in his hands.
"Do you have any Tylenol?" the 12 year old asked. (I went inside and got him some. His mom said it was okay last year and hasn't changed that.)
"Head hurting a lot?" I asked.
"It always does in the first weeks of summer. Don't know why though. Maybe it's the sun."
Maybe it's the withdrawals!
That's the part non-medicated people don't realize. When you go off these drugs, you go through painful withdrawals. So the first 2 weeks of every summer (and every weekend, because they don't medicate him then) are excruciating for him, filled with headaches, nausea, and confusion.
Then his summer begins, and his social skills deteriorate. He loses the ability to focus on one thing at a time. His frenetic behavior gets him into trouble. His poor judgement and impulse control mean that by the end of July he'll be banned from every house in the neighborhood as a protection for our own children.
August he spends alone. He's no longer welcome anywhere because he loses all filters when he talks.
School will come at the end of August and his medication will return. It will take a few weeks to get him back to being the boy he was in May.
Then Christmas vacation hits and the whole two weeks will be withdrawal.
Is it supposed to work this way? Really? I wasn't diagnosed with ADD until I was an adult, but I can't imagine being forced to give back my brain every weekend. I can't explain to you the fog of confusion which sets in when I first stop my meds. (It clears eventually and returns to the continuous commotion and chatter that is my normal brain function.) I just know how keenly I miss being able to think and function. I know my own son notices immediately if he forgets his pill.
If you are the parent of one of these great kids (one of us!) and you do this....please reconsider. Please don't take his brain away. Ask him how it feels to be unmedicated, and I'll bet he'll say the same thing. Please don't do this.
And if you're a medical person? Shame on you. You should know better.