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Vacation from Medication?

Parents know how important it is to provide guidance and understanding to children with ADHD.  Whether that’s with positive reinforcement or through medication, it’s crucial to the child’s success that the support is constant; and that the same care be given when they are away from home.

In some cases, parents may wish to remove their children from medication while away at summer camp.  Parents often feel that the stress and constant grind of home life doesn’t exist while their child is away at camp. However, being away from home and separated from everything familiar can often be even more stressful.  Additionally, camp is a very dynamic environment, often providing even greater stimulation than a school and home setting.

Consulting the doctor (preferably a Child Psychiatrist) that prescribes the medication to discuss the wisdom of “drug holidays” is critical to the decision. If the decision is made to remove the child, it’s important to notify camp. It could be very difficult for the staff to determine if the child is having difficulty adjusting, or if they are suffering some type of withdrawal from their medication.

When looking at the potential reaction the child could have to being removed from their medication in a new, unfamiliar environment, parents may want to ask these questions and consider the answers below:

How does it benefit my child to be taken off ADHD medication?
Giving the brain “drug holidays” from drugs that can develop a tolerance (habituation that requires a higher dose to accomplish the same effect) is important. When the therapeutic benefits of the drug, such as being able to sit still and pay attention in class, are not needed, the medication can be removed.

Do we inform camp of our decision, or is this a family matter?
The camp needs to be informed no matter what the decision is, whether to keep the child on the medication or take him/her off.

Are there side effects to temporarily stopping medication?
The stimulant medications, Adderall, Concerta, Focalin, Ritalin, are rapidly removed from the system and can produce a withdrawal syndrome of agitation and discomfort, so the Physician should provide guidance as to the removal of the drug. Strattera, a non-stimulant medication, takes much longer to leave the system, but “cold turkey” sudden removal of the medication may also produce withdrawal symptoms.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/complete-index.shtml#pub9

Preparing the Family For Sleep Away Camp Series is contributed by Phillip Romero, MD.  Based in New York City, Dr. Romero is a relationship stress specialist and brain coach. For twenty-five years he has worked in private practice with families, couples and individuals and trained Fellows in Child Psychiatry as Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Cornell Medical School.

In 1988 he created Logosoma Brain Training (LBT) by incorporating recent advances in brain science and Buddhist mindfulness techniques to help people master their relationship stress. As a medical student Dr. Romero studied at the Yoga Institute in Bombay and received training in Buddhism & Tibetan Medicine in Dharamsala, India where he met with the Dalai Lama. He is a life-long practitioner of both Tibetan and Zen meditation techniques, and is currently developing Logosoma Brain Training seminars for the public. Dr. Romero can be contacted through http://www.phantomstress.com/.