Taking “Holidays” from ADHD Drugs Helps Prevent Growth Retardation in Children


It’s common for children and adolescents to take prolonged “drug holidays” from their ADHD medications during summer months away from school, and there appear to be positive impacts on their health from this practice, according to a comprehensive review of the scientific literature published in the Journal of Attention Disorders.

In the review, University of Reading researchers found that anywhere from 25% to 70% of children and youth, usually in collaboration with their families, regularly stopped taking their ADHD stimulant medications during summer holidays. While only 30% of US doctors surveyed agreed that drug holidays should be incorporated into a child’s medical regimen, about 60% of those surveyed in the UK said they regularly considered conducting such trials on an annual basis.

“Drug holidays were considered for different reasons,” noted the researchers. “Namely, to test if medication was still needed (especially with parents and adolescents), for managing persistent
medication adverse effects (for both parents and doctors), and for managing drug tolerance (doctors only).”

Most studies, the researchers reported, showed growth spurts and weight gains for the children and youth during these drug holidays. “(T)here was evidence of a positive impact on child growth with longer breaks from medication during the summer holidays,” wrote the researchers. “In addition, shorter breaks from medication exercised at weekends had the potential to reduce sleep problems and improve appetite.”

“The literature retrieved suggests that drug holidays from ADHD medication among children and adolescents are helpful rather than harmful,” concluded the researchers. “They could be a tool for confirming the benefits of medication, helping verify the need for medication, and checking coping without the medication.”

Drug Holidays From ADHD Medication: International Experience Over the Past Four Decades (Ibrahim, Kinda and Donyai, Parastou. Journal of Attention Disorders. Published online September 24, 2014 DOI: 10.1177/1087054714548035)


  1. Seems to me that if the family can cope with an unmedicated child during the holidays, then the problem is that the kid is being drugged to adapt to school. Hyperactive kids don’t belong in traditional school settings, though where’s the alternative?

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    • Alternatives?

      Organizations like the “NEA” The National Education Association , the largest professional organization and largest labor union in the United States works long and hard to make sure that there are no alternatives to child drugging.

      The NEA opposes school vouchers because they divert resources from there members paychecks to private and specialty schools.

      fraudulently claims these voucher programs offer no real choice for the majority of students.

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    • The alternative is very clear. A really good study done in the late 70s had professionals try to identify matched sets of “ADHD” children in regular classrooms and in an “open classroom” (think Montessouri) with work stations that kids could choose between and move between when they felt they were ready to transition. The professionals were 90+% accurate in the standard classroom, but could not consistently distinguish the diagnosed kids in the open classroom setting. This is a dramatically clear result, and suggests that we should be putting these so-called “ADHD” kids into open classroom settings where they have more control over the focus and timing of their education. We did this with both of our active, oppositional boys, and both did well in this kind of setting, though they’d assuredly have been disastrous train wrecks in a standard elementary school.

      Unfortunately, open classrooms were opposed and beaten into submission in the 80s as the “accountability movement” (think standardized high-stakes tests) took over in the USA. I have always believed that those behind the “accountability movement” actually hate children and believe they need to “have the devil beaten out of them” in order to make them into orderly, compliant adult consumers. There is a small resurgent effort in the “unschooling” and the liberal end of the charter school movement, but such classrooms are not readily available to the general public, at least in the US. We actually had to help invent one for our youngest, who thoroughly defied all the predictions regarding drug abuse, school failure, low self-esteem and delinquency, as he is now a freshman at Evergreen State College after finishing high school with a 4.0 average. So much for “untreated ‘ADHD’…”

      Open classrooms are the alternative. We know they work, but we have to create them and make them available to our “non-standard learners.”

      —– Steve

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    • Get used to it. I’ve been witnessing this my whole life. They’ll claim reasons to justify what they do, then contradict themselves and then claim those were never their reasons to begin with, or deny that they contradicted themselves.

      We’re shifting from a “chemical imbalance – they need those drugs like a diabetic needs insulin” rationalization to a cosmetic alteration for the percieved (or profitable) good rationalization. And when that wears off, they’ll shift to a new rationalization.

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