Question: What are the pros and cons of discontinuing my child’s ADHD medication over the summer break, and the best way to restart when school begins?

One of the challenges for parents of children on medications for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is whether to discontinue use during the summer when schools are not in session.

There are pros and cons, and different options work best for different patients. But one thing is certain: stimulant medications (such as Ritalin, Adderall and Concerta) may be discontinued periodically, but non-stimulant medications (such as Intuniv and Strattera) should not be stopped suddenly, because they take longer to work and longer to leave the body. Talk to your doctor before adjusting any medication.

If you decide to discontinue medication, keep in mind: restart at least a week before the first day of school, to monitor for side effects. Two major side effects of stimulant medications are a diminished appetite and increased trouble sleeping, so taking a “holiday” from medication can be beneficial. If you aren’t comfortable stopping medications for an entire summer, some families stop for weekends, or a holiday period, and that can be helpful as well.

Remember, too, that ADHD symptoms affect more than just school performance and can cause impairment in everyday life. For many children, the best option is to keep taking their prescriptions consistently.

Nick Deblasio, MD, works in the Division of General and Community Pediatrics.