I’ve been off my ADHD stimulant medication for about two weeks now.
When I started taking meds, I promised myself that one day I’d get off them. It looks like that day is here.
I didn’t plan it, exactly. My prescription ran out and my doctor was on holidays so I couldn’t get it renewed.
The medication hasn’t been as effective over the past few years as it had been, so, after about two weeks with no major disasters, I decided to make my move.
Given that some adults don’t respond to ADHD medications (notably Dr. Ned Hallowell, co-author of Driven to Distraction among them) I figure there must be a way to do this.
Truth be told, I’m perfectly willing to go back on meds if my experiment fails.
In the eight years since I was diagnosed and started taking a stimulant medication for ADHD, I’ve learned enough that I could observe myself for the past two weeks and notice the subtle and not-so-subtle changes. I also knew enough to ask friends for feedback.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed:
1 ) My memory is worse, or maybe it’s my focus that’s worse. Both, probably. At work, my boss asks me to do something and two minutes later I have to ask her to repeat it. I’ve lost my favorite pair of gloves, something I haven’t done in years.
2 ) I’m fatigued by early afternoon, and definitely miss the sharp, focused feeling I had when taking the medication.
3 ) In the first week off meds I was less optimistic and fought to stave off depression. I’m happy to say I’m bouncing back now.
4 ) Here’s something I haven’t seen in years, and don’t want to see again:
Maybe the medication was like training wheels. Maybe I’ve learned enough about ADHD, about myself, and about ADHD strategies and treatments, that I can fly without the training wheels.
Or maybe I’ll wipe out and end up in the ditch.
On the bright side, there is a precedent.
Another of my favorite ADHD gurus, Dr. Gabor Maté, was also diagnosed late in life. He initially treated his ADHD with medication, then stopped meds and took up meditation. He’s been going strong ever since.
If trying harder had ever helped anyone with ADHD, none of us would have gone on medication in the first place.
One thing I definitely won’t do is try harder. We all know where that leads. If trying harder had ever helped anyone with ADHD, none of us would have gone on medication in the first place.
So, here’s the plan. Make that, plans.
- use treatments that I know work for me: yoga, exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, supportive friendships, whole foods diet, spiritual practice, positive self-talk, continuing ADHD education, accountability partner (work buddy), etc. Be consistent!
- be vigilant about work/life balance: dial-down workaholic tendencies, jam with friends one night a week to recharge batteries
- keep commitment to doing work I love and to conscientiously staying positive and optimistic (keep monitoring self-talk)
- maintain and nurture supportive connections (friends, family, colleagues)
- try a gluten-free diet (this has worked for some for ADHD management)
- if Plan A isn’t enough, add a natural remedy (more about that in an upcoming blog post)
- if it becomes obvious that ADHD is sabotaging my life, admit defeat and go back on medication (crawl out of the ditch)
So that’s where I’m at.
I haven’t included an ADHD coach, cogmed, and other proven treatments due to either cost or availability (I live in a rural area).
I’m taking this tentative step after eight years of having benefited (admittedly to a declining degree) from ADHD medication, with virtually no side effects. This isn’t a choice for everyone, but for someone like me who prefers to grow her own organic food; who is into herbal medicine and alternative treatments (yoga, Reiki, massage, etc.); a non-pharmaceutical approach is in alignment with my way of being.
I’m not encouraging anyone to run out and flush their meds down the toilet or to not try them in the first place: they are very effective for most people who try them (as they were for me).
I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone else who’s had success with ADHD medication, but decided to stop taking it.
I’m curious: when and why did you go off your meds? How did it turn out? What did you learn and what do you use for ADHD treatment instead?
Please share your story with us so we can learn from each other.
And stay tuned for my upcoming post on Plan B – the Wild, Wild West of (alleged) “natural” ADHD remedies.
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Last reviewed: 28 Mar 2014