ADHD Medicine Melodrama

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To Med or Not to MedI would like to tell you that medicines to correct ADHD-Inattentive are great, and that once our daughter started meds that she immediately began feeling focused, organized, confident, and successful. Yet if that’s all I told you, it wouldn’t be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Although Lesley was initially diagnosed in fourth grade, we survived without medicine until she was in sixth grade. Because Lesley’s my third child and not the first, I wasn’t overly concerned. I just knew that she would outgrow her ADHD tendencies soon enough. Unfortunately, the outgrowing didn’t happen by sixth grade, and it was obvious that the next step would be prescribed medication.

At this point in her budding middle school career, Lesley’s self-esteem was lagging. She felt stupid, she felt embarrassed and she hated school. A new 6-day schedule added to the confusion. Lesley often went to school without required assignments, not because she didn’t do it but because she didn’t realize that she would have that particular class that day.

After consulting our doctor, we were given a prescription for Lesley. The results at our house were almost immediate. She could focus. She could finish her homework without being nagged. Her grades improved drastically.

Yet it wasn’t all good. She wasn’t sleeping well. She wasn’t eating well, and she was already a tall, lanky kid. Bedtime went as late as midnight, and her classes would start by 7:30 a.m. She might eat a half sandwich at lunch and a couple carrot sticks.

Although she started her menstrual period in the summer after 7th grade, once she started the medication in the fall, she didn’t have another period until she stopped the medicine for summer. Was it related to the medicine? Or was it related to the fact that she was in the 19th percentile for her weight?

Her doctor wanted her to gain 10 pounds. I felt she was as likely to flap her wings and fly to the moon. When she was off the medicine on the weekend, she would eat everything in sight – and being a teenager with a fast metabolism, she didn’t gain weight. Even after being off the medicine for the entire summer, she grew an inch and gained exactly one pound. One pound!

I don’t have a tidy ending for this because we’re still living this one! We’re experimenting with cutting her medicine in half to see if that’s strong enough to keep her focused yet weak enough to not affect her appetite.
She likes to choose certain school days and not take her medicine. When she knows the material, she has no problem taking a test without taking the medicine. The days that she really wants to have a full dose is when she knows new material will be covered in the classroom.

So far, this is what I’m learning about these medicines:

1) The same medicine may not always work the same way for Lesley. Talk to your doctor about making changes to the prescription medicine or simply to the dosage of the medicine.

2) It’s best for us, at least one day a week, to make sure we have a medicine-free day. Note that this will NOT work for all meds; Straterra and SRI’s must be taken consistently. Consult your doctor!
3) I need to become familiar with the possible side effects of the meds Lesley was on – things the doctor didn’t tell me or that I didn’t process when he told me.
4) A journal of how the medicine affects Lesley has been invaluable. When you have a doctor’s appointment, it’s very helpful to pinpoint what happened when.
5) Meds are only one tool in the arsenal that has helped Lesley.

There’s more to this story – that I’ll mention next week.

About Kayla

Kayla Fay is a freelance writer and the mother of four boys, three of whom have been formally diagnosed with the inattentive type of ADHD. When she started “Who Put the Ketchup in the Medicine Cabinet?” in 2002, her sons were ages 8 through 14, when her life was a “progression of dirty laundry, lost homework, misunderstood Algebra, and a whole lot of love and fun”.

Connect with Kayla online Google+


  1. http://Jill%20H says

    This came across my FB feed today…interesting timing since today is also the first day of meds for my 16yo daughter who is ADHD-Combined. She was diagnosed at 8 and again at 13, but we’ve been coping all these years sans-meds. Now we realize, at her age – the safety issues with driving, plus college on the near horizion – diet, counseling, vitamins, and the other modifications we’ve made just aren’t enough. The gap between where she is and where she needs to be to pursue her dreams is just widening. We’re excited and nervous at the same time. I’m interested to hear more thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

    • It’s interesting to me how many of our kids go med-less until they are older. Two of mine had brief (unsuccessful) times with meds when they were in middle or high school, but then put themselves on meds when they went to college.

      The best to you and your daughter on your new journey. (Double meaning on that since she is driving now.. 🙂 Please keep us posted on her progress!

  2. http://Christine says

    Kayla, how did this work out with your daughter. My son had the same experience as a freshman in high school, but after three months of trying Ritalin & Concerta at different dosages, we decided to take him off the meds. He lost a great deal of weight (also a lanky kid to begin with), became insomniac and started to get depressed, and develop a tick. He’s a junior in HS now, and we are again thinking about whether we give the meds a shot again.

    Thank you for your candid stories – they are so reassuring and helpful.