ADHD Drug Holiday — Or Horror?

ADHD drug holiday

An ADHD Drug holiday, they call it. As if stopping to take ADHD medications guarantees a fun, freedom-filled break from tedious routine.

On a recent trip to Hawaii, my friend John decided to not take his stimulant medication. After all, he was on vacation!  Only after he arrived home did he realize: “I way overdid it in the souvenir stores.”   Now, to outside observers, this might seem “obsessive” shopping. But to the ADHD-savvy among us, we recognize it as “no brakes.”

“No brakes” can manifest in myriad ways.

For example, we might assume that “neat freaks” or “obsessional housecleaners” have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  When it comes to diagnoses, though,  be on alert for look-alikes. You might be surprised at the many ways in which ADHD can camouflage itself as something else—depression, anxiety, OCD, and much more.

Which brings us to a remarkable story. My friend Katy was late in getting her monthly stimulant prescription filled. So she’d have to spend a few days without—what’s the big deal, she thought. Lo and behold. That’s when she found herself launched into a roaring display of OCD behavior.  Or so the uninitiated might assume.

Now I’ll let Katy tell you the story. At the end, you’ll find another post on this theme:  Our Lost Weekend Without ADHD Meds

obsessive cleaning

It Was a Lousy “ADHD Drug Holiday”

By Katy Rollins

I was out of Concerta for a couple of days. In the interim, it was funny watching the ways that I unravel, when I don’t take my medication. Of course, the unraveling isn’t always what people might expect if they didn’t know much about ADHD. One thing’s for sure: It’s no holiday.

For example…

1. I was up until 2:30 am because I got obsessed …

…with a shopping dilemma online and just…didn’t go to sleep.

Didn’t even want to go to sleep at 2:30. But I realized I had to get up in 4 hours. So I laid there for a while. Pretty typical ADHD scenario, but then…

2. Sunday night, my husband fell ill with the flu….

… No prob.

So I needed to clean and do laundry solo. But thanks to “no meds”, I was really crabby about doing it and put it off for two days. But once I started, I couldn’t stop.

I fell into my “pre-meds life” mode of working working working working working until I was so tired that I was completely nauseated. And easily enraged. Haha.

My husband came downstairs, at one point, to see how I was doing. He said, “WOW, I can’t believe everything you got done!” All I could think was, “If he doesn’t get the **** back in bed and leave me alone, I am going to punch the **** out of him”.

(It’s basically a miracle that this didn’t come out of my mouth).

Meanwhile, I was feeling like I’m about to vomit and refusing to stop. Some ADHD Drug Holiday.

ADHD Drug Holiday

3. Even when I finally made myself stop…after hours of binge cleaning…

…I went in the bathroom to pee and then said, “I can’t stop”

I don’t know how to stop. I can’t stop. I can’t stop cleaning. I can’t even stop to pee. Because all I see is stuff that needs to be cleaned. I can’t stop seeing it and I just want it done RIGHT NOW.

I’m just staring at the bathroom sink. And I can’t stop. I was getting upset.

It wasn’t about germs or order or any of that OCD stuff. It was about the fact that I hadn’t taken meds. That means  I couldn’t shut out my environment and all the “stuff” in it.

There were so many things to do. So I was going to do them.

I was completely possessed and it was all I could think about.

ADHD Drug Holiday

4. I finally made myself pee and go to go to bed. But then…

… I had to clean the bedroom room. It had gotten messy over the weekend and I couldn’t take it.

The room was “screaming” at me. So I cleaned it.

While I was cleaning, I set my prescription out. That way I could remember to fill it in the morning. So I could stop feeling crazy.

5. This morning…I now have an exhaustion hangover …

…from all the cleaning. I feel turrrrrible.

I almost couldn’t come to work this morning.

I felt shaky. (I hadn’t eaten dinner last night because ADHD and don’t like stopping what I’m doing to eat or pee or anything while I’m hyperfocused like that). And dizzy.

ADHD Drug Holiday

I Used To Do This ALL THE TIME!

I was up all night getting things done—then unable to function in the morning. My struggles with sleep time are nothing now, compared to what used to happen to me before I took stimulant meds. Nothing.

This is why, in some ways, I was more “productive” when I didn’t take meds. Yet, as for my consistency, endurance, and emotional stability? So much better with stimulant meds. My stress level is lower, too.

An important caveat: I can’t always make myself “productive”  when I don’t take meds. I can only do it if it happens to be the thing I care about right that minute.

So, on one day I might have obsessed over answering my entire email box. Another day: obsessed with a particular art project.

With meds, it’s easier to choose to do the various things I need to do, with more consistency. That way, when I have more time and energy I can do some of the things I want to do, not just the things I need to do.

ADHD Drug Holiday

People Say, “You Have ADHD, Yet You’re So Organized?”


  • Organized in spurts
  • Organized at the last minute
  • Organized when my job was on the line
  • Organized when the idea is new

Now I have reminders in notebooks—and many fewer clutter piles. I don’t panic about laundry on Sunday nights anymore.

As great as my house looks today, I don’t miss feeling that way all the time! It was terrible. I remember how I used to do this when I was a kid! I binged on “productivity.” Until I had to lie down in the middle of my project. Sometimes on top of it—such as when I was cleaning my room and stuff was all over the bed. I had to just go to sleep before I threw up.

All the time. For decades.

I can’t believe I lived like that for so long!


How about you?  Can you relate to Katy’s “ADHD Drug Holiday” experience?

Please share in a comment.

In general, “drug holidays” are not a good idea when it comes to ADHD treatment.

—Read about another couple’s experience: Our Lost  Weekend Without ADHD Meds

—This Harvard Health Newsletter addresses some of the general-health issues around “drug holidays” (Should You Take a Drug Holiday)

—Gina Pera


53 thoughts on “ADHD Drug Holiday — Or Horror?”

  1. Jesse Martel

    Omg, this is so relatable you could be me! I’ve just learned about my ADHD as an adult because I have all these coping strategies like you described that might make me seem organized and on top of things, but it is all panic-driven bouts of hyperproductivity that I pay the price for later. And lots and lots of lists!

  2. I take the weekends off as drug holidays. I think this article is well-intentioned but personally I prefer the benefits of taking a break from my stimulant’s side-effects and reduce the speed of tolerance build-up to being as organized as I possibly can. It also let’s me reconnect with my true, ADHD self; whom I highly prefer even if he’s less well adapted to the productivity-focused capitalist hellscape in which we live.

    1. Hi David,

      I’m glad you found a strategy that works for you.

      To each his own!

      Generally speaking, though, best practices are to support homeostatis.

      It can take some trial and error to find a medication that works with minimal side effects. But it is possible for most people.

      “Tolerance” generally is not an issue. It tends to be a problem more with the amphetamines (especially Adderall) and especially when they are used more as “performance enhancers.”

      take care

  3. Maria Pugliese MD

    I never let my patients or my kids take a drug holliday/horrorday. The no brakes and a computer makes them shopaholics. I get the organization part. My daughter has an extensive wish list with internet addresses and prices up to two pages for her birthday and Christmas. My son cannot deviate from going to Wawa three times per day for his coffee. It is really amazing to watch.

    1. Hi Maria,

      Amazing indeed!

      I hear so many stories about online-shopping “addictions”. One woman — highly trained computer scientist — tells me she shops online every night but only at stores where she can return. And she returns everything before evening opening! 🙂


  4. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD about five months ago at the age of 55, after a lifetime of wondering what the heck was wrong with me. Everything in Katy’s article resonates with me.

    Like one of the commenters, Chris, I was instructed by my doctor (in my case my PCP, not a psychiatrist), to take my Concerta weekday mornings, but to skip it on weekends to avoid building up a tolerance, as well as to give my heart a bit of a rest. The Concerta definitely raises my resting heart rate by a bit, according to my Apple Watch. Not high enough to make my doctor overly concerned, but I have to admit that I do feel a bit of relief when it goes back to normal on the weekends.

    All that said, I would love to be able to take the Concerta on the weekends as well. As it is, weekends feel like ‘lost’ days to me. They’re also the days I’m far more likely to get into the familiar ADHD spouse vs non-ADHD spouse arguments with my wife.

    I’ve read with great interest your comments on medication holidays being unnecessary, Gina. I would love to believe that to be the case. Are you able to point to any studies that specifically address the issue of seven day a week Concerta use with regard to effect on heart rate/heart attack risk and tolerance build up? And also whether seven day a week use increases severity of a Concerta crash?

    1. Hi David,

      I cannot medically advise you about any heart conditions you might have. But I can convey best practices to you.

      It is difficult to find a published study on a topic that is difficult to study due to so many variables. That is, how will a group of people on Concerta with unknown pre-existing heart rate respond to Concerta in terms of heart-rate and heart attacks. For one thing, genetic variations mean some people respond better to MPH than AMP — and vice-versa. For another, what about their diet and stress level and sleep?

      To answer these question, we have to extrapolate from other research.

      First, it makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE that you’ll have any less of a cardiovascular risk from Concerta if you don’t take it on the weekends. Ask your MD for a paper on that!. 🙂

      Second, people don’t habituate to Concerta. Ditto.

      Back to the “resting heart rate,” what exactly is your resting heart rate, without Concerta? Is it abnormally high? Do you have diagnosable hypertension?

      If you have diagnosable hypertension, what are you doing diet/lifestyle-wise to lower it?

      If you have diagnosable hypertension and ADHD, the rule of thumb is to stabilize blood pressure first, and then add a stimulant….if the stimulant seems to be interfering with your heart rate.

      Beyond that…are you consuming caffeine or nicotine? That will exacerbate a stimulant’s effect.

      Are you sleep-deprived? You might be on too-high a dosage of Concerta, in an effort to compensate for sleep deprivation. But the stimulants don’t treat sleep deprivation, they treat ADHD.

      Are you taking a Concerta generic or brand (or the authorized generic, which is same as brand)? That will affect the rate at which the MPH is released into the system, thus potentially affecting heart rate.

      So many questions! But, I’m afraid, your MD doesn’t seem qualified to give you reliable answers.


    2. Hi David, I’m a 35 year old male who was first diagnosed with ADHD when I was 21 and have been on a stimulant at fairly high doses (80 mg/day d-amphetamine) for the entire time. Except for the past 7 months which I had to stop for other reasons. I can tell from my perspective that without having taken med holidays nothing has been worrisome cardiovascularly. When I did have breaks from the meds (a month or two here and there over the 14 years) I noticed all my symptoms came back and when I started the meds again I had to spend a few nights restless due to the high dose (I weighed 135 lbs) but overall I never built a tolerance I could discern. The last year I took them I couldn’t get the right dose so I had to skip weekends and every weekend indeed felt like a complete waste. Just my experience, but I never liked doing med holidays.

  5. Very interesting account . I am make and go through a similar combo of both hyperfocused behaviour as well as exhaustion and suffered serious burnout for 3 or 4 years.

    Only disgnosed at 49 (last year) – had all the signs, and this kind of strange behaviour runs in the family, so just thought it was type A personality. Seems so obvious now.

    Have tried short acting ritalin, but had a roller coaster ride on it. I became more agitated and uncharacteristically interested in social media, which I usually disdain (I got banned on Reddit and Twitter – read between the lines!). Also started scratching my head a lot which is wierd and never felt satisfied. I was also crashing when the final dose wore off at 5pm. Essentially, I became someone I didn’t recognise.

    Am now trying Vyvanse 20mg sustained release. A big positive difference so far! I feel much calmer thankfully and not noticing a crash in the same way. Lost interest in social media again and not feeling irritable or as impulsive.

    The biggest issue I face is my weekly days off the meds. It is horrible as I am lethargic and need to sleep, I crash around mid morning, and revert to my pre-med status. The psychiatrist says I should have 2 days off a week to avoid tolerance build up, but I can I only manage 1. I would prefer not to have any days off. I have noticed some people don’t seem to have days off their meds and some psychs don’t even suggest it according to comments I have read. Can anyone explain the disparity around this?

    1. Hi Chris,

      I love that you mention “problematic” social-media behavior as a side effect of your taking Ritalin. People have no idea.

      As for the head scratching…is it more picking? That can be a sort of anxiety. It’s a delicate balance…dopamine….serotonin…that Ritalin might have been either too high a dose or released too much/quickly for your system.

      That’s great that you kept trying — and that Vyvanse is working better.

      “Days off” stimulants? That’s a very antiquated notion. I know of no acknowledged ADHD medical expert who would ever suggest that. Instead, they recommend as close to 24-7 treatment as can be managed.

      It’s good you’re asking questions.

      good luck!

    2. Thanks for replying Gina! I had no idea that other ADHD sufferers had issues with social media – it certainly took me by surprise. Yes, it was more like head picking than scratching – it was kind of uncontrollable. That’s interesting your comment about ‘days off’. The pscyh talks about it like it is a normal thing…
      I’d suggest he hasn’t had to endure what it is like not to have it. The reason he gave for the ‘days off’ is to avoid tolerance to the drug. Is that a thing?

    3. Hi Chris,

      Oh yes, I’d say “trolling” is almost diagnostic for oppositional defiance disorder. :-). But I’ve seen even older people with ADHD who have quit smoking (a stimulant) and suddenly turn up the volume on their car radio of the political “shock jocks.”

      Anger can be very “self-medicating”. Here’s my very popular post on that:

      But your case, it doesn’t seem that your ADHD symptoms are the issue — your “treatment” is. In provoking anxiety.

      As for your MD’s reasoning, again, it’s an old myth.

      Actually, it’s more apt for people abusing stimulants. They have the most trouble with “habituation.”

      So if you visit some sites where people are talking about “hacking” Adderall and whatever….they’ll be talking about that there. But these are people abusing medication (they probably also have ADHD but that’s another story).

      What often happens is this:

      1. The person newly diagnosed with ADHD takes an amphetamine (e.g. Vyvanse, Adderall)…this doesn’t happen as often with the methylphenidate stimulants (e.g. Ritalin, etc.)

      2. EUREKA! The clouds have parted. The angels are singing. They can see what must be done and be motivated to do it. etc etc.

      3. This EUREKA! feeling wears off. The person thinks Rx has stopped working.

      Partly the body adjusting, partly forgetting what life was beforehand, partly not doing the other things to maintain cognitive functioning (e.g. sufficient sleep, good diet, exercise, external supports for organizing goals, etc.).

      Also: The “shiny” has worn off.

      4. In the case of Adderall, there can be more of a “it stopped working” effect. Because Adderall differs from the other amphetamines, in its mechanism of action. It can actually deplete cells of the require neurotransmitters.

      That’s it in a nutshell!


    4. Ok – yes, I was ‘trolling’ – you caught me!! Amd yes, I have definitely been more tuned into the shock jocks! Unlike my normal personality, although as you explain in your article link, I do think I was using it as a form of self-medication. I definitely have anxiety as a comorbidity and this was what lead me down the path to the ADHD diagnosis. Started on Lexapro, which helped but didn’t completely solve my issues – if anything, the Lexapro helped partially take anxiety out of the equation, and I was able to clearly see how chaotic I was. On a side note, my psych wants me to slowly come off Lexapro to see of the Vyvanse is enough to control the anxiety as well. I am a bit nervous about this though although I would welcome the reversal of the impotence I am now suffering (have enhanced sex drive but no ability to really do anything about it. My wife and I have made adaptions, but it is pretty much just her having orgasms during sex now).

      The steps you have described, reflect my experience very well. I would like to read one of your books – which do you recommend starting with?

      Thanks for engaging in discussion with me. You really are helping to bring the level of detail and nuance to the world of ADHD, which all sufferers and their families know is a jungle. As you have said, self-education is mandatory. I only wish my Psychiatrist was more engaged around the nuances regarding the behavioural side of things. The drugs are only one part of the equation!

    5. Careful, Chris. I am an informant for the Facebook police. 😉

      Another friend posting about mental health just got sent to the pokey—again. Crazy.

      Thanks for noticing my work. It’s so “noisy” online these days in ADHD lane, and I’m not a shouter.

      re: anxiety. Here’s my observation, developed over years of hearing 1,000s of first-person stories. And also learning a bit about neurotransmitters — though no expert, for sure.

      Anxiety disorders are one thing. ADHD is another. But they are often confused for each other.

      ADHD symptoms can create “cognitive anxiety” — that is, disorganized thoughts, worry about when you’ll again step on that invisible banana peel, the old habit of using worry and fear to drum up stimulation so you can focus, etc. (My husband calls his version of this, developed while he was completing his PhD in molecular biology, “Fear-Based Management” — and I don’t recommend it.)

      So, you (meaning a person with ADHD who is dealing with above) are prescribed an SSRI or other anti-depression/anxiety medication. Voila! The anxiety is lessened.

      Some people feel this with Cannabis, too.

      In other case, the person thinks the medication is “working.”

      Maybe. But maybe the medication or cannabis is just beating back the anxiety with a cudgel……not helping the brain to be more organized and so to better manage cognitive anxiety. There can actually be LESS motivation, initiation, organization, no brakes on eating, etc. But NOW YOU DON’T CARE! 🙂

      re: psychiatrists. They are low on the totem poll of medical specialists, in terms of insurance payment. Most provide only medication management appointments, which last about 15 minutes. Some offer more, for private pay. It’s too bad. And it means that ADHD patients are left to cobble it all together. Irony of ironies.

      Yes, the drugs are only part of the equation. But done poorly, it might mean that other strategies might never “land.”

      Yes, SSRIS (like Lexapro and many others) can create impotence, especially in men with ADHD. For some men with ADHD who have early ejaculation, that helps. But for others…

      Maybe you don’t have to eliminate Lexapro altogether. But maybe you can wean down bit by bit. That way, you’ll have a clearer idea about whether it was helping or hurting.

      re: reading. This is my first book and still highly relevant and comprehensive. You could jump to the last chapter (that one that most people miss!) to discuss with your wife some behavioral strategies to support Executive Functions.

      This presentation (my first, so be kind!) is based on these strategies.

      good luck!

    6. Cheers Gina!

      I’ll have to come up with a ‘code’ when discussing mental health.
      “..cobble it all together..” Love that description! They are the exact words I have used to describe my experience of life as someone with ADHD .

      Your husband and I sound similar. I too did a PhD and was an academic up until I resigned end of last year after 17 years. Never quite got the traction I needed. Anyway.

      Can totally relate to “…using worry and fear to drum up stimulation….”. Story of my life, but always super motivated person because of it. Of course downside is I ended up suffering 5+ years if burnout and PTSD from the stress of that. And as you say, once I went on the drugs I lost motivation – stopped exercising (used to do crazy amounts); difficulty finding motivation to study (I’m retraining); haven’t given up but at times the ‘contentment’ from positive feelings sure feels like it.

      I’m meeting with my Psych today, so I’m raising the Lexapro and see how it goes.

      Thanks for the links. Appreciating your apt descriptions explaining what is going on for people with ADHD. It certainly resonates.

    7. Thanks, Chris. I’m happy to be making sense for you. 🙂

      But I’m curious…..I wonder about the wisdom of raising Lexapro now instead of taking the Vyvanse daily, weekends included.

      Food for thought. No response needed!


    8. Yes, meant ‘raising’ as in discussing not increasing. The aim is to get off the Lexapro!

  6. This article is fabulous in that it clearly depicts how different all of our symptoms are . I can 100% relate to the rage /wanting my husband to go away that happened to the author . My temper (which is already an issue) becomes extremely short when I take a med “holiday “ … and I get hyper focused with and without meds … so we are all different. I agree with Gina – our common issue is about not finding that proverbial middle ground. I’ve been looking for it my entire life , lol .

    1. Hi Veronica,

      I agree….fabulous essay from my talented friend.

      Middle ground….that’s what eludes most humans…just a matter of degree!

      Cheers, g

  7. The binge cleaning is totally me. Plus I have really bad back problems and need to lie down frequently. When I’m not on meds, I can’t stop, even when I’m in serious pain, hypoglycemic from not eating, etc. When I finally do stop, I can’t move for a week. The whole time I’ll be telling myself this is too much for my body, but the effect of the clutter is stronger. I can’t stand seeing everything I have to do. This is all made worse by my husband’s inability to even see clutter. Don’t get me wrong. He tries to keep the apartment clean for me. I appreciate it more when I’m on meds.

    I hate the rules for filling controlled substances, because it pretty much guarantees occasional days with no meds. One way I deal with it is saving the extra pills when my dose changes. My psychiatrist understands the anxiety caused by not having an emergency stash and is willing to work with me…

  8. gratefulcrazylady

    OMG…. This might be me. I was only recently at age 48 prescribed 20 mg Adderrall IR a day. Just started this week and had to take an extra 5 mg (10-10-5) two of the three workdays I was on it. Yesterday was the 4th day only two doses. My doc is on vacation and simply prescribed 20 mg every morning. The therapist is the one who told me to break the doses down. Anyhoo googling because I am debating taking it on weekends….but the bottle said every day. And I read this, your vacation sounds like my life. Either I go full steam or vegetate. Lots of success in life and prior diagnosis was always GAD, but even with the headaches and in between dose wear off, I was excited at what it did. It slowed me down. The chatter “so much to do” voice in my head was quieted and I did not feel compelled to get up to do other things while working. Think I will go take my medicine ( I was thinking because I took the extra 10, I might run out and need to skip weekends). But not going to now.

    1. Yay! Good for you!!

      I laugh every time I read this post, and it’s been years! 🙂

      And remember, there are many other choices besides Adderall. Your doc should give you a trial on some of the sustained-delivery stimulants so you don’t have to deal with the ups and downs all day.

      In the end, it might be that Adderall still works best for you. But good protocol requires trying at least one or two other types of stimulants.

      I wrote about it here:

  9. Honestly? I can relate to this is, but mine happen in spurts..I’d suddenly get angry cause I see dirt and untidiness all around and start cleaning BUT, I try to take it all on and then feel wretched when I get tired or bored and can’t finish…I wish I had Kathy’s issue (I am down playing the effect it as on her) , But living a life where you think of yourself as lazy dirty and other help by telling you that just makes you wish you were the cleanest pond on the road…

    1. Thank you, Adina, for that very clear description. Just imagining how that would feel makes me very uneasy. I am sorry this happens to you.

      I encourage you to keep working on treatment and on implementing strategies that help you get a handle on your surroundings.


  10. Having lived without a diagnosis for most of my life, and offered the wrong meds 20 years ago, I decided to try stimulate meds a few months ago.
    I have gone through my life “flying blind”, and have felt very alone, as I am not a 12 year old boy, but a 61 year old woman, who is a professional in the Mental Health field.
    There hasn’t been much out there, or safe people to talk with about what is happening to me, or how I am supposed to feel.
    Sadly, I can’t talk about this at work, as coworkers and managers are hugely judgmental, and have gossiped unmercifully about colleagues who have addictions, or mental health issues.
    I laughed about the desperate cleaning jag, as I had spells of that before when I was stressed at work. I was a midnight closet organizer, and tiny grooves in the gasket of the stove and fridge cleaner. My towels looked great, but my life was a mess.
    It’s getting better, and I’m hopeful that I have found a tool to manage life better. Thank you for your blog

    1. HI Linda,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

      I’m thrilled that this wonderful post has spoken to your experience. Isolation, being misunderstood….these are almost as bad as the behavior that we’re struggling with.

      We’re all in this together.


  11. Omg! This SPEAKS to me! I’ve been toying with the idea of trying medication but haven’t taken the plunge. I totally binge clean and become enraged when I get interrupted. I never stop to eat and totally almost pass out by time I actually do. I cannot go to bed before 1am. This is SO ME.

    1. I should note that I am not officially diagnosed, my house is NOT orderly as frequent binge-cleaning might imply, and I CANNOT stop once I start. two days after a binge-cleaning episode it all falls apart and becomes a bigger mess than ever.

    2. Hi Lindsay,

      That’s fairly emblematic of ADHD’s core challenge: self-regulation.

      Not over-doing. Not under-doing. But finding the middle ground. Consistently.

      Maybe it’s time for you to pursue an evaluation? If it turns out you do have ADHD, diagnosis and treatment might mean a huge positive change in your life.

      Good luck!

  12. 1Organicgirl

    “That means I couldn’t shut out my environment and all the “stuff” in it.
    There were so many things to do. So I was going to do them.”

    I can relate to this even on my meds at times. Makes me wonder if my meds are doing what they need to. It is worse without my stimulant medication though because without meds I can fall into a despair mode that feels devastating. No end…no way to get out… I cried when I read this because some one understands! Thank you.

    I have not been able to be organized enough to have everything in order, and even though I’d like it that way, I have not kept up and have to let go of all the possibility. Much easier when I am in my meds and can take it one task at a time without my efforts defining my self worth.

    Life is good even with the challenges of ADHD. Thanks for sharing honestly on your blog.

    1. HI there,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m happy that this piece “spoke” to you.

      It might be worth talking to your prescribing doc about increasing your dose. Most adults with ADHD (and children, too) are on too low a dose of stimulant.

      I’m glad that life is good despite of sometimes-disorganization.

      We 21st Century humans have much to organize. It’s a burden for many of us, ADHD or not. But of course folks with ADHD feel it much more.


  13. I LOL ed at this article.
    My SO and I are getting down to the core work of living together in an ADHD friendly way, now he’s out the other side of an exhausted depression bought on by years of being gaslighted (which is how i found your blog, great post on that topic BTW), and KNOWING there was issues for both his daughters but his anti-psychiatry ex made it impossible to get help for them.
    We NEVER run out of meds and SO will reduce his weekend dose sometimes but never cut it, because it will unbalance our efforts to avoid chaos and half done household chores.
    Best thing, we joke about “performance enhancing drugs” as he’s loving playing sport without the ADHD inattentive fug ruining his day.

    1. Hey Quirky,

      Good for you all!

      And yes, treating ADHD can improve sports ability. My husband has such better coordination since starting Rx. I wrote a blog post about dopamine and balance.


    2. Hi I have been trying to compose this email to comment but I have been interupted several times losing what I had already typed or may have accidentally sent uncomplicated soi apologize for repeating what I have already written if so .I am really struggling with brain fog right now ,for the past three nights maybe longer I have been hyperfocused on organizing my temporary bedroom/living area as my husband, myself and two youngest children ages 7 (they are Irish twins)have been living here since the last part of this past winter it was only supposed to be for a week at the most due to freezing weather conditions and our home not being properly weatherized our home has been a work in progress.When we first came to stay we only brought a week’s worth of clothing and other nesccesities .As the days then weeks and what now seems like so long I can’t even remember has gone by I have almost filled my temporary living space with my children’s belongings toys , educational materials and some of my belongings.There is very little to no room or space for storing our belongings my mother in law doesn’t like to part with things easily so whatever we have is in plain sight I have tried organizing our belongings so that it does not look cluttered but being that there isn’t much space in the spare bedroom the living room where I am staying is open to the front door entrance to the dining room and kitchen area filled with different pieces of furniture and decor that my mother inlaw was given and is being stored until she finds use for them .I am expected to keep the house maintained since I do not work it has been a struggle it was hard enough trying to adjust to the very unexpected lengthy stay ,new list of responsibilities and trying to cope with being overstimulated I am an introvert so that along with having AdHd it’s been very overwhelming I have to say it’s thanks to God that I have been able to handle it alot better than I expected so I thought for the past three nights I have been unraveling and I am now remembering how bad my symptoms can get and how truly dibilitating and intense it can get up until now I hadn’t had as hard a time in quite awhile I have had binges of hyperfocusing but they hadn’t been this out of control or so completely unproductive, defeating, physically, mentally and emotionally draining.I have felt so angry and irritable lately it has caused an even bigger strain on my marriage and I’ve had to intentionally dissacociate and not allow myself to process or deal with situations etc.ive had to keep them in the back of my mind while we are living here in fear that I will not be able to control my emotions being able to actually be able to stop long enough to decide that I need to let it go for now so that I don’t lose control is something that I hadn’t been able to do before I don’t know how it when I gained that bit of self-control but it has amazed me since before I had none .I also suffer from cptsd I am very forgiving and can usually let people slide but there are some things and certain people that trigger a very uncrotrollable rage that once it starts is very difficult to regain control of .I’m sorry I hope I haven’t gotten to offtrack having the explain every little detail and turning a thought into a chapter instead of a paragraph is a very time consuming AdHd trait of mine .So I am really having a hard time my husband has not at all been supportive or understanding when he is around his mother I feel he tries to play the victim by calling me lazy and selfish for not being able to finish putting things away and for not being able to keep up with managing the home cooking for and cleaning after my husband,two children,his parents ant his 18 year old nephew who has high functioning autism he has had jobs before so I know he is capable of taking out the trash, taking his dishes to the kitchen and rinsing them and preparing meals for himself but does none of these things .I can’t keep up and I never get to spend quality time with my kids I’m either constantly trying to clean and cook do dishes wich it seems like I never finish any of it and when I do in just a matter of minutes it seems like it is just as messsy as it was .I have tried reminding my husband about my AdHd and how difficult and overwhelming it has been in hopes that he would stop calling me lazy and also hoping he could explain it to his mother who has been making remarks indirectly about how I am here all day and the house should be spotless and how I have cutter everywhere and how I don’t do anything for my husband or my kids and that I don’t go to the pull with my children it’s very hurtful and frustrating because I would love to be spending time with my children but instead I’m constantly trying to pick up and clean I am having a lot of anxiety om becoming very depresed and resentful I have talked to her about how I am struggling with my AdHd but unfortunately she said I have to get it done .I have had to ignore her comments and keep myself from pointing out the fact that she has mental health issues that are not easy to deal with and that she is a hoarder I feel embarrassed and ashamed to say that my intention in doing so isn’t to be mean or put her down .But this home has not been well maintained in years and she has clutter everywhere she literally told my husband she was upset that she couldn’t hoard or bring more things home because there was no more room. I feel very hurt betrayed by my husband and alone .He made a big scene before leaving to work in front of his parents telling me if I didn’t have everything picked up he was going to do it as in he would throw it all away I have been asking him for his help and for some encouragement for the past two weeks but he refuses to help because he says I am mean to him and disrespectful I told him I wish I wouldn’t react the way I do towards him but I don’t know how else to ask nicely he always finds an excuse for refusing to help he is always helping his friends no matter what they ask but never has the time for me this is really taking its toll I don’t know how to get through this I have googled how to deal with hyperfocusing and AdHd burnout and have found so many relatable articles but am to brain fogged,sleep deprived and hungry to be able to narrow it down to just a few helpful things .When I read AdHd and drug holiday early this morning I began to cry I couldn’t believe it I’m still just at a loss for the exact words to explain exactly what I felt when I was reading your experiences as I was struggling with the same experience I’m still just in disbelief at how someone else had experienced the same things I am experiencing them I was literally laying on the pile which has been my focus for the past three days straight and I do mean that literally I have moved this pile all over the room I have put it away only to take it all out again while having to look for something because my husband just had to decide he wanted to watch tv in the living room instead of the bedroom which he rarely does causing me to throw everything that I had just seperated so that I could put them in their places or storage containers and instead had to throw them in a box or had them piled up again by my husband it crushed me and it’s happened more than once all the time I had put into what might look like almost nothing to someone without AdHd I would try again to organize it all only to end up pushing it carefully over enough for me to wedge myself in enough to collapse this morning I was pretty much on top of the pile at first I was feeling nauseated,sad ,so exhausted my head hurt it felt like it was in a vice and it was just frozen I couldn’t think my stomach was tense from not going to try bathroom when I had to tinkle for the past several hours my bladder somehow so ful even though I felt thirsty and dehydrated from not stopping to get anything to drink or stopping to eat I only stopped to get my children and husband whatever it they needed or asked for I haven’t feltlike this in so long I was in crisis mode I was very angry at my husband I was crying and felt very hopeless because he had no compassion I told him I was trying to contact you because you knew exactly, exactly what I was going through and I really needed some help I’m knowing what to do I was very emotional as I mentioned I couldn’t believe that what I was reading was exactly the same thing I was literally going through as I read it and he took the phone he just had to use it to make a call even though there are three other phones he could have used so I had to start composing my email after finding your website again and trying to figure out where to comment it has taken me a long time and I have been struggling to concentrate while being interrupted by my children who are just wanting my attention I felt so bad having to keep telling them that I really needed to finish my message so that I could hopefully make things better but they had a hard time I understanding why it takes me so long .Thank you very much for sharing your experiences it’s such a blessing.To be able to see that there are people who can relate and who have gone or are going through things that no one I know can understand or relate to makes me feel like I can breathe thank you I am still lost but I’m not in crisis mode as I was when I first started happened upon your website.

    3. Dear Evangelina,

      My heart goes out to you. It seems a testament to your good character that you keep trying to “do what you’re supposed to”—despite such difficulty.

      I’m not sure I could hold my tongue if a hoarder-mother-in-law scolded me for living in one room, with children, and it being cluttered.

      You mentioned nothing about diagnosis or treatment. Is that happening?

      For most people with ADHD who struggle as you report, life can be so much easier! You deserve that. Do you think you can start making that happen?

      Please know that your husband might be as frustrated and exhausted are you are. We’re only human, and we can deal with only so much before getting impatient or angry. Not having ADHD doesn’t mean we can constantly compensate and be patient.

      If he can join you in learning about ADHD and work with you to find treatment, that might be the best thing for you, him, and your children.

      take care,

  14. Any thoughts on children? My nine year old son takes Adderall. We’re thinking of taking him off during the summer. His psycohologist think we should. His pediatrician thinks we should keep him on the meds. Anyone can share experience w/ this ? Thx!

    1. Hi Connor,

      In general, I’m not a fan of Adderall. For anyone. For most people, there are much better, less problematic options. Though, it must be said, Adderall works well for a minority of people with ADHD.

      Why does the psychologist want to stop medication for the summer? What is the reasoning? Does this psychologist know anything about ADHD? (I’m thinking not.)

      The pediatrician is likely more knowledgeable than the psychologist about the neurophysiology of ADHD.

      Much depends on the individual. But the idea that medication is only for school is a dangerous one. ADHD symptoms pervasively affect life, from impulsivity that causes a child to run into the street to fetch a ball to poor focus and mood regulation that affects family and friend relationships.

      Good luck with your decision.


  15. I find this article a tiny bit frustrating because I wish I had that reaction, but it’s pretty much the opposite. If I want to be productive, organized, focused on one project, then I need meds–otherwise laundry and cleaning don’t get done, bills are missed, online shopping takes days, and so on. My friends with ADHD seem to be similar. I’ve NEVER heard this type of reaction before. Confused.

    1. Hi Kay,

      ADHD is indeed confusing!

      Think of it this way. ADHD presents challenges with self-regulation, motivation, initiation, etc.

      For some individuals with ADHD, they “over-motivate, initiate, etc.”

      For others, they “under-motivate, initiate, etc.”

      Either way, the problem is self-regulating—finding the middle, reasonable ground.


  16. This makes me laugh/feel sad because it sounds incredibly familiar — but with 2 big differences.

    One is that my house never actually gets all the way to clean. Instead, I crash at 2:00 a.m. with the piles of folded laundry all over the living room, promising myself to get that basket of socks paired and get everything put away tomorrow. But then I oversleep and I’m running late for work and can’t find paired socks for the kids, whose wiggly ADHD bodies absentmindedly knock over piles of folded laundry as they sprawl across the couch, etc., etc.

    The other big difference is that meds never seem to help me at all. I was diagnosed as an adult about 15 months ago. The best thing to come from my own diagnosis has been being able to recognize ADHD in my two young daughters, and ease my husband into the idea of giving them medication. Luckily, Vyvanse has been great for them. But for me, no single med or combination seems to make much difference.

    I’ve tried Concerta, Adderall IR and XR, Vyvanse. I was on 70 mg of Vyvanse for most of 2016, adding in a 10 mg Adderall “kicker” if needed/remembered in the evenings. In May, we started trying adding in something to address anxiety/mild depression as well. I’ve tried Lexapro, Effexor, Wellbutrin, and Cymbalta. The SSRIs seemed to help anxiety a bit, but I had to discontinue due to horrible side effects, and the others never seemed to do much. I had read about genetic testing on this blog, and I thought maybe I was a fast processor; a genetic test indicated that’s not the case. Then the doctor and I decided to try modafinil (generic Nuvigil), which also didn’t seem to be much more effective than coffee. Finally, at the end of 2016, I switched to Strattera. I’ve given it a couple of months, working up to 80 mg, mostly on its own but occasionally adding in a stimulant to see if that combination helped. I ran out of Strattera a week ago, and I decided to see if I noticed a difference after a few days of no drugs at all. Not really.

    Oh, and I’ve tried diet and exercise (sporadically at least), coaching, mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation. And for a year I’ve been seeing a therapist who is very kind and experienced with ADHD.

    Tomorrow I have another appointment with my doctor (actually, a very attentive nurse practitioner in the psychiatric clinic at a research hospital). I think both of us are about out of ideas. Any suggestions from Gina or others would be appreciated. Is there some combination I’ve missed?

    I would love nothing more than to someday look back and say, “Sitting among piles of laundry and searching the internet for answers at 2:30 in the morning! I used to do that all the time!”

    1. Hi Angela,

      Sorry to read that you’ve been through the Rx mill, to little or no avail.

      Are you sure that you’ve gotten no positive effect? Have you asked your partner and children? Sometimes, folks with ADHD think the Rx is making no difference, but it is.

      Then again, the old slogan goes “Pills don’t make skills.” Even with the best of medication approaches, organizing a house (especially one with young kids) takes some serious skills and strategies.

      I’d also ask if you’re getting enough sleep.

      If you’d like to schedule a consultation, we could review the details of everything you’ve tried — and see what’s left.

      I’ll be opening some slots in my consulting schedule soon.


  17. My DH took a two month med holiday last fall because he was on a medical leave from work. He thought he only needed the meds for work. Boy was he wrong!!!! It was one of the worst time periods in our relationship.

    Thankfully, once he went back on his medication, he realized how much better he felt and now no longer takes holidays on the weekends like he used to.

    1. Hi Deb,

      I’m glad he had that epiphany. It’s crazy….the idea that it’s a “holiday” — for anyone! 🙂

  18. Omg yes with the cleaning thing or anything else staring at me. Bills or refrigerator. They just needed to be done. I was mean but my place was spotless. Lol I thought I was just weird. Thanks for letting me know i wasn’t. Of course I’m nothing like that now. My husband misses the cleaning lady. Ha ha

    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m glad that Katy’s story resonated for you.

      Most people don’t realize that ADHD can sometimes look like OCD or perfectionism, due to this inability to stop.
      To know when it’s “good enough.”


  19. I can relate(not with the cleaning, but with the totally being out of wack), however I don’t ever get to that point because my wife would throw me out of the house after not being on meds for like 3 hours.

  20. Oh man! One day my pharmacy told me that they couldn’t refill my prescription until Monday so I had to go three days without my medicine. AND STILL GO TO WORK! But the thing is, without my medicine I’m the complete opposite of you. I’m super lethargic and sleepy that I can’t focus on anything! I’m able to fake it. But oh my gosh I just felt like not all my brain wires were connected right 😛 I’m pretty sure I even annoyed the crap out of my husband from texting him during work!

    1. Hi Chelsie,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yes, some people with ADHD aren’t like Katy at all. Without medication to give them initiation and motivation, they are more “lethargic and sleepy.”

      I don’t think my husband and I could survive together if we used a storefront pharmacy for 30-day prescriptions. That just seems impossible to manage.

      Sometimes, the pharmacy is out of the Rx. You have to fill it on the exact day for which it is written, not one day before (after is okay, by a bit). And the insurance pharmacy benefit allows no overlap. That is some kind of nuts!

      If you have trouble like that again, you might want to consider a mail order option, if your insurance has it.


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