What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Taking ADHD Meds?

If you attended an average public school, then chances are good either you or one of your classmates have ADHD. And that's not a wild guess. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology states that, at present, an estimated 3% to 5% of school-aged children have ADHD. This means that out of an average 25 or 30-student classroom, one student will have the condition.

As these children age, the chances of them being prescribed medication for their condition goes up. The CDC states that the exact percentage of children taking ADHD medication varies state by state, and can be anywhere from 38% to 81%.

Every one of those children will eventually have to decide if they want to stop taking their ADHD medication. Contrary to a once-popular belief, kids do not "grow out of" ADHD (via CHADD). As ADHD children age, they develop coping strategies, and their presentation of the condition changes. This is because, as CHADD highlights, ADHD is connected to the actual physical development of the brain. So kids with ADHD become adults with ADHD.

So as these children age and their ADHD presentation changes, they may decide to change medications or stop them altogether. The question then becomes: What happens to their body when they do?

It depends on the medication

As with any medication, the body's specific reaction to stopping ADHD medication depends on the type a person is taking. The Cleveland Clinic explains that while the most common type of ADHD medication is stimulants like Adderall, there are also non-stimulant drugs that may be used in cases where stimulants either don't work or aren't advised.

The Clinic goes on to say that stimulants have several side effects such as sleeplessness and decreased appetite which can lead to weight loss. Both stimulants and non-stimulants can cause an upset stomach, mood drops when they begin to wear off at the end of the day, and even small bouts of increased anxiety.

If someone stops their ADHD medication suddenly, the Edge Foundation warns that they may experience a sort of mirror effect to the side effects of their medication. This can include a ravenous appetite and increased fatigue, as well as sudden increases in activity and difficulty with executive function.

There is a silver lining, however. Fatigue during the day may translate into better sleep at night, according to the Foundation. However, they recommend talking to a doctor before stopping the use of any medicine as well as monitoring ADHD symptoms to ensure the loss of medication does not cause the condition to interfere with day-to-day life.