ADHD / Medications

ADHD: How to tell if your meds are working…

How can you tell if your ADHD meds are working? At the risk of sounding completely flippant: Just stop taking your stimulant meds for a few days and see how that works out for ya. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA…just to be clear, I’m NOT advocating that people should stop taking your meds. Let me explain…

I take an antidepressant and a stimulant medication (methylin, a member of the methylphenidate/ritalin family). It’s really easy to get into a groove and get so used to the feeling of being on the medication, that you start to think it’s not working anymore. And of course, I have also heard that some people do develop a tolerance to them. I haven’t found that to be the case for me, however. I just get lulled by familiarity into wondering if the meds are working. I’m a pretty straight arrow though, and I generally take my meds as prescribed…until they run out.

I NEVER let my antidepressant run out. It can be very dangerous to stop certain types of medications suddenly, and I learned the hard way one time that after about 36 hours of not taking my antidepressant, ugly withdrawal symptoms set in. However, I have also learned that nothing too horrible happens to me (in terms of danger) when I stop taking my stimulants. The only time I stop, however, is if I have run through a prescription and simply haven’t had a chance to refill it (or I forgot to call my prescriber for the refill).

I ran out last week and I’m getting a great refresher course on how fun it is to be me without meds. Easily provoked, cranky, variable energy levels, complete energy crash every afternoon, variable ability to focus on or care about anything, the itchy feelings of so many thoughts, and not ability to follow all of them. And: I actually HAVE the  prescription in my purse! I just haven’t had time to get to the pharmacy. Let me tell you: I am SO going to the pharmacy tomorrow morning. Just the improvement in my general mood will be worth it!

Whether people come on or off of meds is definitely an issue they should discuss with their doctor, but I know that for me, if I need a reminder of why I take the stimulant medication…all I have to do is abstain for a couple days. Instant reminder!


9 thoughts on “ADHD: How to tell if your meds are working…

  1. LOL. I’ve been there.

    This morning. Actually. Because I didn’t have ritalin with me, and impulsively stayed over at the boyfriend. (I did have an empty strip of pills though, does that count?)

  2. I just wait for my meds to wear off in the afternoon… I’m on a high enough dose, I can quickly see the difference. Sure, I went to work one time without taking them (completely forgot about it). Had a client meeting that morning (where I think I was interrupting a fair bit) and some focus-work at my desk after. At one point, I looked at myself and said “Did I take my meds this morning? I really don’t know…” Went home at lunch to check, and sure enough I didn’t. Whoops!

    BTW: What kind of withdrawal symptoms are you talking about with the anti-depressants? I’m on two at the moment (Cipralex and Wellbutrin), both have to build up in your system to start working….but can you tell things are getting worse by just a couple of days? What should you be watching out for?

    • Ah yes, I have those moments after the meds have worn off where I try to put my purse away in the fridge, lol…or just literally cannot think…

      Withdrawal depends on the medication (and the person). I take a tri-cyclic one called nortriptyline. After about 40 hours of not taking it, I am hit with increasingly horrible waves of a really sickening nausea. It doesn’t feel quite like regular nausea…it feels like something has taken over my body and it ebbs (wretched) and then it flows away for a few minutes…then comes back worse…ack…yucky…might be more symptoms but I didn’t let it get much further because I had someone go pick up a refill for me. Within a few hours of taking it, I was back to normal. In general it’s just a bad idea to stop taking them without talking to your prescriber first, for a variety of reasons…now I really understand why!

  3. This post is so true, and that is actually how I tend to think if I ever wonder if the meds are working or not – all I have to do is not take them for a day, and there it is: miss cranky pants, overwhelmed over whether to have breakfast or shower first, pondering the pros and cons of each and doing none, therefore making herself late, hopefully clean, grabbing a banana, and running out the door! lol

    • OMG Marta, this made me laugh so hard “overwhelmed over whether to have breakfast or shower first”. I struggle with this and so many other completely asinine dilemmas when I don’t take my medication, good god…I start having fits about things like trying to find the lid for the tupperware, and whether I should wash my hair, whether I should even get out of bed…if I take the meds, there I am calmly filling lunchboxes, taking a shower, dressing myself, and able to form complete sentences! I’ll take the meds!

  4. Yep! I too was diagnosed in my early thirties, while in grad school when the old coping mechanisms were no longer sufficient to get me by. Trying to decide every day what to do with myself became so exhausting that I figured I had to do something about it. I’m still working on my doc dissertation, and hope to be done very soon; but that means that I have to make some decisions and find a “real job”… I have so many interests, and things that I love to do (I make tutus in my (non)spare time, sell them, and donate the money to charity), but it’s really time to get out there and make a proper living!
    I found your blog because of yesterday’s ADDitude piece you wrote on career – any advice you could send my way?

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