Do I Have To Take ADHD Medications Forever?

ADHD Medication Trajectory
Picture of young woman looking at her ADHD medication pill bottle while seeing herself aged in the mirror.

Understanding that ADHD is a lifetime condition, but your need for medication can change with the seasons of your life.

Albert Hernandez

November 26, 2021
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read

November 26, 2021
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read


Making the choice to seek treatment for symptoms of adult Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be a scary thing. People who think they might have adult ADHD usually do a lot of questioning of family and friends and checking around online before they feel ready to ask a mental health provider for advice.

When my patients in El Paso, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, or other locations begin taking stimulant medications for their ADD or ADHD for the first time, they often have questions or concerns. They might worry about potential side effects. They wonder if short-term or long-term stimulants will be the best choice for treating their ADHD. 

Another question that can come up is, “Will I have to take my ADHD medication for life?”

Although the answer to this question is “It depends,” it’s important for my patients to understand that ADHD is typically not a condition that a person outgrows. However, the circumstances that caused my patients to need stimulant medication such as Adderall or Vyvanse for ADHD can change. As jobs, school, or life circumstances change, the need for daily ADHD medicine may ebb and flow.

ADHD is a disorder that will be with a person over their lifetime, and it’s necessary for my patients to understand their condition and pay attention to how they are feeling and interacting with others.

Why People Seek ADD/ADHD Treatment

Patients often come to Upper Valley Behavioral Health for help when their ADHD symptoms begin to overwhelm them. Many patients experienced challenges related to ADD or ADHD as children or adolescents. However, they didn’t end up receiving treatment at that time, either because they managed to “white knuckle” their way through school or because adults in their life didn’t understand or acknowledge their struggles. Some of the symptoms of ADHD that my patients can experience are:

  • Feeling fidgety or restless when they should be sitting still
  • Appearing to “zone out” or not listen when someone is talking to them
  • Trouble beginning or completing crucial tasks at school or work
  • Irritability
  • Losing important items
  • Being forgetful
  • Talking a lot and/or talking over other people

These ADHD symptoms can cause significant stress in a person’s day-to-day life. People seeking care with our practice often report that they aren’t performing well at work and they’re fearful of losing their job. In turn, all of the effort that they’re putting into trying to stay organized at work can lead to exhaustion and being angry at home. Patients seek help because they want to do better at work, have more energy for their spouse and kids, and they want to be able to relax with friends again. 

How Stimulants Work For Treating ADD/ADHD

ADHD Medications

When a person has ADHD, two neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) in the brain, norepinephrine and dopamine, aren’t working the way they need to. This can lead to the attention and impulsivity problems that people with ADHD exhibit. A stimulant such as Vyvanse, Adderall, or Concerta helps the brain get the amounts of brain chemicals needed for effective communication between brain cells. Different medications help your brain get the correct amount of neurotransmitters by either helping nerve cells release more neurotransmitters, helping the chemicals stay the space between nerve cells for longer, or helping nerve cells take in the neurotransmitters more efficiently. 

Stimulant ADHD medications work at the time that you take them. That’s why many of my patients report feeling better after even one dose of Concerta, Adderall, or Vyvanse. However, stimulants aren’t working to fix or cure your ADHD. They are only able to combat ADHD symptoms while the medications are working within your body, usually three to four hours for short-acting medications like Ritalin and up to 12 hours for long-acting stimulants like Concerta.

When Can I Discontinue My ADHD Meds?

You might be able to stop taking your ADHD medication if the circumstances of your life change. For example, if managing your job plus managing your children’s’ schedules was the trigger for you to seek ADHD treatment, you may be able to discontinue your stimulant medication when your children are older. If your job responsibilities or schedule changes, you might find you don’t need your Concerta, Vyvanse, or Adderall anymore, or you might be able to take a lower dose. You might also find that taking your stimulant meds only on workdays is sufficient for keeping your ADHD symptoms under control.

Woman with ADHD that looks in the mirror and sees the older reflection of herself.

Knowing that your ADHD is a condition that you won’t outgrow helps you to understand that you might need medication to control your symptoms for life. It’s also possible that you may stop medications because of an easing of your stressors, and then circumstances may change yet again down the road, resulting in the need for medication assistance to resume. If you and your behavioral health provider end up discontinuing your ADHD medication, you’ll want to stay alert to changes in your feelings or behavior. You might not need to take stimulant medication for ADHD forever; however, your ADHD is still there. If symptoms warrant it, you’ll want to start taking your ADHD medication again. 

Do you suspect that symptoms of ADHD are making your work, home, or school life more challenging than it needs to be? If you live in or near Las Cruces, El Paso, Albuquerque, or one of the other areas we serve, an Upper Valley Behavioral Health expert would love to meet with you. Our board-certified expert providers can help you determine the best course of treatment for your ADHD symptoms. Click here to complete our application for care today. 

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

Tags: add, adhd, adhd awareness, adhd problems, adhd support, adhd life, adhd medications, adhd medication, adhd medication for adults, adhd meds, adhd meds help, adhd help, adhd helper

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