My Story of Stopping ADHD Medication

Our expert weighs in on his journey with ADHD Medications

A heartfelt story of stopping ADHD Medication

Rick Green ponders stopping ADHD medication one more time

Rick Green stopped and started ADHD medication 4 times. This is the story of his difficult relationship with ADD drugs.

The first time I started taking medication for ADHD was nearly 15 years ago. The fourth time I started medication was yesterday. Each time I started taking medication was for the same reason—Overwhelmed and Stuck.  Each time I stopped was for a different reason.

But today, I want to reveal why I stopped taking medication for my ADHD the second time, and why I started again. Because it was the only time I succumbed to pressure and other people’s opinions.

My Wife Wasn’t A Fan of Taking Medication for ADHD

In this case, it was the only opinion that really mattered to me.  My wife’s opinion. Ava and I had worked together for 15 years on The Red Green Show.  In 2007 we married.  The caterer told us that in all his years of handling weddings, he had never seen such a happy couple.

At that point I was no longer taking medication for my ADHD.  Why had I stopped? After all, this little pill, this dopamine booster, actually worked for me. It was much better than my old ADHD medication: 6 cans of caffeinated cola each day, and the adrenaline rush of taking on a thousand things at once, writing and producing television, performing comedy onstage…

On ADHD medication, I could stick with tasks that I didn’t want to do.  I mean, that I REALLY did not want to do. As well, interruptions were less disruptive.  I could focus on what was important.  Prioritize. 

Not spend too much time hyper-focused on a trivial task.  My memory was better.  I only had to read things 2 or 3 times to remember them.  And it even helped with my motor mouthing and interrupting.

Photo of Rick and Ava Green at a bike rally

So Why Stop Taking ADHD Meds?

You should understand that Ava was vegetarian, sometimes vegan, heavily into yoga, and rarely, if ever took medication for anything.  Ava wasn’t pushy about her lifestyle.  She was simply into healthy living. Whereas I… [Awkward clearing of throat.] “Hey, potato chips are made from a vegetable!”

So while Ava didn’t come right out and say it, I knew she was not pleased that I was taking Ritalin every morning.  There was always a look, “Do you still need to take that?”  Ironically, she had no strong opinion about the thyroid pill I took every morning as well.

Is Taking ADHD Medication for Adults Cheating?

At this point, our documentary ADD & Loving It?! was just one idea out of dozens that I was developing. So this was before we’d interviewed 75 ADHD experts for  

But at the time, neither of us knew that ADHD medication had first been used in 1937, or that the long-term effects were fairly well understood.  I just trusted the doctor when he said, “If you don’t like how you feel, don’t take the one at lunch.”

Until I learned the facts, there was a nagging feeling that taking ADHD drugs was kind of cheating.  After all, everyone feels overwhelmed at times, right?

And, I was worried that it might have some long-term effect on my liver, brain, heart, or, well, who knows what?!  But not really sure where to find reliable answers.  

Well, truth be told, I assumed it was safe and Ava was concerned.  Vaguely.  On principle. Ava’s vague concerns became my vague concerns.  Maybe I didn’t need it.  My life was going well.  I was managing.  Mostly.  I convinced myself I didn’t need medication any more.  (You know where this is going, don’t you?)

When I finally found the Right dose of ADHD Medication - meme

So I stopped Taking ADHD Medication Cold

That’s the beauty of stimulant medication.  I didn’t have any severe withdrawal symptoms.  Perhaps a slight headache for a day.  Far less than the ones I’ve had whenever I had cut out caffeine from my daily intake.

And then my wife and I started making ADD & Loving It?!   It was exciting.  We’ve never done a documentary before. The film follows comedian Patrick McKenna, and his fabulous wife Janis, as he went through the diagnostic process.  It was mind expanding.  We realized early on that this was going to change a few lives. Including our own.

Along the way, Patrick and I were fortunate to meet and interview nine amazing ADHD experts.  (We had no idea we’ve eventually sit down with over 70 experts!) It was exciting, but overwhelming at points.  My stress levels rose.  There was so much to be done, to think about, to remember…

Near the end of filming, we shot an entire afternoon of Patrick and Janis talking on a very comfy couch. They opened up about everything they had gone through, what they were learning, and what the future might bring

My final question to Patrick was, “How do you feel about medication now that you’ve heard from all of these experts?”  Patrick admitted that in the past, he had bought into the myths he’d heard from other people who had no idea themselves.

Patrick McKenna and ADHD

ADHD Medication Opinions vs. Reality

Now that he had the facts, now that we had interviewed so many experts, now that he and Janis had done a great deal of reading, Patrick said that he was looking forward to trying medication.

He said he was looking forward to experiencing that calm that other people talk about, but that he had never known.  I smiled and nodded.  Been there done that.  ‘Good answer,’ I thought. But for Ava, Patrick’s answer was a bolt of lightning.  A revelation. She was stunned!  “Patrick has never experienced the kind of calm that she had regular access to?  How is that possible? What is that like?”

Never experiencing calm?

Ava experienced periods of calm at an early age, growing up on a farm, later doing yoga, and mindfulness.  But she tried to imagine never being calm while standing in line, listening to a conversation, or doing a boring chore.

That night, she was quiet and thoughtful.  Finally she said, “I need to tell you something.”  My mind raced? Did I forget her birthday?  Anniversary?  Bathroom left messy?

After reminding me about what Patrick’s lament around ‘never experiencing calm,’ Ava said, “It made me realize that I have no idea what it’s like for you.   I cannot imagine what that must be like to not experience being calm.  If you need to take medication, if it helps you, then you should take it.” “I thought you were against medication on principle.”

She took my hand and said, “My opinion does not trump your experience of life.” Tears welled up in my eyes. Here’s what I want you to get: Ava wasn’t saying, “I understand.” She was saying, “I will probably NEVER understand. So I have to respect your choice.” I started taking medication again.  And life got simpler.  Calmer.  Less scattered.

For me, as for many people who find medication works, the little pill in the morning became the keystone, the catalyst that allowed me to do mindfulness and yoga, build supports and stick with them, create new habits and not completely forget about them.  (How is that possible? I still don’t know.)

Photo Rick Green Patrick McKenna ADHD Shirt

Everyone Has An Opinion  About ADHD Medication. Only We Know What It’s Like

“My opinion does not trump your experience of life.” Think about people you know who have strong negative beliefs about ADHD medication, (That may actually be most people in your life.)  Now imagine if they had that same attitude.

Think about the knee-jerk hostility and disdain you’ve confronted.  Imagine those people apologizing and admitting, “My opinion does not trump your experience of life.  Do what’s right for you.  I don’t want you to suffer for no good reason.”

What would that be like?



Related Blogs About ADHD Medication

ADHD Medication Abuse – My Questions and Concerns – By Rick Green

Medicating Myself Without Medication – Self Medicating – By Rick Green

Holistic Solutions for ADHD – What Does That Mean? – By Rick Green

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  1. kristinaw December 6, 2015 at 12:34 am

    I had much the same experience as Ava. I was driving my son, who had had shoulder surgeries and was on painkillers for the long trip home. We were on a two day trip and were having various car ttroubles. He calmly leaned back in his passenger seat and said, “oh, Mom, is this how other people feel most of the tme?” It kind of broke my heart.

  2. kristinaw December 6, 2015 at 12:38 am

    I should say, “painkillers and Valium”. It struck me that he had never felt as calm before.

  3. playdhd December 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I love the honesty between the two of you and with your readers. Acceptance of differences in functioning and out experiences in life make for a much better world. Thank you for this gift. I look forward to reading future posts about being on and off meds. Both my son and I go back and forth listening to our internal voices and those around us who have opinions about ADHD and medication. Always good to hear from another tribe member to balance the skeptics who have no idea….

  4. twitsme December 8, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I was diagnosed with ADD about 8 years ago at 50. So far I have tried every medication going, and every time something new comes out, I try it. Up to this point, I unfortunately have had no results – no changes, no calm. I assume I am one of the fairly small percentage for whom ADHD meds don’t work. I find this frustrating, but accept it, because I can’t change it.
    But oh I long to know what that feeling of “calm” is. To have a quiet brain, to sit down to a task and complete it (not over 18 hours in a fit of hyperfocus!). But mostly, just to feel what it’s like to be “normal” (and I say that tongue-in-cheek).
    At least having a diagnosis helps me understand why I am how I am, why I do (or don’t do) what I do. It helps me find ways to manage it, because I understand it.
    My ex-husband was also diagnosed around the same time (we were still together then). He is not a fan of medication, and wouldn’t give ADHD meds a fair run. Some days he didn’t think he even had ADHD (which I knew he REALLY did!), some days he thought he might have it, but didn’t think he should have to have medication to “fix” it. I found it very frustrating that he could potentially find some relief, or clarity, or help with procrastination, but wouldn’t try.
    I look forward to more on your “On again” journey with ADHD meds. :-)

  5. wolfshades December 9, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I think you’ve got a keeper there, Rick. “My opinion does not trump your experience of life” is filled with everything you need: most importantly it’s a completely unselfish statement.
    I wish those who have a *need* to burden us with the force of their opinion – on medication, on even the existence of ADHD itself – would take a few moments and consider that those of us who have it actually have an experience from which to draw.
    I’ve ceased trying to defend or explain ADHD to anyone. it’s a fruitless exercise if we are only going to talk in generalities or abstract thought. Until you’ve been through some of the horrors that we have faced, while all the time thinking “this is just normal; and I must be stupid or something because I’m the only one who seems to have a problem dealing with it”, that other guy will have no empathetic perception of it.
    Eva’s revelation about Patrick’s hope for calm, is so rare and wonderful.
    Maybe that’s it. Maybe we need to stop talking about statistics and other arguable abstracts. Maybe we need to find better ways to relate our experiences in terms non-ADHDers can appreciate. I’ve got a few under my belt but am still looking (probably in vain) for the perfect descriptor.

  6. Rick December 14, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Thanks @wolfshades.She is indeed a keeper.
    I keep thinking I should stop trying to defend or explain ADHD to anyone, but of course that’s what is behind this website, and every video and blog and posting I’ve done for the past 7 years. The thing I’ve learned, and I talk about this in greater detail in one of my favourite videos, ‘Facing The World’ is that arguing and overwhelming people with facts, facts, facts, doesn’t change minds.
    Follow national politics for 3 minutes to see what I mean.
    And @twitsme, it is not a tiny minority who do not find any benefit from medication. The current thinking is that it’s between 70 and 80% of us who do find they work. And that leaves 20 to 30% who don’t get a benefit. And some of those involve people having a negative reaction because they are also taking medication for other ongoing disorders such as Epilepsy or BiPolar. You’ll find a much deeper discussion on this, including 18 adults sharing their ‘medication stories’ in our new video series. (I’m so proud of it. Every doctor who has seen it loves it. Some are now recommending patients see if before they even begin to discuss medication.

  7. kc5jck June 14, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    kristinaw’s comment reminded me of when I had a colonoscopy they gave me something which got rid of all the voices – for the first (and only) time – ever. I guess if I ever go back I’ll be the only one they ever had excited about having a telescope shoved up his ass.

  8. ladygogo January 27, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    I love your wife’s attitude, Rick. Wolfshades is right.
    My husband wasn’t thrilled about me trying medication but he did the reading and research (which was good because that is just not something I do, thank you! LOL.
    The best part? He was more excited and confident that it was okay than I was. Not sure who benefitted the most from me trying medication, him or me? LOL.

  9. emely September 26, 2018 at 9:44 am

    I remember getting diagnosed in first grade right after my father passed away. It kept me focused and I learned well, like the other kids. I kept using the meds until my mother couldn’t afford them once i got to highschool. I just had to cope with it. My grades did fall, immensely.
    Im glad to be able to find other people who have the same thing as I do. I vaguely remember the effects of the meds and I remember being able to thing straight and not move all the time. There is no calm without.
    I am now seriously thinking about starting my prescription again, im thinking of all the benefits it would allow me at work

  10. adeline March 8, 2019 at 11:22 pm

    I am the spouse of a wonderful man who has ADD. Just like the people on this blog, he tries to do everything he can to manage his symptoms, including taking Aderrall which had a “magic” effect on his personal and professional life.
    Unfortunately, after a few years of taking this drug he started to have heart problems (without having any other heart related risk factor). Turns out Aderrall is a strong stimulant and it wracked havoc on his heart. A few painful tests and a pacemaker later, he finally decided to give up Aderral in order to have a chance to live (by allowing his enlarged heart to heal after being beaten up for so long).
    If anyone does a simple google search on Aderrall will find a huge amount of information explaining its potential dangerous heart-related side effects. Yet, doctors prescribe it like candy to small children!!! My husband was complaining about heart related issues to his doctor for some time, was having abnormal EKGs and yet…the doctor continued to prescribe Aderrall.
    Even the FDA has started to investigate the link between ADD drugs and sudden cardiac death in children with minor heart issues.
    Yes, meds can work wonders for ADD….but is everyone aware of the potential cost?
    I felt compelled to post this as I believe everyone has the right to be informed AND to be their strongest advocate with their doctor. Don’t just trust your doctor to take your blood pressure, tell you “it’s ok” then renew your prescription. Listen to your body, ask for an echocardiogram just to be safe.
    We are now trying to find a safer, healthier alternative to meds. It’s tough, very tough. Yet, it’s better than the alternative….

  11. amphetamines March 18, 2019 at 4:44 pm

    Adderall X.R. happens to be a lifesaver literally to me! My ADHD symptoms are 75% better. I can breath easier (I have breathing issues) it actually also boosts the pain killing effects of pain meds(even non-narcotic ones). It has also improved my intellect. It’s helped my OCD. I’m also Schizophrenic and ever since starting it has turned negative voices into positive. I literally have no more depression and I mean I had it severe. Any questions? feel free to ask or say anything to me.

  12. zajormita January 11, 2020 at 4:55 am

    Sitting here, in the bathroom, crying uncontrollably after reading this piece. I don’t even know where to start, so I’ll just try to be short instead. I had an examination 10 days ago where you get sedated. When the medication “kicked in”, it felt like a grey (in a nice shade), fluffy, comfortable blanket was put on my mind, that instantly covered all the mess, and brought an incredible calmness. I could cry from happiness.
    In the past few years since I have two kids I started to question if the constant, relentless thoughts were how everyone else was feeling all the time. But until this experience of sedation I have never experienced such beautiful calmness, never ever in my life.
    Yesterday I’ve found a book about ADHD in the library, and started reading it. I recognised my son (who’s diagnosed as autistic) in every sentence, and also myself as a child. I started reading on the subject, and my search led me here (not for the first time though). And now I feel like I finally found the answer to all the silent suffering. I have the feeling that there might be a solution out there to this mess which I am inside most of the time. I can get it together for a week or two, then everything falls apart again. Laundry in towers, mess everywhere, and it adds up to the mess in my head so badly, I’m paralysed. Then I get it together again, because you know, I’m strong, I’m capable, I just have to work through it… Do I really have to work THAT hard to live a normal life? Or is there something here that makes it so hard for me?
    I believe now that this relentlessness can be calmed somehow. I’ll seek help.
    Huge thank you!

  13. beverley April 19, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    I’ve chosen not to take medication – made the choice when I was dx in my early 30’s and continue to stay on this path. I have nothing against medication. I don’t feel scattered and discombobulated – unless under high stress – it’s more I tend to hyperfocus, paralysis or tune-out. I suspect the decrease in scattered energy is due to the struggles I’ve been experiencing with my thyroid over the decades – long story short, I have a very rare thyroid deficiency and Hashimoto’s disease.
    My fear is if I use any medication to sort out the ADHD I’ll become a hibernating bear who forgets to wake up. I do though appreciate reading the blog because it provides more insight into how diverse this disorder is, and it’s one to share with others, who struggle with whether or not to use medications.

  14. iopsychologist April 21, 2020 at 7:18 pm

    Wow! Awe inspiring. I have realized that the body get it’s kick back when there is a sudden stop on medication especially the ones like Valium or Adderall . I love the fact that mindfulness worked for the blessed couple. This disorder has a different impact on each individual depending on their emotional strength too. Love-hate relationship between medication is there.
    However, I did come across marijuana induced medication that may contribute to healing- a pretty smoke-able flower, whether be oil ,vapes or creams.
    What touches me is , “That’s the beauty of stimulant medication”- no major side effects.

  15. dinodan September 16, 2020 at 11:22 am

    It is so great that after all your wife understood you. It is the main thing for me in your story.
    Actually now it is difficult for me to find understanding with my environment, and maybe, therefore, this moment so impressed me.
    Medication is a necessity for me, and I can not imagine how I feel without it.

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