I quit my ADHD medication (Elvanse/Vyvanse) in late 2023. Now I’ve been medication-free for four months. Today, I’m sharing 5 reasons why I quit ADHD medication.
As a disclaimer, I’m not a medical professional, and this blog post is not medical advice. I’m simply sharing my personal experience. Like all articles on this website, this post is for informational purposes only.
The 5 reasons why I quit ADHD medication
Just one year ago I never would have imagined I would ever quit my ADHD medicine, Elvanse (Vyvanse). Yet I ended up quitting it after being on Elvanse for eight years.
Before Elvanse, I was on a non-stimulant medicine, Strattera, for about a year and a half. So overall, I was on ADHD medication for almost ten years.
These are the five reasons why I decided to quit my medication.
1. The effect didn’t last long term
The first time I took Elvanse, it was heaven on Earth. Angels and unicorns were singing a sweet song of motivation and productivity. I had an irresistible urge to clean every single square centimeter of my apartment. I felt euphoric!
If only the honeymoon period had lasted forever, I would still be on cloud 9 of motivation, singing with the angels and unicorns. But insane levels of motivation and euphoria never last forever.
And that’s OK. I would have been happy with just being able to focus and keep up with daily responsibilities while not experiencing any major side effects.
For a long time, I got there. For years, Elvanse helped me accomplish things I couldn’t have made on my own. I finished my Master’s thesis and got my Master’s degree. Years later, I started my own business.
But there were shadows in the paradise. The longer I was on Elvanse, the more I felt like I was stuck in a rut. I hyper-focused on work, but I struggled with cooking, cleaning, and doing anything boring.
Doctors said that I could take breaks from Elvanse. But that was impossible when I had been on it for years. If I didn’t take the medication, I barely got out of bed and I was extremely depressed and lethargic. I felt much worse without the meds than when I hadn’t started them yet.
At some point, I wasn’t sure if my ability to get things done was any better than before the medication. And I also had the side effects to deal with.
2. I got side effects
Maybe it’s because I’m autistic, but I tend to get every possible side effect from medications. That was the case with Elvanse as well.
In the beginning, I experienced jitteriness, which went away with time. But the other side effects didn’t. Over time, I experienced more and more anxiety. I’ve always had anxiety, but the ADHD meds made it worse. I felt anxious, irritated, and strained. I had an unpleasant feeling of urgency.
I had trouble listening to other people, which is an ADHD symptom I had before. But now I was impatient because I was irritable and anxious.
I also had a fast heart rate all the time, and I had to take beta blockers every day to deal with it. I’ve always had heart palpitations, but Elvanse made it worse. That was also the case with migraines; I experienced them more often while I was on Elvanse.
3. There was a national shortage of stimulant medication
This is actually the number #1 reason why I quit Elvanse. There was a national shortage of stimulants in 2023. It was impossible to get Elvanse from any pharmacy. The situation made me extremely anxious because I depended on the medicine to function. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get anything done without it.
However, I had already tried True Focus from Now Foods and it seemed to boost the effects of Elvanse. That gave me the courage to try if I could cope without my ADHD medication.
I definitely wouldn’t have been able to quit without True Focus. It seemed to somewhat replace the stimulants and weaning off wasn’t as awful. My withdrawal lasted for six weeks. I didn’t quit cold turkey because I always felt horrible when I took breaks from Elvanse.
I didn’t talk to a doctor about quitting, I just quit. There weren’t even any psychiatrists available in public healthcare in my area when I needed to decide about my ADHD medication. Yes, you’re supposed to talk to a doctor about medication, but I don’t trust doctors and there weren’t any psychiatrists available so what was I supposed to do?
My stimulant withdrawal wasn’t too bad. It was nothing compared to my withdrawal from antidepressants, which lasted for six YEARS. I felt a bit crappy for about a day every time I reduced my dose, but nothing unbearable.
Now the stimulant shortage is over (for now), but I don’t trust that the situation will last. And since I’m coping without my medication and there were all the downsides to taking it, I choose to continue being stimulant-free.
4. Keeping up the treatment was not ADHD or autistic friendly
One reason I wanted to try if I could cope without stimulants is that the ADHD treatment is not ADHD or autistic-friendly.
Keeping up my stimulant medication was a constant source of stress in my life. It was clear that doctors didn’t like describing the stimulants so they made it as difficult as possible. If I asked them to renew the prescription too soon, they refused to renew it. And then it was impossible to renew it at all, and my husband had to call the healthcare services (because I can’t handle phone calls at the moment).
So I had to remember to renew the prescription at an exact time, which is not ADHD-friendly. And I was always anxious if I would get it renewed or not, being scared of what would happen if I ran out of my medicine.
I also had to see a doctor once a year, which is understandable. It doesn’t sound too bad, but since I’m scared of doctors, it was super stressful for me.
I still have other medications, but dealing with them is not as stressful because they’re not controlled substances. Doctors are happy to renew my asthma inhaler and other prescriptions without headaches.
5. I found other ways to cope with my ADHD symptoms
I was able to quit my ADHD meds because I found other ways to cope with my ADHD symptoms. When I started the medication, I had just gotten my diagnosis and didn’t have any skills to deal with executive dysfunction and other ADHD symptoms.
I didn’t do even simple things like to-do lists. While I was medicated, I learned some strategies in therapy and on my own. I’m not saying I have perfect coping skills now, but at least I have some strategies to survive life with ADHD.
Even if you’re medicated, medication alone doesn’t solve your problems. It just gives you a baseline to be able to do things. For me, that baseline didn’t last because as I mentioned, the medication wasn’t effective long-term. But it helped me get started with my ADHD survival skills.
True Focus by Now Foods
Also, I found a natural alternative to Elvanse. Now I’m taking a supplement called True Focus by Now Foods. For me, it’s almost as effective as Elvanse, and based on the reviews on Amazon and iHerb, other customers with ADHD have the same experience.
True Focus boosts the same neurotransmitters as Elvanse, dopamine and Norepinephrine. While the supplement hasn’t been approved for the treatment of ADHD (no supplement is officially approved for that), I truly feel the effect. Just like Elvanse, True Focus helps me get rid of the ADHD brain fog. It gives me the clarity and alertness, just like stimulants.
It’s not as strong, of course, but I’m surprised how close to the stimulants the effect is. And I don’t get any of the side effects I got from stimulants. Also, I don’t need to deal with the ADHD-unfriendly procedures of getting prescriptions renewed.
I’ve tried almost every supplement that is supposed to boost focus and alertness, and True Focus is the first one that has had a significant impact on my ADHD symptoms.
Letting go of the little pink pill
So that was the story of why I quit Elvanse. Once upon a time, it felt like a miracle pill and I was very much psychologically attached to it. But here I am, writing a 1500-word blog post without ADHD medication. So I seem to be doing pretty well without it.
I didn’t think I could survive without Elvanse, but I think it actually made my ADHD symptoms worse over time.
I’m not saying I’ll never go on ADHD meds again. Who knows what will happen? Maybe my ADHD symptoms will get worse when I hit menopause. Or True Focus will stop working (hope not!). But for now, I’m happy this way.
Although I admit it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Elvanse. We’ve been through a lot together, that pink little pill and I. I’m grateful for all the lessons it taught me and the hard times it got me through. It gave me the boost I needed in one phase of my life. Now it’s time to move on.