Scratch Concerta — What is Next?

I am sitting in the Chicago airport, phoning home to find out how my son got through the day.

question-mark-280I hated getting on the plane this time even more than usual. My son is in medication limbo, his mind and body bouncing as he tries a few days without ADHD medication.

We pulled him off Concerta last week when I felt that, while it may have helped somewhat with his hyperactivity and inability to focus, it was making him emotional and explosive. To have my son collapsing in fits of tears and frustration is excruciating. Wondering if it is the medication we are giving him that is making it happen is unbearable.

It was because of his emotional fits that we took him off of Strattera last month. While we had seen improvements in his ADHD symptoms, I was convinced that it was Strattera that had worsened his ability to cope emotionally.

When he came off the Strattera for one unmedicated week I was thrilled to see him a bit happier and I waited for the day we would start Concerta like a kid waiting for Santa Claus. I thought Concerta was going to be our answer.

Concerta was my back up plan. I always felt safe knowing that if things got really bad, we could pull out the Concerta card.

Now I feel lost, impatiently waiting for our appointment with his psychiatrist tomorrow afternoon.

I wish I could just say, “No more. We are going to make our way out of this drug free.” And when I sit two thousand miles away, I get grand dreams.

But then I phone home and find out how my son is suffering, how his teacher (who has been a saint, I promise you) couldn’t even begin to manage him this week.

As bad as it was on the medications, it appears that without them, it is worse. He simply cannot manage.

I know my precious boy. I know he wants so badly to do beat his “challenges.” He doesn’t want to get in trouble. He doesn’t want everyone mad at him.

I am desperate to help him, to let him live as the child he is.

Tonight, I am not sure how we are going to do that. I am hoping the psychiatrist has some good tricks up his sleeve!

But whatever the doctor prescribes, I know the bulk of the battle will be fought one minute at a time, helping my son to learn to cope and thrive with his gifts and challenges. (He really is a wonderful child with so much to offer the world!)

I am reading “The Explosive Child,” by Ross Greene and I am so relieved that a doctor is confirming what I know: my son wants to behave.

No sticker chart or time out is going to transform him into an obedient, compliant child. He already has the motivation, what we need to do is give him the skills, and probably the right medication, to help him succeed.

I can’t wait to get back to my son tonight, to kiss his sleeping head, to kneel down and pray next to his bed – and to keep fighting for him.

UPDATE: We went to my son’s doctor today and he is trying him on a VERY small dose of Dexedrine to see how he responds. We have another appointment next week to assess how that trial goes. THANK YOU so much for your comments, support and input!!! I appreciate you so much!


  1. says

    (((hugs))) I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I wish you all the best. I think it’s wonderful that you fight so hard for Jackson and that you have assembled a team to help you fight. I hope the Dr. can help.

  2. says

    This has got to be so hard for you. I really hope you can get some answers…it’s all so confusing and frustrating (for all of you, I’m sure). Thanks for sharing your journey though…it’s amazing how many parents are in the same boat (and even though mine are only 19 months old, I know this is an issue that I may face at some point too).

    • says

      Thank you! It is amazing when u open up about personal struggles you find out you really are not alone and find so much support and information. I am glad I finally decided to share here.

  3. says

    I think it is so important to remember that children aren’t bad…their skills are. They want to go one way but their little bodies can’t do it. Bravo to you for being your son’s champion!

  4. says

    Ross Greene’s book is excellent. Our oldest is an explosive, inflexible child. We have been able to avoid medicines as she is only troubled at home; at school she is a completely different kid. I do hope you can find the answers that you need!

    • says

      My son also has far less explosions at school, but all of his other behaviours occur at home and at school. Dr Greene is excellent isn’t he! So thrilled to find it.

  5. Annie says

    I know it can be really hard. I hope that you and your family and his Dr. can get something figured out to help him soon. I know that my husband who has taught karate since he was a teenager says that it can help. It is not a magic fix-all, but it helps to teach them self-control. It also is a physical activity that they use to progress at their own pace. You don’t just get bumped up to the next belt until you have mastered the neccesary skills. So it also can be confidence boosting, in that they have learned, and grown, in several ways. It’s just a thought that you may want to look into.

  6. says

    I’m so sorry that Concerta didn’t work for you. This must be so frustrating for you, and especially for your son. I hope that there is a better solution out there for you. Please keep us up-to-date.

    • says

      Yes – it sure is frustrating. We are going to try Dexedrine at a TINY dose now, but I imagine it will do the same thing. arrghh. But maybe not! :)

  7. says

    Oh no, I am so sorry. Based I my experience with my Son, I’d suggest yo talk to your Doctor about Adderal. It is a different type of med. My son does great on Concerta but he had emotional problems on Adderal. So maybe Jackson’s chemistry is somewhat opposite from my son’s. It is so hard to watch them struggle. My son is 14 and very charming when on his meds, but he can be mean and mouthy off his meds.

    • says

      It sure is fascinating how differently people respond to the different meds. We are going to try Dexedrine now (the short acting version of Adderal) and will move to Adderal if it works. But I just really can’t see how it will!

  8. says

    Oh Janice, I’m so sorry. This whole medication thing is hard! We’re trying Abby on generic Ritalin for now – Strattera didn’t work for her either, although we haven’t tried Concerta. Adderall did seem to help some, but our insurance changed and we can’t afford it anymore. I hate all of this trial and error stuff – it’s so hard to give them something that you don’t know how will affect them. I hope that the doctor can find something that will work for Jackson soon!! Hugs…

    • says

      It is SO hard isn’t it! So sorry that your ins doesn’t cover your Adderal. We are going broke paying for meds because we don’t have extended medical. :(

  9. says

    I can imagine how hard this is for you. I’m struggling with my 7yo. My next step is to take him off milk. I figure that’s worth a try. I received an email update recently linking a new study. I couldn’t find the same article, but it seems to be all over the web. Here’s one. It’s hard for me to believe that could be a cure all, but I’m willing to try. I’ve been gluten free myself for awhile now, and that was easier than I thought…or maybe the transition was so easy because I feel so much better. Anyways…I just wanted to share. I know there is hope…even if right now it just seems like “what’s next?”

    • says

      Honestly, with my son I have enough battles over food as it is. I just canNOT imagine changing his diet. That may soon weak of me – but I just don’t think he could handle it right now. But I think deep down I really don’t think it will work. I have tried food sensitivity diets myself and they didn’t impact me. But I know they do help SO many. One day, maybe we will!

  10. says

    Oh Janice, I wish I could just hug you and your son. It brought tears to my eyes just reading your post. KM left a good comment. Yes, your son wants to be good but there is something in his body that is keeping him from doing that. It could be something you are feeding him and you don’t even know it. We recently found out our son has a lot of food allergies and gut issues and these could be causing his issues. We said no to drugs for our son and have learned so much since. I hope you find what is right for your son’s body. I wish him health and strength.

    • says

      Awww – THANKS!!! At this point, I just can’t imagine beign able to alter Jackson’s diet. He just wouldn’t do it. But maybe one day!

  11. says

    You can do it! We are in a similar situation. We have two sons on meds for ADHD. First son, 11yo. takes Strattera and it’s amazing for him. Exactly what he needed. Second son has tried Strattera and Vyvanse. Both of those made him more explosive than he already was. Now we’ve moved on to Focalin and finally, this one seems to be doing the trick, of course it’s only been a week so I hope it stays this way.

    I had wanted to give up on meds after the Vyvanse because he seemed to be more manageable (perhaps because we had the older son’s symptoms more under control?). My husband convinced me we needed to keep trying and I made him go to the doctor appt with us to explain the symptoms he was still concerned with. I’m glad he did because the changes in behavior at this point are worth it.

    • says

      SO glad you are having some success – I sure hope it continues! We can’t get Focalin yet in Canada. We are trying Dexedrine now at a tiny dose.

  12. says

    Thank you for posting this. It is encouraging. My daughter struggles with anxiety disorder and (as a result) oppositional defiant disorder. The medicine helps, but some days are such a struggle. I will definitely have to read the Explosive Child. Saying a prayer for all us mamas blessed with extra bright, extra sensitive, extra active children: Help us Lord to be extra loving, extra understanding and extra patient with these special ones!

  13. says

    Well you are blessed if you were wanting to go back to your son to be with him. Sometimes I feel like I just really need a break from my son. It can be so overwhelming at times!

    • says

      Joy – I am going to write a post called, “The UP side to Travel.” Honestly, those trips away make us all appreciate each other more. It really helps me, even though I miss them and feel so bad going, to get refreshed and focus on something that I am good at for a bit. Because some days I am just sooo exhausted from “failing” with my son.

  14. says

    well said Janice- we went through strattera and concerta too… neither worked. We have had success with Rispiridone though (helps control anger issues). I hope you get some good answers at your apt!

    • says

      NEVER heard of that drug. I wonder if it is available in Canada. Is it a stimulant or an antidepressant or a mood stablilizer? I will Google it for sure!

      • says

        Janice- it is definitely available in Canada since I AM in Canada :) But it is mostly given to kids with Autism. My son has high-functioning Autism, ADHD and a whole mess of sensory issues. I have no idea if they give it to other kids. It is classified as an “anti-psychotic” drug which makes it sound really scary but it has made a huge difference in my son and in our family life too. We haven’t had any weird side effects from it either and it has been over a year now.

        The whole med thing is so tough for us moms!!

  15. says

    I know it’s another medicaiton, but it’s called Vyvanse, i’ve heard some great results on that, and some not so good. but there’s also a diet program called Feingold’s (I think), basically, it cuts out artificial processed foods and dyes, and stuff like that. I’ve heard it’s hard to stick too, cause you have to be very vigilant about what he eats, just one thing can mess it up a bit. But I hope you guys find the happy balance for you!

  16. says

    The roller coaster of meds is one, unfortunately, a lot of kids and parents have had to endure. We did the Strattera and Concerta route too. My son was finally given Vyvanse and that worked best for him so far. Good luck with whatever you and your doctor decide.

  17. says

    I am not sure if it would be helpful to you or maybe you have already tried it, but I have read that many children with ADHD are actually suffering from a Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium apparently can affect our minds and bodies in ways that I was never aware of. I can tell you that magnesium has helped me with focusing problems. Just a thought and I hope that it helps.
    Good luck and I truly hope that you find something that works for you son.

  18. says

    for what it’s worth, my son was misdiagnosed as ADD. and was put on Adderall. which was the devil for him at 14. i took him off of it and switched psychiatrists. he STILL asks for it. keep on plugging, you’ll find the right one!

    • says

      Is ur son on a med?So glad you were able to recongize what ur son needed.

      My son is a complicated case with multiple issues going on. But he definitely has ADHD – now that he is off the drugs I can tell that he really does. But unfortunately he has other challenges as well that I think are aggravated by the ADHD drugs.

  19. says

    Janice, you know that I understand. Always feel free to contact me if there is anything I can do or questions I might answer to help.

    hugs and prayers

  20. says

    My son is not old enough for traditional medication yet. We are currently “observing” his behaviors.

    But personally I’ve tried Strattera, Concerta, Aderall, and Aderall XR…I’ve had issues with all of them. I’ve been off all my medication for almost two months now.

    I hope that something works for your son. As an adult, it is still difficult to manage things, I can’t imagine a child dealing with these same issues.

  21. says

    Thank you for sharing your story. I have issues with my oldest (turning 8 today!) like those you mentioned with your son. My husband has been hesitant to test him though. My sister, who is a school psychologist, thinks he probably has some level of ADHD. We definitely have anger issues and trouble following directions, focusing, changing tasks, etc. We homeschool so I am able to schedule our days to better suit him and give him more individual attention. I do see that he has matured over the past couple of years and some of the issues have gotten better. We try to manage at this point with behaviour therapies, but some days I wonder what the heck I’m doing, and if we’re getting it all wrong. It certainly is a struggle, and I can see that it effects my other kids.
    I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult, years ago, but my issues manifested differently than my sons have. I have read a few books and articles on the subject and found some helpful strategies. Mostly though, we have to take it one day at a time. I will definitely get the book you recommended. Thank you.
    I pray that you will find the answers that you all need, and soon.

  22. says

    We are trying desperately to not medicate our son. He is 6. Last year we tried Respiridone for 4 months at a minute dosage.. His blood work came back showing an increase in prolactin (dangerously) and he gained 30 pounds in 4 months. We were sick over this because it took us 3 years to convince ourselves to give the medication route a try. He has ADHD and ODD. He also has some sensory issues and some OCD thrown in. Our son’s IQ is at the genius level and that leads to even more frustration when his so-called peers cannot keep up with him the way he would like. Reading the comments of this post and seeing how so many families are bouncing around with medications only strengthens my fear of even starting again on them. So many drugs in such little bodies it frightens me. Our son attends a partial hospitalization program school for children with behavioral, emotional and mental disabilities. They are wonderful in helping to realize his goals and trying to teach him to calm down BEFORE he snaps. There are good days and bad days with this. I have to keep reminding myself that he is only in Kindergarten because his thought process is so much more advance – the doctors think that he feels trapped in his 6 yo body with his mental capacity. He wants friends so badly but he struggles with socializing that we keep trying different social programs and play dates but they end badly. It’s so sad, frustrating, and exhuasting.

  23. says

    About 2 months ago Concerta stopped working for my son. We took him to a new dr and he is now diagnosed with ADHD (which we knew already and was already diagnosed with), Anxiety and ODD. We’ve now switched to Focalin for his ADHD and have started Tenex for his Anxiety. It’s amazing how differently these meds are and how much nicer it is around our house. How you described your son is exactly what was going on here. I wish you all the luck and will keep you and your whole family in my prayers. I completely understand how you are feeling and where you’re coming from. Hang in there. Know that we are all in this together.

    The Misplaced Midwesterner

  24. says

    Janice, I’m so sorry that the Concerta didn’t work. I have been thinking of you and your little guy so much and watching your tweets. I will continue to pray that you find the right answer and medication to help you all.
    God bless your family – and wishes for a wonderful Easter weekend.

  25. julie says

    hate to hear you’re going through this with your son….I dread it-we are just now seeking help for what we believe is my son’s adhd/add–we find out the official diagnosis in a few weeks….not sure if we will go the medication route-I’m still torn about it-we’ll just have to take it one day at a time….hang in there…..hope things level out….((HUGS))

  26. says

    Our son also really struggled with emotional issues on various meds for ADHD. Right now he is doing the best on Vyvance. It doesn’t control the distractability quite as well as some of the others did, but we don’t have the emotional problems, particularly depression, that we had, so in terms of achieving a balance, it is the best option for him.

  27. says

    Concerta didn’t work for my daughter, either. It did at very very first, she pulled her grades up to all A’s and then, brick wall. We upped the meds twice, but she never recovered, she just crashed back down, and no matter how high the dosage was, she never “got it together” at home, still forgot her task at the top of the stairs after being told at the bottom, still forgot regular, everyday things she’s asked to do (like applying medicine on her eczema rash she’s had since birth), etc. Mainly, I think, because the medicine didn’t last all day, and by the time she got home, it was all gone. So far, we’re on Adderall XR now, and having to H-A-N-D her each pill to take in FRONT of us, right there, because she’d forget to take them even if they were in her hand, she’d put ’em in her pocket, drop them on the floor, etc. (that’s how bad she is, it’s like alzheimers for kids with her). She started 2.5 weeks ago. I hope this is the medicine for her. We really, really, REALLY need help.

  28. says

    I take Dexedrine for ADHD, but I am curious as to what is a ‘tiny dose’ – I have been told I’m on an incredibly high dose, at 40-50mg a day (8 to 10 tablets, depending on how I’m going on a particular day) split into four doses, five hours apart. My psychiatrist doesn’t agree with the idea of recommended dosages – he advised me to start very slowly, and gradually increase over days and weeks until I could feel the difference – then that’s the dosage I need to maintain.

    It might be worthwhile considering upping your son’s dosage, with your doctor’s support of course. When I wasn’t taking enough, I would get all the negative side effects without any benefit – although I am taking a lot now, I find that I have an ability to actually think sequentially, get things done and not daydream all the time. Most of the bad side effects have subsided with time, though I still have a hard time trying to eat enough to keep up with my altered metabolism and maintain a normal weight. People with ADHD react to ‘stimulants’ completely differently to people with normal brain chemistry – it speeds everybody else up, but it calms us down and affords us a bit of mental clarity. So perhaps try gradually increasing dosage – you might find that you reach a certain amount that just ‘clicks’ with his brain and he’ll feel a hundred times better.

    Also, don’t feel guilty about medicating your kid or ‘pumping his body full of drugs’ or whatever. I wish that I had been diagnosed during school and could have been medicated then. Being able to focus, plan, make goals and get things done was never something I felt able to do – my IQ is 140, yet I constantly feel ‘dumb’ because of my inability to finish anything through school. Being medicated now in university is making a world of difference, and I don’t mind a couple of side effects in exchange for finally getting a sense of achievement.

  29. says

    Reading this reminds me of the issues I had with my son as a younger child. They kept labeling him as ADHD and every medication would bring about what you are describing, an emotional meltdown, raging fights, tears the hole 9 yards. AT the age of 17 after 10 years of therapists and me begging them to assess him for bipolarism and anxiety disorder I finally found a wonderful therapist who after 2 visits felt I had a better grasp on his issues then anyone else had in the past. We were set up with a wonderful doctor who specializes in kids with bipolarism. After many tests taken by us and our son and continual discussion about what he does and behaviors we see, along with what is going on when he is acting like this in his mind we got a diagnosis of bipolar 2 and OCD along with generalized Anxiety disorder. 10 years of basic hell for him and us because the psychiatric community does not like ‘labeling’ a child as bipolar. He is now on 300 mg of seroquel every night and it has been a live saver. Right now that is all he is on, but we know he may eventually require another pill for the anxiety and OCD, but he is finally able to stop and think, training him to do it has been an adventure. After all he has simply reacted for 17 years then weighed ou the situation.. hoping you find the answer for your son..

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