Thursday, February 28, 2019


There's more than one reason to prepare. Yes, we spend a lot of time getting ready for disasters and emergencies, but there are several things which don't quite reach that level that still need to be on your radar. Having a stockpile of your daily medications is one of those oft-neglected preps that I think should be kicked up a notch or two on your priority list. While not as important as air or water, a lot of the medications we take on a daily basis are life-saving.

A Little Background
My wife is disabled due to some serious damage to her spine. Surgery is not an option that any doctor we've seen is willing to attempt, so she lives with a lot of pain. As a way to manage that pain, she has taken legal opiate-based pain killers for over a decade.

About four years ago, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) started threatening small-town doctors who were prescribing opiate-based pain medications with “Stop writing prescriptions (Rx) or face the wrath of the federal government.” They swooped in and made examples of a couple of known pill-pusher doctors, which scared the rest into submission -- which isn't really hard to do when there are three corporations that run every hospital and clinic within 75 miles. Instead of a 15 minute drive to our local clinic, we had to find a pain specialist and the nearest is an hour away.

The DEA also changed the prescription rules: No more than a 30 day supply on a single Rx, and opiates require a paper Rx (no faxing or emailing), so every month we have to drive to the city to pick up a piece of paper.

Three weeks ago, the DEA led a “raid” on the pain management clinic we've used for those four years. They gathered up all of the patient charts (records) and computers and took them away, effectively shutting down a clinic that has been running for 25 years without a problem. No arrests, no indictments, no reason given; they just shut the clinic down without having to go through the hassle of pulling licenses. This is a form of “lawfare” that is being used to fight the “war on drugs” and battle the “opiate epidemic”. The process becomes the punishment, without any need for frivolous things like actual evidence of a crime. These imaginary wars and epidemics are great for funding and time in the spotlight, so I don't expect them to ever be won or cured, but that's getting close to our self-imposed prohibition on politics so I'll leave it alone.

This is an emergency on several levels for us:
  • Without any control of her pain and the likely withdrawal symptoms from running out of a very addictive medication, her life becomes torture.
  • We're looking into other local options as there are a few other pain clinics around, but the DEA still has all of her charts. This means that any new doctor has to start from scratch, something which isn't going to be pleasant.
  • Being a bit pig-headed, my wife has not been listening to me and only had about a week's worth of pain meds left, so it's been a scramble to find another doctor.
  • The DEA now has my wife's medical records and that doesn't fill me with joy. No politics, I know.
The same thing could happen to anyone who takes a life-saving medication. Blood pressure meds, diabetes supplies, anti-rejection drugs for transplants, and the like are all things that you don't want to run out of. Certain common anti-depressants come with a warning that you should never stop taking them abruptly, as the withdrawal effects can be deadly. It might not be a federal agent cutting off your source of the medications you need to get by (or stay alive); disruptions caused by any major disaster would have the same effect. Losing your job and/or health insurance will also put a crimp in your medications (been there, done that for two years.)

How to Prepare
  • Have a stockpile if at all possible. If you take a medication on an “as needed” basis, it's possible to set aside a few doses every month until you have a safe stockpile. I like 30 days, but you need to decide for yourself.
  • Talk to your doctor, see if they will write your Rx for several months at a time. Many insurance companies require mail-order Rx service and they like to deliver several months worth in one box.
  • Renew your Rx as soon as they will let you, and you should gain a few days each time. For example, my insurance will let me renew a 30 day RX after 28 days
  • Look into alternative sources for your meds. I did an article a long time ago about mail-order meds. The information is still valid, even if the names have changed over the years. 
  • Look into alternative medications. Not every ailment is treatable by herbal or alternative medicine, but some are. Medical marijuana and derivatives are spreading, so check their many uses. Don't forget the less-than-legal options; what they may lack in quality control they can make up for in lack of records. Getting meds from someone who no longer needs them may be possible as well.This is generally illegal, but you have to be alive for them to charge you.

If you take any medication on a daily basis, you should know as much as possible about what it is, how it works on your body, how it's made, what can be used as a substitute, and where to get it. Supplies and gear aren't going to do you any good if you're not around to use them.

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