Disaster Preparedness

Do you have enough medication to get by in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster?

Not a day goes by living in Seattle that I’m not reminded on the street or on local tv channels that a natural disaster is imminent! Since a potentially city-flattening earthquake is just around the corner, locals are urged to create an emergency kit to keep handy with canned food, blankets, water, and more. The thing that always grabs my attention is including at least a month’s supply of your prescription medications. 

Can you imagine? An emergency takes place, and you lose access to your medications? For many this is as good an excuse as ever not to even begin taking them, but for anyone who has concluded that medications are helping their situation, would you want that help suddenly taken away?

That said, having a month’s worth of medications in your emergency kit is probably a great idea if you can get them. Unfortunately, that is where the tricky part comes in, because most insurance companies will not allow filling extra quantities, and most pharmacies (even if you are paying cash) wont let you fill a prescription twice in one sitting.

So where is this extra month’s worth of my prescription coming from, and can I even afford it?

Some doctors are more willing than others to write up prescriptions in such a way  that you can get what you need. My doctor has been quite lax about this (which I’m not sure if I feel good about or slightly troubled), and has provided me with two prescriptions before, one to fill immediately (for my “emergency” amount) and then a second prescription (usually the dosage is tweaked a little, or the new prescription is written for 90 days, or has different directions) that I can go back to the pharmacy a few days later, have filled, and then stay on for the next couple months.

Another method is to fill your prescription at the moment it becomes fillable (at most pharmacies it is about a week before your final dosage) and after doing this a few months you can get an entire month ahead of what you need. As long as you keep filling your prescription on the early schedule (three weeks after getting it filled each time you fill it), you should always have an extra month’s supply. I used this method while on insurance so that when my insurance stopped, I still had a month (or more) medication to take that I only paid a co-pay for.

Having extra medication for emergencies can go beyond the “natural disaster” sorts of emergencies as well. It can be easy for even the best of us to fall into an episode and forget to refill our prescription, only to find that the pharmacy is closed for the weekend or holiday! Having even one or two days of extra medication to use in an emergency situation can mean the difference between continued stability or an episode, or even withdrawals (which are not fun at all, trust me).

Keeping extra medication is something that I know is a good idea, but at the same time there are some drawbacks.

Remembering to swap out the emergency bottle for a freshly filled bottle every once in a while is a big one, otherwise you can run the risk of having your emergency stash expire! If this is an issue for you, I’d recommend setting an alarm on your phone/device (or writing on your calendar) to make a reminder for yourself in a couple months to swap it out. Try making the alarm as soon as you put the emergency medication away, so you don’t have to think about it again until it comes up.

Also, I don’t know if anyone else feels this way, but I get concerned about having hoards of pills lying around my apartment. As someone who periodically experiences intense moments of suicidally, I like to believe I have pretty good willpower but I also don’t want to make suicide easy for myself, you know? I don’t keep guns sitting around, and I try not to keep oodles of pharmaceuticals lying around either. It is important for me to know where this emergency medication is, but at the same time there are moments where I really don’t want to know. 

My solution? First, keeping them out of sight helps keep them out of mind for me. If they’re in an emergency bag in the closet, I am likely to forget they are there (until my reminder alarm goes off) and it wont be an issue. If I am doubly paranoid about it, it is ok to give the medication to someone I trust (a close friend, my boyfriend) and let them hold onto it.

Finally, I discussed this a little in In Case of Emergency, but keeping a laminated card or a sheet that lists all of your current medical information (medical history, hospitalizations, medications, etc.) with your emergency medication is a really great idea. Stress (like, say, a destructive natural disaster) can trigger episodes, so having this information close at hand if you are injured (and need to avoid specific medication interactions) or having an episode that requires medical attention can be a huge benefit to the medical team attempting to treat you.

Taking the time in a moment of stability (or something like it) to prepare for emergencies has made a huge difference in my peace of mind, on top of that I know that this preparation can make a huge physical difference if an emergency does ever come up.

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20 responses to “Disaster Preparedness

  1. Thank you SO much for this post!

  2. Wow…I have never considered this before, but you’re absolutely right. Here in southeastern Virginia, we don’t have to worry much about earthquakes, but during the summer and early fall, hurricanes and tornados are a pretty major concern. I would have to make a portable emergency kit, and it would be the smart thing to do. That tip about the laminated med info card is also and excellent one. I think I’m gonna do that today! Awesome post!

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Having that information handy when my last hospitalization happened was one of the best things I could have done for myself. All I had to do was hand the nurse the sheet, which was nice since I was so depressed I couldn’t have listed off half the things on my own! I definitely believe that preparing for any disaster (even an episodic one) is a good thing.

  3. Hey! I nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award! See my latest post, “Awards Season” for the rules. Congratulations!

  4. Thanks for this. I ran into the insurance problem when the pharmacy would not fill my prescriptions before I was to leave for Ireland. So I canceled my plane ticket. Not sure I’ll get a refund…

    I definitely have to add this to my to do list.

    I do think about emergency situations…like knowing the generic names of my meds in case I would need to break into a pharmacy during, say, a zombie apocalypse. 🙂

    • I will put a raid on the pharmacy on my zombie apocalypse emergency preparedness plan – good idea! Right before going to the outdoors gear store to stock up on freeze dried foods and backpacking stove fuel. My plan is to run for the wilderness where the zombies are unlikely to follow.

      • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

        You are both pretty smart there… unfortunately (living in the middle of a major metropolitan area) I wouldn’t have a shot whatsoever to get into a pharmacy if something went awry here. Pharmacies would be among the first to go in the city, and I feel pretty sure the scoundrels would turn around and sell everything they looted on some kind of pharmaceutical black market! If I could make it to the boonies I might have a shot, though.

      • While you are at the sporting goods store (which is also my number 2) don’t forget the crossbow and arrows!

        Maybe I should put archery lessons on my list too…

      • @ Sarah: the only time it is good to live in the boonies!

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Oh no! I can’t believe your insurance did that, (well, actually I can) I really can’t stand insurance companies. I’m so sorry you had to cancel your ticket, that is a huge bummer.

      I haven’t had insurance in a year now, and honestly things have been less stressful even though I’ve had a hospitalization and tried 8 different medications. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

      • Yeah, really! The approval process for meds also burns me. Some insurance jerk gets to decide if the medicine my doctor and I agreed would be best for my situation gets to say yay or nay? Puhleaze!

        My insurance is the PAC card through the state of Maryland, so I am trying to see what it will and won’t cover. Apparently, hospitalizations should be covered by the charity care program at the hospital (hold over from when the nuns were there). So I need to carry an insurance card, a pharmacy card and a letter on me all the time.

        I’ve actually started looking into disability a little. That process alone deserves its own blog post!

  5. It never even occurred to me to stockpile meds in case of emergency! We don’t get many such events in the northeast, but you never know when the zombie apocalypse will arrive.

    I can generally get a 90-day fill if I have refills on the prescription, but with med tweaks and psych switches that hasn’t been an option for awhile. I could pull off an emergency stash for the mood stabilizers and antidepressants, but for the stimulants? Not likely. Controlled substances require contortions in the first place, and I’ve only ever had a 90-day Rx for them once. Since most psychs apparently drug test randomly if you’re on Schedule II meds, that also means they’ll only write 30 days at a time. What a pain.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Very true, some medications are definitely easier to stockpile than others. Any time I’ve been prescribed controlled substances they are in an “as needed” sort of fashion, and I am never the sort to take them all the time (only “as needed”). This is one of the ways I’ve been able to stash a few away in case of an emergency.

      I’ve been thinking, too, what medications could I live without if I had to, and what would be absolutely imperative. I know that having a continued dose of what I’m on would be helpful, but even my doctor has admitted it isn’t doing anything for my mood. At this point I only really feel inclined to keep a stash of antipsychotics and/or something I can take in the event of a total anxiety meltdown to make me relax, since my two big fears would be exploding into a flurry of psychosis (something I expect to be a bad idea in the event of a disaster), or having another paralyzing panic attack.

      • I’ve been thinking about what I could do without if need be. It’s a bit, I don’t know, morbid in some way, isn’t it? And it makes me mad that is should be a concern.

        I think the Cymbalta would be high on my list of not-to-do-without since it is controlling the bulk of my fibro pain. Ability to move and function (and open jars and twist a can opener) seems to be a primary need.

        The Lamictal would be the first to go!

  6. There is that problem with insurance. Now, I’ve suffered entirely too many personal disasters where medication became inaccessable. I developed a way to essentially hoard medication.

    First, I always have a doctor increase my medication above a dose that I really need. Then, I fill the medication when it becomes available. I always schedule appointments about a week before I’m supposed to run out of medication. Insurance companies will usually fill a brand new script when a doctor calls it in. Sometimes, I’ll have a fill left on the other script. So, I have at least a month’s worth of medication, because that’s usually how long it takes to get new benefits.

    Is it a scam? According to insurance companies, yes. But, I’m not doing anything illegal like selling it. I just want to be prepared. At least if I was facing a long-term scenario without access to medication, I’d have just about enough medication to painfully ween myself.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      Lulu, if what you’re doing is a scam I think it only really partially makes up for how much we are scammed by the insurance companies, so by all means play the game! I know I do, and I definitely give kudos to anyone who knows how to give those insurance folks a run for their money.

      • I absolutely agree, and I encourage others to do it. It’s completely BS. I understand that some of the things I take are controlled substances (benzos) and there is a certain amount of hesitation with all of the prescription abuse out there. However, I have never had a history of illegal substance abuse, nor do I have any drug offenses. I actually need my medication, unlike some people that are out there selling it.

        I hate that I have to lie to my doctor, but I don’t like the idea that an insurance company has me by the short hairs, ya know? I don’t like the idea that anyone has me cornered. And, I’d sooner drop the medication entirely than play by their rules. I want to feel safe when taking a potentially danger medication. I’ve ran out before when I was between doctors, and my husband had to call and scream at my PCP before he’d give me a fill. That was after four days of withdrawal. (Long weekend).

        I pay too much for insurance that would gladly screw me over. Seriously, I have at least two grand or more going out in private insurance in a year, and that’s just what is paid out of a check. That doesn’t include co-pays and medication costs.

  7. Pingback: The Rainy Day Fund « Disorderly Chickadee

  8. Ooh, hoarding meds is a good idea. Another disaster to be prepared for: losing your health insurance.

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