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Cold Turkeys: Prepping For When Your Meds Run Out

A week or so ago, a friend of mine up and quit taking his prescribed medications.  Didn’t think it would be any big deal; just a few days off the blood pressure drugs until he could get in to see his doc.  When he told me the story, I was surprised blood pressure monitors actually read that high … and even more surprised he was alive to tell the tale.

Turns out these monitors will read more than 100 pts higher than this. I’d not have known that, if my friend hadn’t stopped his meds so suddenly.

No prepper likes the thought of running out of important supplies; but there’s just no real way to put in a long-term stock of prescription medications; particularly those with shorter shelf lives.  If any emergency lasts long … some of us are going to run out.  

That poses two problems:  one obvious; the other not so much.  You’ve no doubt figured out the obvious one; having to do without the benefit of the drug.  I’ve written some other posts on ways to lessen the bite for particular conditions, and will write more in the future; and sometimes there’s just no good answer anyway.  This post is about the second problem.

Stopping a drug can by create special problems.

One of the recurring themes of how human bodies work:  They’re always remodeling in response to the conditions they’ve been in.  Lift heavy things, muscles get stronger.  Take a drug (say, to supplement your natural production of a neurotransmitter) and you may ramp up your ability to destroy that drug (and the natural neurotransmitter).  If the drug suddenly goes away, you’re left with your own natural but already-scant supply of the chemical and a super-sized ability to destroy it.  You end up with a worse scarcity problem than if you’d never taken the drug at all.  This is a transient problem as you’ll re-adjust again … if you survive the experience.

There are other ways sudden removal of a drug can cause havoc too, but it’s not really worth it to get into them all.  The key point is that the time right around the drug stoppage can have special problems.

Different drugs have different best approaches to stopping

Some drugs you can quit taking with no special drama beyond missing the effect.  Yay!

Others you should quit cold turkey, because while it won’t be fun that’s the best way to get past the rough patch.

Some drugs are best stopped cold turkey. How do you know which ones? Ask now, while you can. Thanks Jonahunter* for the image.

Then there are drugs that really need to be tapered off, so your body can adjust gradually.  I’ve particularly heard this with regard to psych medications such as antidepressants.  (That doesn’t mean there aren’t other drugs it’s important for.  I’m not a physician and you shouldn’t treat my attempts to raise awareness as definitive answers.)  For these, you have to plan ahead before you run out or things can go south in a hurry.

Antidepressants often need to be tapered … or so says the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and I’m guessing they know these things. Thanks Tom Varco for the image.**

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist now to get the scoop on anything you regularly take.

There’s no better time than now to ask the people who do have specific information … so you’re ready if the time comes.  It’s also a good time to ask them about potential interactions if you’ve got some non-prescription alternatives in mind ‘just in case’.  For example, if you’ve got arthritis the prescription meds might do you much better than over the counter drugs…but the drugstore versions can be stockpiled and are way better than nothing.  If it were me, I’d want to know which ones worked with my condition, and which ones could safely be combined.

*By Jonathunder (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

**By Tom Varco (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons



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