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I don’t have a proper stash of meds for disaster preparedness, but I do have a lot of leftovers on hand. I think anyone who has been through the experience of working out a meds cocktail probably does too. Sure, you’re not supposed to hold on to old meds for very long, and there are risks to that – some kid eats your pills or they expire or you get crazy in the head and swallow them all in one go. Not big risks in my house, though.

Rainy day meds – my “just in case” stash.

However, I have had experiences that completely validated the practice of holding on to old meds. The ADD meds saga, a horrid series of events, made me carefully ration and exhaust my on-hand stocks of Adderall ER, followed by Ritalin, then Concerta. After that, someone else gave me their old Concerta to get me through in a pinch.

I would have been totally screwed during dissertation end stage if it weren’t for medication rainy day funds. All of the meds in the prior example are controlled; you can’t just call in a refill and get more. Realistically, a lot of meds might as well be controlled, inasmuch as once you’ve exhausted whatever your prescriber gave you, you can’t easily get more. And sometimes it turns out that your prescriber might as well be on crack, because they can make decisions about what you can and can’t take that have dramatic (sometimes horrible) effects on your health. Yes, I basically just said that the people with the prescription pads are sometimes wrong.

So. For all of the above reasons, I recommend keeping a stash of meds – the stuff that’s the wrong dosage units, not currently needed, or were extra pills because of refill date overlaps. Obviously, this rainy day fund must be kept out of the way of children, and if you tend to OD, then under someone else’s lock and key.

My personal rainy day fund doesn’t have all that much to it, but it has only been actively accumulating meds for a year and recently graduated to a bigger box. I found a nice psychedelic one for a buck at the Starvation Army Family Store, and it seemed just the thing.

A few good drugs. And some that sucked.

The inventory is actually pretty limited. There are a few extra painkillers from oral surgery procedures – tramadol and hydrocodone – which are very valuable when needed. There is lamotrigine in three dosages and extra bupropion tablets from two different manufacturers. There’s some hydroxyzine HCl, which never did anything but put me to sleep and it’s about to expire, so it’s waiting to be discarded responsibly, along with the remains of a Strattera sample pack and some Teva budeprion.

And of course, there are the stimulants – probably the most important for me to stash, just in case unpredictable events deprive me of controlled meds that I desperately need to function. There’s very little there because I’ve had to exhaust my supply more than once. What I have on hand are generic Adderall ER, a few each in 10mg, 15mg, and 20mg doses. These pills are gold to me, and I would never give them away or sell them. I also have some remaining methylphenidate, and although it’s not all that helpful, if push came to shove, I’d use them up too.

My rainy day fund of meds isn’t currently enough for proper emergency preparedness, but it’s enough to get me through a week or so on my most critical meds. Although it’s stuffed into a cupboard out of sight, the medication stash requires some active management. I’m currently using up last year’s small-increment lamotrigine, so that I can tuck away a few more current doses before the old stuff expires. If I ever need small doses for titration in the future, it will be prescribed, so I don’t need to keep 25mg lamotrigine tablets on hand when 200mg is my daily dosage. I’m also working to expand my on-hand supply by getting refills as early as I can, in the interest of having what I need if an emergency situation arose. I also make sure to rotate the drugs so that I’m using up the oldest ones for those I currently take – they usually expire in a year. (Count out leftover pills. Set aside. Count out same number of new pills from refill bottle; put them in stash. Stick the older leftover pills on top in the refill bottle.)

When the zombie apocalypse arrives, I should have enough meds to get through the first month of it (without assuming that I’ll be able to raid my neighborhood RiteAid). After that, well, watch out zombies!