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When The Meds Run Out: Dealing with a society in withdrawal and finding alternatives to popular medications now & for SHTF

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: October 12, 2019
When The Meds Run Out: Dealing with a society in withdrawal and finding alternatives to popular medications now & for SHTF

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One fear that many have is not being able to get the medication they or their loved ones need for treating chronic conditions. The problem with running out of meds is much deeper than that. There are a ton of problems that our dependency on big pharma has created.

I am going to start this post with some ugly truths that we all may one day have to face in some way even if some of us don’t take any prescription medications.

You are going to have to learn how to mentally handle the prospect of what will start to happen and the result of medications not being available if you want to be truly prepared for a SHTF scenario.

There will be people that your heart aches to help but there is a good chance you either cannot or you have to decide that it is not in the best interest of your family to do so. The person may be someone very close to you.

This is a heavy article and very much an overview. There are many classes of drugs and conditions that I simply could not put in without writing an article many times this in length, If you have something to add, I highly encourage you to do so in the comments!

Did you know that 218,000 people died of prescription opiate drug overdoses in the USA between 1999-2016? 

More than 49,000 of these deaths occurred in 2017 alone and included the synthetic opiates like fentanyl that are deadly in very small doses. Heroin use has also increased significantly.

Overall drug overdose deaths for 2017 was more than 72,000!

Source: CDC Prescription Opioid Data

Just to put it in perspective, we lost 58,220 soldiers in the ten years we were fighting the Vietnam War.

Source: USA National Archives

People protested in the streets and rallied for major change during the Vietnam years. You don’t see that level of outrage about the opiate crisis, and we are losing insane amounts of the youth of America.

So using the CDC’s numbers, in 2017 alone we lost 14,000 more people due to drugs than in the entire 10 year Vietnam War. IN ONE YEAR! 

The zombies in the streets SHTF fantasy

The theory: People that are addicted to opiates or other hard drugs will go nuts and be dangerous.

Yes and no. While someone that cannot get their fix is going to be volatile and on edge, there are other things that have to be considered. Withdrawal can and often kills people with severe addictions. Going off heroin or prescription painkillers cold turkey with no medical support such as medication to ease off and someone to make sure an addict gets enough food and fluid to make it through, doesn’t always work out so well. I know people that have worked in the medical industry, and they see withdrawal kill people, and it doesn’t discriminate based on age.

There will be people acting crazy but the first month of SHTF will probably be the worst for this type of thing. Those with severe addictions may very well not have the physical capabilities within a few days of not having their “fix “to cause any trouble.

A real SHTF situation also means people will be on guard and even those that cause some trouble will likely not make it that long. There will be someone out there that eliminates them when they make a wrong choice because they are desperate and not thinking clearly. Where I live, a home invasion or intrusion results in someone getting shot.

This is the same reason why lone wolves during SHTF that don’t prepare and think they will take whatever they need from others will not last long.

Compassion reminder: There are people that are born with issues that they have no control over like schizophrenia or autism. Also, there are plenty of people with chronic conditions that are faced with a terrible situation when the meds run out.

Disorders like schizophrenia are often easily controlled with medications. The effects of autism are another example.

Remember before you judge someone too harshly that they may have an actual medical condition. This is not the same scenario as someone that is addicted to street drugs or pain meds.

Those with conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure are just a few examples of those that need medicine for a major health issue.

Addicts are people too. While their behavior is not acceptable, it is important to not dehumanize them either. People make mistakes, and some overcome them if given a chance.

Suicides have increased and will get worse if meds or drugs run out for any reason

One of the major side effects for a lot of “medications for the mind” is an increased risk of suicide. Withdrawal from narcotics also increases the risk. Someone in withdrawal may feel like they are dying anyway and be more inclined to follow through.

This is one reason why someone withdrawing needs people to look out for them.

Natural remedies to ease opiate withdrawal

This is not a substitute for major treatment. Long-term opiate abuse can cause a lot of different health effects. Cardiac events are all too common no matter what age the person addicted may be. During SHTF or for those that have a less serious addiction may find that these treatments help them get through the hardest parts.

I have listed at home treatment options by symptom. These are some of the more common withdrawal effects.

Fever and sweating or chills

Ibuprofen can be used to reduce the flu-like symptoms.

Dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea 

It is critical to replace fluids and electrolytes. Pedialyte is an option during good times but something like Emergenc-E that comes in a powder form is a more realistic option to put back for a SHTF situation, and it stores in a small space. Imodium-AD can help eliminate diarrhea symptoms too.

Having the shakes

Shaky muscles and tremoring are common, but there is some evidence that St. Johns Wort can help relieve the shaking symptoms. St. Johns Wort can affect how other medications work, so it is best to find out if someone is taking other medicines.

Various mental issues

Drug addiction can affect someone’s mind in many ways. If they take other drugs on top of opiates, then the mixture can have all types of results. I am no psychologist, but when anyone is going through a hard time in their head, then it can help to take their mind off that as much as possible and direct that energy towards something else.

Staying busy can help at a certain point. Drawing, coloring, or building and creating something, for example, can create a sense of accomplishment and improve feelings of self-worth. That can be a very powerful force on the road to recovery. This is where having a supportive family and friends can be a big help and make all the difference.

Xanax is the most widely prescribed psychotropic drug in the United States and if you if you just stop taking it suddenly, your risk of death increases a lot. Those that take higher dosages are at the most risk of death if they suddenly cannot get their medication. I use this drug as an example, but there are others that have a higher death risk if a person suddenly cannot take them.

If you take medications, I recommend looking up info on withdrawal or stopping taking the medication. If you take something like this and there are alternatives, then you may consider looking into them.

If you wish to continue taking them or feel that you have to, then at least have an extra supply on hand so you can gradually wean yourself off of them if SHTF. Also, consider asking your doctor if a lower dosage is an option for your issue — the higher your dosage, the greater the withdrawal risks.

Of course, prescriptions like Xanax are often only refillable every 30 days so you legally cannot keep enough on hand to do much good in a SHTF situation. This is why I strongly encourage you to find other treatments if you can. Ask your doctor about alternatives with fewer side effects and withdrawal issues. 

SSRI’s or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

This class of medications includes the following FDA approved drugs:

  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Vilazodone (Viibryd)
Source: Mayo Clinic

The side effects of stopping SSRI’s are similar to many drugs and include:

  • Nervous behaviors or feeling on edge
  • Nausea and upset stomach
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Flu-like symptoms like fever, diarrhea, etc

There will be more people exhibiting some weird behavior.

We have a nation that is largely dependent on antidepressants. The ironic thing is that many of these medications increase the risk of suicide. All antidepressants including the SSRI’s listed above are required to have a warning on them that they may increase the risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts.

Consider this theory, if a medication makes you care or feel less about yourself then what is that going to do about your feelings for others. In short, if you are numb towards your self and have little love for yourself as a person, isn’t it less likely that you will feel good about others?

All the major school shootings that I have researched have something in common, and that is that the shooter was taking prescription drugs that can cause suicidal thoughts or a tendency towards violence. Most of the media doesn’t like to touch on this fact, but it is true.

SHTF may out some addicts that did an excellent job hiding the true nature of their addiction

While there are some signs of addiction or prescription drug usage, you cannot always tell the extent of someone’s problem. Some addicts have the means to use substances and hide the fact from those around them. People don’t always act majorly out of it, and plenty of people keep to themselves.

Those of you that say that they have no room for addicts during SHTF may want to consider what you would do if someone you care about turns out to be taking medication or is on drugs that are suddenly not available.

Dealing With Hypochondriacs

Some people are used to getting medical treatment for the smallest thing. Our doctor system encourages hypochondria among the population.

Small visits to doctors cost the country a lot of money in medical reimbursement costs. People are often poor judges of what is severe enough to require a doctor visit. They always go, just to make sure,

There are people out there that don’t think that medical care or advice is worth anything and will not work unless it comes directly from the mouth or office of a doctor.

There are people out there that have a lot of medical knowledge and experience. They have kits put together for their families medical needs, and so they can respond and help others around them if needed. The sad thing is that there are some that would let a medical condition get worse before actually accepting medical supplies and advice from someone that doesn’t have Ph.D. or MD after their name or a fancy office. This is a big deal because more serious medical supplies are precious during SHTF. People don’t want to get into their major stockpiles of medical supplies unless necessary.

If you worry a lot about medical stuff or have someone in your family that does, prepare now!

If you are afraid that there will be no medical care available then prepare yourself now. Learn how to do basic first aid and take care of typical emergencies as well as a few advanced things if you can take a course. If you have a spouse or partner, then this is something you should learn together so you can take care of each other and any members of your group.

You may be squeamish, but you need to try to get over that. You can be prepared to take care of many different emergencies when no help is anywhere!

Anti Depressant and Anti Psychotic Withdrawal will be a tragedy in itself. I think it will be long lasting and people will not expect it to be so bad so they will not be prepared to deal with loved ones that start to exhibit symptoms.

So what do you do if you have to take in or care for a family member that is withdrawing from medications?

First of all, you need to realize the extent of the problem as much as possible. What substance or substances are the sources of the problem?

The severity of symptoms can vary so much. If someone is going into severe withdrawal, then they may need someone to keep a close eye on them and provide food, water, and clean up of the messy symptoms. Put it this way; you are going to need a bucket or two nearby if someone is ill and cannot keep food or fluids down. Electrolytes in water are a good idea because they can quickly be depleted.

If someone is exhibiting signs of being a danger to themselves or others, you may have to confine them. No one wants to have to do this but locking someone in a room that has been checked for anything they can use to hurt themselves or others.

During SHTF, some may be hopeless cases. This can be an extremely painful conclusion to come to.

I will say that I have personally seen people that do not have the will or the true desire to change. You have to ask yourself if you can help someone. I love the idea of bringing someone out of a very dark place, but if they chose the substance over someone they cared about you have to ask if they are going to do something for you that they wouldn’t work for their spouse or child even.

Consider alternatives to what you are taking or ways to reduce your meds now.

I have readers that have told me their wonderful stories about how they started getting physically fit and taking care of themselves and reversed a lot of their health issues related to cholesterol and blood pressure. These are not younger readers either, these are active adults in their 70s, and I applaud them for making the effort because it seems like people sometimes think it is too late for them to make improvements.

Consider natural substitutions

I know that there are some medicines for which there is no comparable natural replacement, but in some cases, you can use natural supplements to control symptoms. I know of plenty of people that take garlic for blood pressure control. When I was taking the SHTF school course by Selco, I remember he mentioned that during the Balkan War, many people used garlic in place of blood pressure medicine and it worked. I made a note of that because he saw it first hand in a real SHTF situation when there truly was no major medical care available and the medications wore out fast.

ADHD Medication

I have my concerns about how children and teens will be affected when they cannot get any ADHD medication.  If any of you have seen the results of this and feel comfortable sharing, please do so in the comments at the end of this post.

It seems like more and more kids are being diagnosed with ADHD. I honestly think that while this is a real condition, there are times it is used to label any child that has a hard time in a traditional school setting and needs more physical activity.

The problem is that one of the most commonly prescribed medications for ADD and ADHD are Amphetamine Salts. It is an upper, but doctors say that those with ADD experience a calming effect in many cases.

I was given Amphetamine salts a few years out of college by a doctor, and I don’t think that it calms you down. If you go to a doctor and say you can’t focus they throw pills at you, so you walk away feeling like you have done something. I stopped taking them after a few months.

Of course an upper will make you focus. Kids take this stuff all the time, and if the doctors treat them like they did me, they try to up the dose a lot more often than they should. You have to tell them no, and they still bring it up at the next visit.

My experience was 12 years ago, and I truly hope that things have changed and doctors are not trying to get you up to a high dosage as soon as possible.

A lot of Ritalin is prescribed too, but that is often changed to Adderall or the generic form, Amphetamine salts by middle school. I don’t think giving children a lifelong amphetamine habit is a good idea.

Natural Solutions and Alternative Treatments

  • Eliminate artificial colors and flavors from the diet
  • Enjoying the great outdoors. Children and adults that spend time outside tend to have the ability to concentrate better
  • Natural herbs and supplements such as gingko, ginseng, zinc, vitamin B-6, passion flower, and magnesium


Alternative treatment information came from Healthline, an excellent source for health and wellness information on the web.

Remember to discuss any changes with your doctor if you have access. Everyone is different, and other health issues besides ADHD may need to be considered.

Steps To Take Before SHTF

1. Make a list of medications used by members of your household.

2. Research the side effects and withdrawal effects online. Print the information and put it in a binder for reference if needed.

3. Research natural alternatives for treatment and put back a natural medical alternatives kit.

Examples may be garlic pills for blood pressure or passionflower for anxiety and depression: melatonin for sleep disorders, arnica for muscle soreness and pain.

If you don’t have a medicinal plants guide for your area, then I highly recommend getting one and learning some plants. Peterson’s Field Guide to Medicinal Plants is my go-to guide for this, and what was used at the college I attended for folk medicine classics. CBD oil is readily available at even some drug stores it seems. It can help with anxiety, stress, depression, and a variety of other disorders.

Ask your doctor about an extra prescription.

A lot of medications you can get a lot at once. I suppose some medical insurances may have restrictions, but unless something is a controlled substance, you can usually get 90-day supplies. If you can get two of these, then you at least have 180 days.

Do you have a plan for when the meds run out? Have you used any natural alternatives to successfully treat medical or mental conditions?

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24 Responses to “When The Meds Run Out: Dealing with a society in withdrawal and finding alternatives to popular medications now & for SHTF”

  1. The last comment is pretty old so I’m not sure this will even get read. Hopefully the info helps someone.
    In regards to the question the author of the article asked about symptoms of going off Adderall/D-Amphetamine Salt Combo. I’ve been taking 30mg tabs x2 daily, x1 morning and x1 afternoon, for the past 6 years. It’s very odd that for a medication that is prescribed for symptoms for racing thought, lack of concentration for very long, restlessness, etc… the medication literally jacks your heart rate up and gives you lots of energy. I suffer from other serious mental illness diagnosis that require multiple meds, but, I’ve had issues when I’ve had problems before with local pharmacies having Adderall on a two week back order which leaves me going off the meds for those two weeks. The symptoms I start experiencing about a week after being off them affect me terribly. If I start doing simple tasks like cleaning a counter top, while I’m scrubbing my head feels like it’s running on a loop and it won’t stop and I’m not getting anywhere doing it, which can make me feel lightheaded and sick to my stomach like being on a spinning carnival ride or just spinning in place and then trying to walk until I stop doing the task, then it stops. Basically it feels like I’m running in place like in a dream that’s over dramatized in movies. Also while doing tasks as simple as drying off after taking a shower or even washing my body while in the shower, I’ll feel like I’m drying or washing much faster than I am. I was timing myself one day looking at the seconds clock about what I thought was about every 30 seconds but it was actually a minute that had gone by, so my sense of time is all off. I live alone right now so I am the only one that can run my errands, mainly just picking meds up, doctors appointment and lately vet visits every month, but, when I drive I have to be more cautious and drive slower and brake further away from cars when stopping at lights because my concentration is horrible. It is difficult to keep my mind on more than one thing such as watch for red lights, look in my side mirrors, rear view mirror, look for street numbers, intersections, etc.. so if I can avoid driving, I do. I can’t hold conversations without getting off topic and then having to bring myself back on track to the conversation to finish a reply. That can be frustrating making me not even want to engage in conversations. I will also feel numb, my emotions except for anger from frustration because of what all these symptoms are doing to me and how they make me act, They all just shut down. I already have a hard time even knowing what most of the emotions I’m feeling day to day anyway, but this numbing feeling is totally different, I just don’t feel anything, it’s like sometimes I know which one I should be feeling, but it doesn’t register or I just don’t care to even put in the effort to express it, but it’s not a depression feeling, it’s just not there. Yeah, that was pretty descriptive, I could have summed that one up in a sentence or two. Then there’s trying to watch television, listen to music or read a book. I have to work extra hard reading the subtitles while watching movies, because that’s what I do all the time, is watch movies with subtitles on just to pay attention to them while on meds or not. I constantly have to play back portions of movies because I drift off just staring at the screen or just eyes drift off somewhere off thinking about god knows what. Music, just sounds like noise to me, books, don’t even try. So, these are most of the symptoms, at least the major ones I can think of. So if I need to go off these meds for any reasons I’ll need to do it by taking them every other day or two days or something like that because I just wouldn’t be able to function, I’ll feel very defenseless and will just have to hide out to keep away from people if I can all together until these symptoms wear off or carry some dice or a quarter with me and make decisions accordingly. I’m preparing but I’m not looking forward to when the SHTF. May the 77th Hunger Games begin and the odds forever be in your favor. Don’t be a Peeta.

  2. A product called Liquid IV Hydration Multiplier is an excellent electrolyte replacement product that comes in single serving powder form in packages of 16 servings per package.
    I don’t know how it stacks up against Emergency-E but it’s another option.

  3. You did not mention bipolar, schizophrenia and bipolar are usually mention side-by-side with my psychiatrist, I am bipolar, with a very rare disorder -multiple personality with post traumatic stress . At one time, just for sleep I was taking 5 meds and 7 pills a night. Through a lot of talk therapy, love of people around me and sheer strength of will I managed to get myself off drugs. But I am one of those hidden people you were talking about. The lack of understanding…most people view people with mental illness with a skewed perspective. I do not need the discrimination, the eye rolling, “I’m just acting out, if I wanted to I could do better.”

  4. My concern is for my son who has a hard to control seizure disorder. His medications are a controlled substance. They are also not available as samples. Are there herbal alternatives, that may not control fully, but help decrease seizures? Thank you.

    • CBD oil shows a lot of promise. Look up Charlotte’s Wed CBD oil for more information on that. There are other herbs that can help. I have two children with epilepsy and it is terrifying to think what would happen if they don’t have their meds.

    • Hi Paula. If you are not already aware of it, I want to let you know that the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet is used with great success for those who suffer from seizures/epilepsy… While I used the diet to lose weight (and I lost ALOT of weight, and in a very short amount of time), the Ketogenic diet is clinically proven to arrest seizure disorders, as well as also reversing diabetes (which I am normally a high risk for), bad cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease. I was high risk for every one of these, and all of them disappeared on the Keto diet. The reason is that, after the first three days on the diet, your body chemistry completely changes, and corrects the chemical imbalances that cause the above disorders (which are side effects of our crappy, processed, high-sugar-and-carb Americanized diets)… Once you get off the Keto eating plan, though, your body rapidly reverts back to what it was before (and all the problems that went with it return). So, it is actually rather a new eating lifestyle, rather than a diet… The only downside to the Keto program is that, because of the high proteins one consumes on it, the chances of kidney stones is almost guaranteed, so to prevent these I have to take 300 mg of Ursodiol twice a day. Also, I have to take Magnesium + calcium tablets to supplement these minerals that are not available in this eating program at the recommended levels for our bodies (but as these are readily available in health food stores they are easy to stockpile, unlike with prescription meds.) Nevertheless, I don’t advocate reverting to a Keto-based lifestyle without talking to your doctor first. Since the Keto diet is well known, proven, and used by doctors everywhere, you can talk to your doctor about it using the seizure-disorder approach, without having to disclose you are a “crazy SHTF prepping domestic terrorist”. (Ah, isn’t life in the new Amerika grand? ) Good luck!

  5. Like Ann, I no longer have a thyroid. For those missing a thyroid like us, once the meds run out (even if you have stockpiled from overseas) remember ndts are made from pig thyroid and also there is some available from cow thyroid..the info on how to process this for your own use is well worth the time invested to learn it.

  6. I also take thyroid medication and was concerned about not having it. My doctor is not a prepper, hence not concerned about SHTF. I ended up ordering one year’s worth of thyroid medication from overseas just to make sure I’d have some. I tried cutting back on my meds, but that didn’t work too well. I began feeling crappy really fast. I no longer have a thyroid, so every-day medication is my way of life.

  7. What about thyroid medication? I don’t know of a natural replacement for that. Without it, a person goes downhill pretty quickly.

  8. when SHTF actually happens the population numbers will drop fairly quickly, anyone who is reliant on “the system” for survival like a serious medical condition, life saving surgery, and addicts both legal and illegal will suffer once the system fails. that’s not being nasty thats a fact of life once the services that they rely on fails.
    self reliance will be the name of the game.

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