How to Safely Stockpile Your Prescription Medications

Published April 7, 2020
Pill bottles on shelf

You can learn how to safely stockpile your prescription medications when you understand drug classification, schedules and the insurance system. It is possible to build a legitimate stockpiles of prescription medications for emergencies with a little planning.

Legalities of Stockpiling Your Prescription Medications

Prescriptions medications for controlled substances fall under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This act separates all federally regulated substances into categories that are called schedules. States have the right to further restrict the use of medications.

Five Schedules Used for Controlled Substance Medications

According to the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), there are five schedules for drug classification. These are determined by the acceptable medical use of the drug and the potential for the drug to be abused or cause dependency. Brief rundown of the five schedules include:

  • Schedule I defines drugs not accepted for medical use, such as heroin. Marijuana (cannabis) is included in Schedule I, but some states have passed laws that approve it for medicinal use.
  • Schedule II defines drugs that have a high potential for abuse and dependency and are designated as dangerous.
  • Schedule III defines drugs with moderate to low potential for abuse and dependency.
  • Schedule IV defines drugs with low potential for abuse and dependency.
  • Schedule V defines drugs with a lower potential for abuse and dependency than Schedule IV.

Why the Schedule Matters to Your Stockpile

The schedule your medication is under will determine how often your prescription can be refilled within a specific time frame. The U.S. DOJ and DEA notes that, "A prescription for a controlled substance may only be issued by a physician, dentist, podiatrist, veterinarian, mid-level practitioner, or other registered practitioner."

Some Prescription Medications Are Considered Non-Controlled

GoodRx says the prescriptions for various infections or chronic conditions are non-controlled medications. A few examples include medications for diabetes, asthma, blood pressure, cholesterol, and antibiotics.

woman reading medication

Tips for Safely Stockpiling Your Prescription Medications

There are several things you can do to safely stockpile your prescription medications, especially when planning survival supplies.

  • Talk with your doctor about your wish to have a backup supply for emergencies. You may be able to get a 90-day prescription depending on which Schedule the drug is in.
  • You should keep your medicines organized in their appropriate bottles, so you readily know what they are and their proper dosage.
  • When you manage to stockpile your medications, you need to continually rotate your supply to ensure they haven't expired.

How to Build-Up Your Prescription Medications

If your goal is to have a month of medications in reserve, you'll need to plan your refill dates. Some people aim for a six-week supply. The key to achieving these goals is to refill your prescriptions before it's time to refill them.

Prescriptions in Lower Classifications

This tactic only works for prescriptions that are in lower classifications defined by the five Schedules. You can find which schedule your medication is in by referrng to the US Department of Justice (US DOJ) listing of all substances and their assigned Schedule number.

Early Refill of Prescriptions

Some people opt to refill their prescription a few days early each month. Typically, the earliest you can do this is seven days in advance of your current amount running out. In theory this practice means you can accumulate a one week's supply every month. The goal with this tactic is to have six weeks of medication stockpiled at the end of six months. Keep in mind that most medications have a set number of refills available within a specific timeframe.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

The early refill tactic seems like a good idea, but you should keep in mind that the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) tracks all refills. This electronic system is designed to alert the pharmacist of potential drug abuse. If you're regularly refilling your prescriptions a week before they're due, this system will alert your pharmacist as an indication of potential stockpiling. Again, it's best to discuss your desire to build-up an emergency reserve with your doctor and pharmacist.

How to Use Stockpiled Prescription Medications

If you manage to stockpile your medications, you need to make sure you don't allow them to expire before you use them. This will ensure your stockpile is always current. You need to rotate your prescriptions using a first in, first out method in the same way you would rotate food in an emergency pantry. This means you use the oldest ones first.

Request a 90-Day Prescription From Doctor

If you're working with insurance for your prescription medications, then you are limited by how often your insurance company allows refills. Some medications can be filled for 90-day supplies. Check with your doctor to see which of your medications can be prescribed for a 90-day supply. Of course, your co-pay expense will be three times more than what it is normally, since you're paying for a three-month-supply instead of just one month.

Request 30-Day Vacation Prescriptions

Some insurance companies will approve what is known as a vacation prescription or vacation override. This gives you a 30-day supply of your maintenance prescriptions. You should check with your insurance company to fully understand when you can request refills. Some insurance companies won't approve early prescription refills or more accurately pre-fills.

Bypassing Insurance Companies

If your insurance company won't approve an advance supply of your medications for emergency use, you may need to pay for your prescriptions without the insurance co-pay. This may be one way to have a small stockpile of medications for an emergency. You can discuss this strategy with your doctor and/or pharmacist.

Never Ration Your Prescription Medications

Some people attempt to stockpile their medications by skipping a day or two. This can be a very dangerous practice. The dosage of your medicine isn't happenchance, but a well-calculated dosage based on your physical condition. Skipping one or more dosages can possibly threaten your health. It's best to discuss with your doctor and try to find a solution for an emergency supply. The most you may be able to get is one week, but this would be a good buffer for an emergency.

pouring prescription medication into hand

Get Doctor-Approved Alternatives to a Stockpile

If you can't stockpile your prescriptions, you should consider alternative treatments that may be just as effective or at the least bridge the gap during an emergency until you once more have access to your regular medications.

Consult an Alternative Health Care Professional

You may want to make an appointment with a naturopath, herbalist or other alternative medical professional. Be upfront with them why you are seeking their help. Have a list of all your medications and see if they can offer you alternatives, such as herbal treatments and other alternative medicines that don't require prescriptions. Don't attempt to self-medicate since you don't know which prescription medications may interact with alternative ones.

Recommendations for Stockpile Alternatives

There are some herbs that may be of help, such as blood thinners, lowering blood pressure, reducing swelling, and joint pain, and even some that can help migraines. If you decide to stockpile these, make sure you discuss these with your doctor and don't take them with your current medications before checking with your doctor and/or pharmacist. Keep these as your backup. Make sure you rotate these out and don't keep ones that have expired to ensure you always have fresh ones on hand.

Finding Ways to Safely Stockpile Some Prescription Medications

There are legitimate ways you can stockpile some of your prescription medications. You can try a few of them and possibly stockpile a week or more of your medications to have on hand for an emergency.

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How to Safely Stockpile Your Prescription Medications