“Help, I’ve run out of medication!”


It’s a really common issue for me, because I wasn’t born organised, not by a long shot. I didn’t begin taking medication until I was twenty, and six years later, I’m still not totally used to the fact that I do. Maybe it’s some sort of unconscious resistance, maybe it’s just because medication is a massive faff to get hold of and take regularly, I don’t know. Anyhow, I have had moments where I have ended up with no more medication and a cold turkey situation on my hands.

Now there are some medications where missing one dose is not going to have an impact on your mental health, since I’m not a doctor I’m not going to go down the route of elaborating on this blog. Generally speaking, stopping psychiatric medications cold turkey can be pretty unpleasant. SSRI anti depressants can have withdrawal symptoms and suddenly stopping  anti convulsants can have seizure related risks. Aside from any physical withdrawal (it’s impossible to get physically addicted to psychiatric medications, but your body can be accustomed to them, and have symptoms when you come off) the risk of relapse and ill health is not one you’d want to risk because of lack of organisation. So, without further ado:

Q. I’ve run out of medication and it’s a week day. What do I do?

The best approach is ring your GP surgery or psychiatrists office (depending on who your prescribing doctor is), explain that you miscalculated and forgot to order a repeat prescription, can one be signed off that day if you come and collect it?

Q. I’ve run out of medication and it’s out of hours/a weekend/Christmas/Bank holiday etc. What do I do?

If you ring your GP surgery, they will have an  answer machine out of hours number for a clinic you can attend. Alternatively, you can ring NHS direct and speak to a qualified nurse who can tell you what out of hours services are available. Avoid going to Casualty, you’re unlikely to get any help there. The GP at the out of hours service can access your medical records and write you a prescription. It’s as useful at that point to know the out of hours pharmacies in your area, supermarkets usually have a pharmacy open late, and every UK town should have one open twenty four hours.

Q. I’ve gone on holiday in the UK and I’ve run out of/forgotten my medication. What do I do?

Firstly, ring your GP in office hours and explain, apologise and ask them if the could fax a script to your nearest local pharmacy. Pop into the pharmacy, give them the GP’s number, allow them to pass on their fax number, and wait for the script to be faxed and filled. You can fill NHS prescriptions in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but the costs may vary.

Q. How do I avoid this happening in future?

There are a few ways to avoid this happening:

1. Get your pharmacy to track your prescriptions and order them directly from the GP and prepare them for you, so you cut out going to the GP surgery and just turn up at the pharmacy and pick up the prescription.

2. Get a pill box that dishes pills out week by week, which tends to show up if you only have three days left, as opposed to popping pills from the blister pack and running out suddenly.

3. Have a regular day that you order your prescription, written on your calender, with a reminder on your phone. On the sheet of your prescription that you get given, there is a date when the next script has to be issued.  This can help you tell when you will need a refill.

4. Don’t mess about with dosages. I take 2 mg of Risperidone a day, I get 56 tablets of 1 mg. If I have a week at 3 mgs by taking an extra 1 mg pill, I am short a week early.

5. Check a week before Christmas and bank holidays, or your holiday, that you have enough medication.

6. Keep your last prescription sheet and your prepayment card (if you have one) with a note with your GP surgery number and a 24 hour chemist number in your wallet. That way you know that you have what you need if you ever got caught out.

One of my new years resolutions is to keep better tabs on my medication and when I need a refill. Join me in getting my act together!

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