I’ve written plenty of articles on bugging out, and many on what kind of equipment to put in a bug out backpack. Here I want to discuss something that doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves – which drugs to pack.
“Drugs” in this case comes in different categories: over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs, or even illicit street drugs. In some cases, the lines between those categories can blur depending on the drug itself and the circumstances surrounding it.
Why Types of Drugs Do You Need in a Bug Out?
From my view, every person should pack drugs in a bug out bag that cover the following three categories:
- Individual Medical Need
- Pain Relief
- Performance Enhancement
These three categories are based on some bug out assumptions, mainly that your bug out could mean living out of your pack for up to three days (or more) while travelling to safety, either in vehicle or on foot. That amount of time away from additional resources under adverse conditions means whatever you need to stay alive must be on your person. Given the rigors of an on-foot bug out, you need drugs that can help keep you moving toward safety – pain relief and performance.
Individual Medical Need
This is a catchall category that encompasses everything from individual prescriptions to medications for “what if” situations.
Clearly if you need blood pressure medications to keep your blood pressure under control that’s something you’re going to want stored in a bug out backpack that’s ready to go. This applies to any drug that you need to sustain your life or make life manageable.
This could also go beyond what you are prescribed, however. The savvy prepper also has a stock of antibiotics at his/her disposal – just in case. Of course, stocking antibiotics without a medical need (and the associated prescription) is problematic. You have to find an understanding doctor (difficult) or rely on other methods (like stocking fish antibiotics).
Every prepper should have at least one type of pain relief drug in their bug out bag. Anyone older than their mid-20s who has gone on a multi-day hike knows the value of a few ibuprofen. It has gotten to the point for me where I’ll pop a few ibuprofens before the hike just because I know how it will go.
I won’t do this for a casual walk in the woods (what some people call a hike), but before a winter climb up Mount Katahdin or some similar aggressive endeavor, ibuprofen is my friend.
If your hypothetical bug out situation is anything involving a long hike, and you should prepare for the chance it could be, pain relief is paramount.
I’m not talking about Viagra performance enhancement here, but any drug that will help you keep moving. Getting out of Dodge as quickly as possible could require pushing yourself harder and longer (again, not talking about Viagra) than you ever have before.
Soldiers were awake for days, marching without stopping, which wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for crystal meth.Norman Ohler, author of Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich
This could be true whether you’re on foot or driving. If you’re escaping a pending natural disaster, trying to get out of a city, or racing to reach your bug out location – any of those scenarios could mean driving or walking through the night and into the next day. It could mean you have to keep going when your body would otherwise say stop.
Using drugs to enhance performance during a crisis is not new. In fact, drugs have been used to improve a soldier’s performance throughout history.
Examples of drug enhancers used by soldiers:
- Viking Berserkers ingested different psychoactive mushrooms before war (source)
- Incan chasquis (message runners) chewed coca leaves (source)
- Cocaine was used in the early 19th century by European militaries for trench warfare (source)
- German Nazis consumed methamphetamine, their “go pill,” to keep them moving during the blitzkrieg (source)
- Soviet troops used meldonium while fighting in Afghanistan (source)
- Modafinil has been used more recently by militaries all around the world to help soldiers stay awake and fight longer (source)
These drugs help turn soldiers into “super soldiers” by:
- reducing physical fatigue
- reducing anguish, stress
- improving individual performances
- empowering physical and mental awareness and presence
Specific Drugs to Pack in a Bug Out Bag
It would be easy for me to just suggest you pack an entire medicine cabinet in your bug out backpack as a means of covering all your bases, but that’s 1) a lazy response, 2) a waste of money in most cases, and 3) too much bulk and weight.
I’m a serious advocate of keeping gear as lightweight as possible. I stress weight in all of my articles on bug out backpacks. I know from experience that ounces turn into pounds quite quickly, and there is only so much space in a pack. Space/weight is at a premium when you’re deciding between which items are most needed to get you to safety.
So, the suggestions I have below here are the drugs I think warrant inclusion – specific to a bug out situation. That’s what’s driving my advice – will this drug help in a bug out scenario?
It should also be noted that I don’t think you need to carry entire bottles of each medication. You need just enough to get you and your party through any unexpected “what if” situation that you could encounter on a bug out. Ideally – hopefully – you have additional medical resources available to you whenever you reach your destination.
Individual Medical Need
Activated Charcoal – There was a time when ipecac syrup was the suggested remedy for ingesting poison, but evidence now suggests activated charcoal is better. Activated charcoal serves as an anti-absorption medication, making it an ideal drug to carry in the off chance you ingest something that would put you out of commission during a bug out.
- ACTIVATED CHARCOAL CAPSULES: Charcoal powder is used for health, beauty & oral care & has traditionally been used to adsorb toxins(1); Our Activated Charcoal capsules contain 260 mg of activated charcoal /2 capsules & can be taken after meals as needed.
- DIETARY SUPPLEMENTS: Activated Charcoal is a naturally sourced health and dietary supplement that's been used to support healthy lifestyles for generations; Plant and herbal based supplements from Nature's Bounty meet high quality standards and testing.
Odds are high you will only be eating what’s in your pack, and if I had to cut a drug out of the list I have here, activated charcoal might be one of them. But what if your bug out lasts longer than you packed for? What if you have to rely on questionable food? Activated charcoal could become a lifesaver.
Antibiotics – I’m not going to give medical advice on prescription drugs, mainly which antibiotics to pack for what. I’ll leave that to qualified professionals (or consult the book I suggest at the end), but there is something to be said for having the means to treat any infection you have. You can see for yourself the most common general and brand name antibiotics and what they’re used for.
How you secure these, and maintain an ability to rotate stock, is a whole other game. There are ways to buy antibiotics without a prescription, however. Some people get around this by stocking the aforementioned fish antibiotics. While some people swear by fish antibiotics , others urge caution. Still, in a SHTF situation, they are likely better than the alternative.
Diphenhydramine – Benadryl, or the generic equivalent diphenhydramine, is an antihistamine that can relieve the symptoms of allergies. It works by blocking the histamine your body creates as the result of an allergic reaction.
- Compare to the active ingredient in Benadryl Allergy
- Strong effective allergy relief
Diphenhydramine can also be used to prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness. It also serves as a sleep aid and is the active ingredient in the “sleep” portion of Tylenol PM.
This drug is widely recommended to have on hand in any emergency situation just because of its potentially life-saving attributes when someone has a serious allergic reaction.
Loperamide – Imodium, or the generic equivalent Loperamide, is an antidiarrhea agent. If you find your bug out water purifier broke or you accidentally ingested water you shouldn’t have, you could end up with diarrhea. You could end up with diarrhea from a variety of sources for that matter.
It couldn’t get much worse than trying to bug out by foot while having a serious case of the craps. Worse than the mess of it all could be dehydration associated with it. While diarrhea is the “butt” of many kids’ jokes, it kills 2,195 children every. single. day. Take the threat of diarrhea seriously.
Prescription Drugs – It goes without saying that you need to pack the unique medications prescribed to you by your doctor. Heart medications? Asthma inhaler? Epi-pen? If you need ’em add ’em to your bag.
Acetaminophen – Tylenol, or the generic equivalent acetaminophen, can be used to treat a variety of different pains from headaches to muscle aches to back aches and menstrual pains. It can also serve as a fever reducer.
- ACTIVE INGREDIENT: Amazon Basic Care Extra Strength Pain Relief's active ingredient is Acetaminophen, 500 mg, which compares to the active ingredient of Extra Strength Tylenol Caplets
- Amazon Basic Care Extra Strength Pain Relief, Acetaminophen Caplets, 500 mg, temporarily relieves minor aches and pains due to: the common cold, headache, backache, minor pain of arthritis, toothache, muscular aches, and premenstrual and menstrual cramps also temporarily reduces fever
Acetaminophen, like the drug that follows, is a great all-purpose pain reliever. It’s versatile.
NSAIDs – Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NDAIDs) are probably the most common type of painkillers. This is a category of drugs rather than a specific drug, but drugs falling into this category are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. Brand names include Bayer, Advil, and Aleve.
- ACTIVE INGREDIENT: This product contains ibuprofen 200 mg, a pain reliever and fever reducer (NSAID); compare to the active ingredient in Advil Ibuprofen Tablets
- PAIN RELIEVER AND FEVER REDUCER: Proven pain relief without a prescription for tough pain such as muscular aches, minor arthritis pain, toothache, backache, menstrual cramps or minor aches and pains from the common cold; also temporarily reduces fever
Ibuprofen (Advil) is probably the most commonly consumed NSAID, but my general preference is Aleve because it has a longer release time. Each has their place, however.
Acetaminophen and NSAIDs can be rotated for more effective pain relief and/or fever reduction. NSAIDs are also good for reducing inflammation.
Having the energy to operate around-the-clock like a soldier in a blitzkrieg would be a huge benefit in a bug out situation, you’re not going to be packing methamphetamines in your bug out bag… or at least I hope you’re not.
So, what are your options if you need a “go pill” to keep you moving through the night?
College students and coders in Silicon Valley have been known to use Ritalin and Adderrall as their “stay awake and productive” drug of choice, using them off-label. There is no doubt they work for this, but they also require a prescription.
Caffeine Pills – A more realistic option for the typical prepper is going to be simple over the counter caffeine pills. College students have also been known to use these to cram for exams. Truckers use them. Preppers can use them, too.
- 100mg of Caffeine Per Capsule
- 250 Capsules in Each Bottle
If the pill form isn’t your thing, you can just get your caffeine through coffee. It’s just not going to be as efficient or quick as a caffeine pill.
If coffee is your jam, however, check my article on How to Store Coffee. It includes links to some freeze-dried coffee packets that would be perfect to stock in a bug out bag.
One book I’ve long advocated that preppers keep in their SHTF library is a copy of the Nursing Drug Handbook. You can buy the most recent one here or do what I did, look for a used version on Amazon of a prior year. The pricing is much better.
This book will serve as a valuable reference in any long-term collapse that includes the need to act as your own pharmacist or the pharmacist for someone else.
- Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
If a global SHTF situation suddenly hit, something on the scale of a zombie apocalypse, we would be living in a world without the rule of law.
Medical systems would be non-functional and you could have to scrounge and scavenge for medical supplies to treat yourself or others in your party. Knowing what drugs do what and have what reactions would be exceptionally valuable knowledge to have, and the information in this book could provide that information.
What are your thoughts? What drugs would you suggest packing in a bug out bag? Let us know in the comments.