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Drugs and Medications

A Guide to Drugs and Medications by Dana

Drugs and medications for personal use and for dispensing to others is a dangerous practice, therefore an uninformed decision or action could possibly kill either yourself or someone else.


Ideally, a qualified or trained health care professional should dispense or give advice of any drugs or medications for usage to either yourself or members of your group. Not every group in a survival situation will have a health care professional within the group, so it will fall to someone who has some informed knowledge of the subject, as some informed medical care is better than none at all. However, if that person or those persons really do not know at all, then it is better they do nothing, as they could be making things worse to the point of possibly killing themselves or someone else – Remember: ‘Do no harm!’

In a survival or austere situation, it will be to the person or persons who have some informed medical knowledge and practice, whether it is a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, paramedic, care assistant or even a first-aider to become the groups’ ‘Doctor, Doc or Medic’ and possibly even the ‘Midwife’. Though in the case of being the ‘Midwife’, if there are females in the group, they are very likely to know what to do, but do not take that for granted.

Though medicine is a complex subject, a lot of it is down to common sense. A few good basic clinical medicine textbooks, including a good Anatomy and Physiology book and an up-to-date (BNF) British National Formulary (there is also a BNF version for Children) and the British Medical Association (BMA) New Guide to Medicines & Drugs book should help you to learn some of the basics.

What and how much to obtain?

First off, you need to decide upon what scenario you are preparing for and of the number of people within your group. Then you should base your stock of drugs and medications on the ones that you or members of your group are currently using, of what you know how to use and also of what you can obtain. This will form the initial framework of your drug and medication stock list. From this framework, you can then consider which over-the-counter (OTC) medications and/or prescription only medications (POM) to stock as well as medications for possible perceived medical scenarios, ie: Antibiotics and Analgesics.

It is virtually impossible to say what quantity is enough as each person or group will have different needs and a different perception of possible medical scenarios. You also need to factor in the cost of the drugs and medications as well as the expiry dates and possible stock rotation. If you or a member of your group take a regular prescription(s), then it would be best to get as much as you can of those particular medications. Quite a few regular prescriptions will give you large quantity of tablets, etc. Some doctors write prescriptions that will cover you for three months. Medications like antibiotics are usually packed in boxes of 28 tablets and each box is normally considered ‘a full course’.

There are literally thousands of drugs and medications and unless you are a Doctor or a Pharmacist, you will not be able to obtain them all legally. You cannot stock everything that is listed in the BNF and there would be no need to either, as some drugs are specific to certain ailments, which may be irrelevant to you or your group.

Included in this section is a list of drugs and medications that will cover most of the likely medical scenarios, the majority of which (or their substitutes) are reasonably easy to obtain. Included are a few that are not so easy to obtain (like controlled drugs), at least legally in the UK, but would be an ideal to have, especially if you are prepping for a post apocalyptic scenario.

Obtaining Drugs and Medications

Obtaining drugs and medications pre-situation X is often difficult. The main problem of obtaining drugs and medications is having access to them. Some of the prescription drugs may be obtainable through group members who are currently prescribed them. The next problem is the cost, as some drugs and medicines can be quite expensive, especially if you wish to have a stockpile of them. There are a few ways that some drugs and medications may be obtained, using the following methods:-

  • You could try talking to your Doctor. Just explain that you wish to have a supply of your prescription medications as you want to be prepared for any disaster as medical care may not be easily available at the time. You probably would not get a supply of controlled drugs given. This method will depend on your relationship with your Doctor.
  • Discuss with your Doctor that you are going on a (X) months trekking holiday in a third world country and that you will need an extensive medical kit to take with you, including medications. The Doctor is more likely to support you on this method.
  • Buying drugs and medications from online pharmacies. This is potentially a dangerous source of medications. However, once you have a tried, tested and trusted source this could be the way to stock up on your drugs and medications. You can also buy your stock in larger quantities using this method. Buying online can be expensive when compared to a prescription.
  • One method that can be used is to complete a recognised Wilderness/Remote Medics course. This has a twofold advantage of not only you learning some useful skills but of you being able to equip a full medical kit with some prescription drugs and medications once qualified. Not a cheap option, but it is a legal one
  • Some medical kits are available from some Travel Health clinics which include some antibiotics and other drugs and medications. Can be expensive.
  • Comprehensive medical kits are required for UK registered boats sailing outside coastal limits. There are some suppliers in the UK, though it may be easier to obtain these kits from countries like the US. It may best to talk to your Doctor using the trekking holiday method, except that you are ‘sailing’ around the world.
  • Many countries within the European Union (EU) and outside, allow prescription medications to be sold over the counter (OTC) in pharmacies. This is because ‘The Locals’ tend to use their pharmacies to diagnose and treat many ailments as they are a cheaper option than using a doctor. This is probably one of the better ways of sourcing certain drugs and medications. It is not illegal to purchase them abroad but bringing them back into the UK may be – Buyer beware! Be wary of bringing back in to the UK less common drugs and medications and of large amounts of drugs and medications. Keep all receipts and/or prescriptions in case you are asked questions at Customs. Do not try to bring back drugs such as heroin, morphine, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, LSD and cannabis as these are banned from importation to the UK and may end up costing you a prison sentence.
  • Using Veterinary drugs and medications. These are labelled ‘Not for human consumption’, are widely available and relatively cheap. As a rule, most veterinary drugs come from the same source and batches as their ‘For human consumption’ counterparts, the difference is in the labelling and usually the price. This is not a method that we recommend, but realise that depending on certain conditions, it may be the only one available. With this warning in mind, it is strongly suggested that you only purchase antibiotics with the following cautions:-
    1. Know exactly what drug you are purchasing.
    2. Avoid medications with multiple drug combinations.
    3. Avoid medications that you cannot find a human variant of.
    4. Avoid medications that are specific to animal conditions that do not have a human equivalent.
    5. Only buy veterinary medications that are generically equivalent to their human counterparts, eg: Amoxicillin 500mg (Vet) = Amoxicillin 500mg (Human).


Expiry and Storage of Drugs and Medications

Drugs and medications are possibly amongst the more expensive and difficult items to obtain, that a Survivalist / Prepper is likely to store, thus making rotation and discarding of expired stock a reluctance. As with most things, drugs and medications do have a limited shelf life. It is law in the UK that expiry dates are displayed on the medication boxes, normally the ends of the boxes, as well as on the medication strips themselves.

Example: Exp. 11/12 = Expires November 2012.

Whilst we do not endorse the use of drugs and medications that have gone past their expiry date, the majority are safe for at least 12 months after the date of expiry. It is not that the drug or medication has become dangerous; it is that they lose their potency and effect over time. The exceptions to this rule are the Tetracycline group of antibiotics, Aspirin and Epinephrine as they become toxic over time. Beware, as there are probably other drugs and medications that also become toxic over time.

The US Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and the US Military have done studies on some common medications and have found that some have a safe, effective and prolonged (up to 2 -10 yrs) usage past their expiry date. However, the expiry dates on drugs and medications should be adhered to as they are there for a reason.

To help prolong the shelf life of drugs and medications, as with most foodstuffs, keep them in a cool, dark and dry environment. Some medications such as Insulin, Ergometrine, Oxytocin and some muscle relaxants need to be refrigerated. Diazepam deteriorates rapidly if exposed to light.

Reference Books

Drug & Medication List

Below is a list of drugs and medications that a Survivalist / Prepper are likely to need in most medical scenarios and have easy access too for stocking purposes. This is not a definitive list, but a list of the more common drugs and medications that are likely to be encountered and the various forms they are made in. This is not a list for people that have existing medical conditions that require prescription drugs and medications. Note that many of the listed drugs and medications also have multiple usages for various ailments, eg: Aspirin – Pain killer and a blood thinner.

NB: For applications, usage, cautions, indications and contra-indications of drugs, medications and some dressings, refer to the (BNF) British National Formulary (2011) or access the BNF online

      SR = Slow release
      MR = Modified release
      NSAID = Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug

  • Algesal Cream
  • EMLA Cream
  • Lidnocaine 1%


  • Epinephrine – Adrenaline (EpiPen) (eye drops, injection)

Controlled Drugs

  • Diamorphine (Intra-venous)
  • Oramorph (Oral Liquid)


  • Aspirin (Acetylsaliclic Acid) (dispersible, SR capsules, suppositories, tablets)
  • Paracetamol (Acetaminophen) (capsules, dispersible, liquid, suppositories, tablets)


  • Co-codamol (Codeine) (injection, liquid, tablets)
  • Dihydrocodeine (DF118, DHC) (injection, liquid, tablets & SR)
  • Tramadol (Zydol) (capsules & SR, injection, soluble tablets, tablets & SR)

Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID)

  • Diclofenac (Voltarol) (capsules & SR, dispersible, gel, injection, suppositories, tablets & SR)
  • Ibuprofen (Brufen) (capsules & SR, cream, granules, gel, liquid, mousse, tablets & SR)


  • Deep Heat Pads


  • Ciprofloxacin (Ciproxin) (capsules, injection, liquid, tablets)
  • Metronidazole (Flagyl) (capsules, cream, gel, injection, liquid, suppositories, tablets)
  • Trimethoprim (Monotrim) (eye drops/ointment, injection, liquid, tablets)


  • Germaline Antiseptic Cream


  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil) (capsules, dispersible powder, injection, liquid, tablets)
  • Co-Amoxiclav (Augmentin) (IV, tablets)
  • Flucloxacillin (Floxapen) (capsules, injection, liquid)


  • Clarithromycin (Klaricid) (granules, injection, liquid, tablets)
  • Erythromycin (capsules, injection, liquid, tablets, topical solution)


  • Doxycycline (Vibramycin) (capsules, tablets)
  • Minocycline (Dentomycin) (capsules & MR, gel, tablets)


  • Clexane (Heparin) (injection)
  • Clopidogrel (Plavix) (tablets)


  • Buccastem (Prochlorperazine) (buccal tablets, injection, liquid, powder, suppositories, tablets)
  • Buscopan (Hyoscine) (injection, tablets, skin patches)


  • Canestan (Clotrimazole) (cream, dusting powder, pessaries, spray, topical solution)
  • Daktarin (Miconazole) (cream, dusting powder, gel, ointment, pessaries, vaginal capsules/cream)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan) (capsules, injection, liquid)
  • Nystatin (Nystan) (cream, liquid, pastilles, pessaries, ointment, tablets)


  • Benadryl (Cetirizine/Levocetirizine) (cream, liquid, tablets)
  • Clarityn (Loratadine) (liquid, tablets)
  • Piriton (Chlorphenamine Maleate) (injection, syrup, tablets)


  • Calamine Lotion
  • Hydrocortisone Cream

Motion Sickness

  • Sturgeron (Cinnarizine) (capsules, tablets)


  • Ipratropium Bromide (Atrovent) (inhaler, nasal spray, nebuliser liquid)
  • Salbutamol (Salamol, Ventolin) (capsules, inhaler, injection, nebuliser liquid, tablets & SR)


  • Beclometasone (Qvar) (inhaler, nasal spray)


  • Gentisone HC (ear and eye drops)
  • Olive Oil


  • Bonjela Oral Gel
  • Clove Oil
  • Dentogen Gel
  • Mouthwash


  • Furosemide (Frusemide) (injection, liquid, tablets)


  • Gaviscon (Syrup, Sachet, Tablets)
  • Milk/cream of Magnesia (Magnesium Hydroxide) (liquid, powder, tablets)


  • Lactulose (Syrup)
  • Movicol (Granules)
  • Senokot (Senna) (Granules, Syrup, Tablets)


  • Buscopan (Hyoscine Butylbromide) (Tablets)
  • Dioralyte (Sachets – assorted flavours)
  • Imodium (Loperamide Hyrochloride) (capsules, syrup, tablets)


  • Peppermint Oil (Syrup)
  • Rennie (Syrup, Tablets)


  • Dextrose (Tablets)
  • Hypostop (Gel)


  • Lyclear (Permethrin) (cream, topical liquid)
  • Prioderm (Malathion) (liquid, lotion, shampoo)


  • Nytol (Tablets)
  • Zopiclone (Zimovane) (Tablets)


  • Chloramphenicol Eye Drops – (fridge)
  • Chloramphenicol Eye Ointment
  • Optrex Eye Wash


  • Aqueous Cream
  • E45 (Cream)
  • Savilon (Cream)
  • Yellow Soft Parafin (Cream)


(List is not complete – more research and additions may be required)

5 comments to Drugs and Medications

  • iaaems

    As a total ignoramus regarding medical things this comes as a welcome addition to the information database becoming available on this site. The links for the books are especially valuable as I would not have known where to look or what to look for.
    Very many thanks.

  • Dana

    Thanks for the comments.

    In regards to Medical books in general, always try to use the 5 year rule if possible, ie: Obtain the latest books possible, ideally published under 5 years ago. However, there are some books, that are not revised very often, mainly because they are the definative book on the subject.

  • Skean Dhude

    I always prioritise books recommended by experts over myself browsing the book shops.

    Thanks for this post. It makes a few points well worth thinking about.

  • Tod Nishimura

    Anthistamines are really necessary if you have perenial rhinitis and urticaria. –

    Consider our blog too

  • Anderson Fradkin

    Antihistamines are most commonly used to control the symptoms of allergies such as hay fever.In these conditions they work by preventing the actions of histamine, which is a substance produced by the body as part of its natural defences…

    My own, personal online site

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