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A 30-Day Supply of Parental Agony

Prescription management is basically my part-time job as the father of three kids with ADHD diagnoses. Keeping at-home and at-school medicines current and full, while avoiding panicked voice mails to our pediatrician, is quickly becoming my specialty.

Today I got an email from the school nurse telling me one of my kid’s midday medications needs a refill. No problem, I think. I’ll just send in a refill tomorrow from our stash at home.

So I go through the medicine basket in the kitchen, where we keep the kids’ medications. After fumbling around for a few minutes, I find the bottle. Which of course only has three pills left. No problem, I think. I’ll just call the pharmacy. The automated refill system only takes a couple minutes.

So I call the pharmacy and refill the prescription, which should be ready in a few hours. Perfect, I think. I can go get it on my way to pick him up from school.

When I arrive at the pharmacy, the pharmacist informs me the medication is a controlled substance and I’ll have to have the physician call in the refill. Right, I think. I knew that. I’ve only made this same error every flipping month since he’s been on this medication… going on three years now.

This is my life: I have four kids, three of whom have diagnosed ADHD. My cell phone pings every few hours with a reminder that he needs to take this medicine, or she needs to take that medicine. Wait is this Saturday? If so, he doesn’t need to take medicine A, but he does need to take medicine B.

[Free Resource: How Do We Know the Medication Is Working?]

Then it’s keeping up with the inventory. Medicine A is a controlled substance so only the pediatrician can call in a refill. I call the pediatrician about medicine B, but when they call back stating they have no record of this medication I remember that medicine was prescribed by the neurologist. The pharmacy closes at 8pm, so it’s typically around 8:05pm when someone says, “Dad, I’m out of medicine.”

“I’ll have to call in the refill in the morning.”

“Well, I’ve been out for a week.”

“What?!?! When were you going to tell me?!”

“I dunno.”

[How to Manage Meds at School]

“C’mon, buddy. You have to pay attention.” Then I realize the paradox of what I’ve just said: He needs the medication to help him pay attention to the medication.

So as I’m leaving the pharmacy, I call the pediatrician and leave a voicemail. Because they’re probably already closed for the day. It might have been the nurse practitioner’s voicemail. It might have been the billing department. I might have just told my life story to the home answering machine of the one physician who’s never seen my kids. I don’t even care at this point.

I’m about to throw my phone out the window of my Jeep when it rings. Caller ID says “Doc’s office.” I’m about to accept the call and say, “What fresh hell are you calling me about?” But I hear myself politely saying, “Howdy!”

“Yes sir. We got your voicemail and just spoke with the pharmacy. They should have the refill ready in the next half hour.”

“Great!” I say. “That was fast.”

I’m so relieved I completely forget about my pending panic attack. I hang up the phone and think, That was easy. When we get home, I pull up the school nurse’s email to respond when I notice she actually stated he was out of one medicine “and low on another.”

Dang it! I think. Why didn’t I pay better attention?!

[A Parent’s Guide to ADHD Medication]

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  1. I am here to commiserate and tell you it doesnt get better…..for your meds. I have been on one adhd and two other controlled meds for several months. In addition I have 5 other prescribed medications plus 81mg asprin and a vitamin everyday. Thankfully i have been able to cut back on all of hem to only one a day . This is near average for seniors my age. 7 prescriptions.
    What saves me each time are two things. First the pharmacy phones the physician. And secondly i have a set of daily pill dispensors that have 4 compartments for each day…breakfast lunch dinner and Bedtime. Better still these are a separate plastic tray with the day of the week on the front edge. The seven trays slide into a clear plastic container llike dresser drawer. Much smaller than it sounds .
    They are absolutely indispensible as they not only tell me which day it is ( just kidding) but also whether i have missed a med. they are particularly helpful when travelling. They also are great at reminding me to reorder anytime there is less than a weeks supply of
    any med because i cant fill the tray..oh and it also helps to be retired and on my own and not caring for muliple family members and a
    job.
    Good luck and i hope this will give you some ideas that are useful.

  2. I too have 5 meds between 3 family members to fill each month. I have to pick up paper forms for 2 of the “controlled substance” meds from the pediatrician, drive them to the pharmacy, and return to pick up the med. I find this an insane requirement of the federal govt. It has made me in favor of legalizing ALL substances, just as most other countries allow meds without a prescription. Our govt goes out of its way to make life as difficult as possible!

    1. The reason they require you to pick up the prescriptions is because people used to steal doctors pads from offices and write prescriptions. I know of sucks, but it’s for a good purpose. And ADHD drugs (stimulants) and drugs of abuse. When I was in college, people used to go to my bathroom and steal my Adderall out of my bottle. I wouldn’t notice it until the end of the month when I was short. After that, I had to get a safe and keep all my medications in there. That is still what I do to this day. I know it’s a pain in the butt to have to drive to the doctors office, but it is worth it to keep drugs off the street. I am more of a libertarian and I think there should be less laws, but as far as the controlled substance act goes, I do agree with that logic and reasoning.

  3. I can totally commiserate, as my son and I both take controlled substances. He has two different doses, one for morning and one for afternoon. I take 1 1/2 pills 3 times a day and have reminders on my phone so I don’t forget at work. They sometimes go off during meetings or when I am away from my desk. Basically every week I find my keys to unlock the storage box, and refill our pill containers. I swear by pill containers that are marked for each day, so my son and I know whether he has taken his meds or not. He will say he has taken them when he hasn’t, and vice versa. Typical ADHD, my telling him once to go take his meds doesn’t mean it happens. 🙂 With the pill container I can check and prove to him and to myself that he did, or didn’t.

    I am trying to develop a system to keep notes on how many are left and when refills will be needed. I glue colored paper on the tops of the bottles (blue for him and pink for me) where I keep these notes and see them every time I touch the bottles. I also keep it written on my calendar when school will need more pills, and it is difficult with 30-day prescriptions to have enough “buffer” of meds at school and at home to get us through to the next prescription. Luckily our doses have been the same long enough that our doctors will now write 90-day prescriptions (we both see psychiatrists rather than family doctors). The downside to that is that 90 days can be a long time to remember when we are at the doctor, whether we need a new prescription or not!

    I am also on other medications as well, so managing my four prescriptions and my son’s 3 prescriptions is quite a task! It was nice to see that I am not the only one.

    1. This is good practice for later in life when you will be taking 6 or 7. Luckily my pharmacy keeps track on their website and lets me know if they can send a refill or i have to drop by the docs office to update the script. They will even contact him to refill some of the controlled substances. A godsend as memory doesnt get better with age.

  4. Billy, where do you live that you don’t have to pick up a “hard copy,” or paper prescriptions for your children? I have ADD and take both Adderall IR & XR, and my son has ADHD and takes Vyvanse. So I have three controlled substance prescriptions that I have to pick up in person from the doctor’s office.

    I will tell you what has worked for me to ease the process and decrease anxiety. We go to the same psychiatrist, and I schedule our appointments back to back. Because my son is only 6, he doesn’t have to be present at every appointment. Because we get our prescriptions on the same day and from the same doctor, I take all three ADHD medications (and my other controlled substance prescription) to the pharmacy on the same day.

    We go to the same Walgreens every month. They know us and our prescriptions, so they make sure to have them in stock for us every month. I schedule appointments exactly every four weeks (28 days). That way, we always have two extra pills per month that I store for emergencies, such as spontaneous vacations or when my son gets mad and throws his cup of medicine. We dissolve his Vyvanse in Root Beer because he can’t swallow pills (don’t judge 😉), and once he threw it three times! This is why it’s integral that we save the extras.

    We are trying the patch next month, so hopefully this will work better. Please let me know if anyone has a positive or negative experience with the patch. I think it’s a Ritalin based drug. We are also starting EMPower Plus supplements too, with hopes of getting off stimulants for good, or at least having weekend breaks for my child.

    Prior to both of us seeing my psychiatrist, my son was being treated by his pediatrician. It got to the point where I felt like I knew more than her about ADHD medications, so I decided it was time to send him to the big gun, my amazing psychiatrist! Seeing the same doctor has saved us a lot of time, not to mention the fact that I can go in for both of us on most occasions. Also, sometimes I need to say things about my son that I don’t want him to hear, such as explaining to her about his angry outbursts when the Vyvanse wears off in the evening or before it kicks in in the morning. My son still has check ups with his pediatrician every few months to monitor growth progress. It’s more expensive because my psychiatrist doesn’t take insurance (as with most good ones), but it’s worth it to know my “baby” is in excellent hands. Plus I can text her any time necessary.

    I totally feel for you though, I cannot imagine what it would be like juggling multiple children with ADHD. At least you don’t have it, LOL. Our house sometimes looks like a scene out of movie/book Running with Scissors! Good luck to you!

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