Before I get into this, I want to be very clear about what the subject of this post is really about. This is a post about the insane hoops and demeaning dances that pharmacies who dispense controlled substances make customers go through when they fill their totally and completely legitimate prescriptions. This is not a post about whether or not you agree with the medication being discussed. This is not a post about alternatives to medications. Nor is this a post about ADHD, your opinion about ADHD or anything other than the simple fact that the drug being discussed is used to treat ADHD. Got it? It’s about the BUSINESS, not the PRODUCT. Groovy. Moving on.
If there’s one thing that I really DO NOT appreciate, it’s being treated like an idiot by random people. In this situation, It’s being treated like a drug addict.
I have been taking adderall (or vyvanse, currently adderall) – totally and completely legitimately, with new monthly prescriptions, and even health insurance – for about a decade. It works for me, It helps me with a variety of issues aside from ADHD, I can’t really function without it. I’m not a drug addict, I’m a person who is prescribed a medication that has a very unfortunate (and in some cases, inappropriate) stigma, and because of this stigma I feel like a freaking criminal one day a month. No, nothing changes in my life because of this, it just makes me feel crappy about myself – and no one deserves to feel crappy about themselves for no freaking reason. So, here we go.
- I would like to acknowledge the fact that there is an insane problem with opiates in this country (I won’t call it an epidemic, it’s not an epidemic. The bubonic plague – there’s an epidemic for you. Ebola. Those are some hardcore epidemics. The opiate issue is something else entirely, but I digress… that’s not the point of this), and as a result of this mass insanity, pharmacies that stock controlled substances have to be a bit… overzealous… ok, we’ll call it that… about the way they dispense these medications, and who they dispense them to.
- I also understand that a pharmacy has a right to refuse to dispense medications, and I know that health insurance – or any health industry related insurance – is not a warm and fuzzy facet of healthcare. But I also know that most people who fill controlled substances at pharmacies are not drug addicts, there are a number of actual policies in place that pharmacies can use to deter addicts from acquiring extra refills on a regular basis, and it is not illegal to fill a prescription without insurance.
- I have been on adderall, or some form of an amphetamine, for about 10 years. I have also always carried valid health insurance through my husband’s job, so never have I made a habit of filling these prescriptions without insurance (heh, they are not cheap medications). I actually never have had a reason to attempt to fill a prescription without using my insurance – there’s no reason to, I don’t go through my supply fast because I’m not a drug addict.
Like so many other Americans, I’m prescribed a controlled substance with a stigma
Like so many other Americans, I’m prescribed a controlled substance with a stigma, and because of this stigma, I get treated like a drug addict whenever I fill and pick up my prescriptions.
Now, it’s not like I’m pharmacy hopping – prior to when I lived where I do currently, our insurance dictated that our pharmacy be CVS. So, we used CVS… every month for three years, we freaking used CVS. Then we moved, and there weren’t any CVS pharmacies that had any service that was worth a damn or EVER HAD MY MEDICATION IN STOCK, so after a lengthy debate with our insurance company, we were granted the permission to use whatever pharmacy we wanted. Once again, there was no pharmacy hopping – for six years, I used the same Walgreens (except when they didn’t have the medications in stock – NEVER because of a refill or insurance issue… in those situations, I used CVS, just not the one by my house), and out here in the country, when you use the same pharmacy to fill the same prescriptions every 30 days like freaking clockwork, the pharmacy techs get to know you. One of the techs there did not like me – definitely gave me the “wow, you are a fucking drug addict” 3rd-degree treatment when I picked up my prescriptions (via the drive-through window with my two kids in the car… yeah, I’m so sketchy) BUT always dispensed them in accordance with the law because I wasn’t doing anything illegal and he was doing his job. That’s about as good as it gets, I’ll take it. I rarely get bubbly anymore these days. Everyone’s a critic.
Random Insurance Gap
February of 2018 I find myself in a two-month insurance gap because my husband got an awesome new job, but he did that because the store that he was working at closed – so he didn’t really have a choice. This transition produced an insurance coverage gap that was roughly 47 days long, which meant that I only ended up having to refill without insurance one time. So, because I don’t have insurance at the moment, today when I went to fill my prescriptions I chose a CVS pharmacy because it was directly on the way to where I was going with my kids for the afternoon and I envisioned a smooth situation where I could drive through the pharmacy and drop off the prescriptions, go do our thing, and then swing through and pick them up (and pay the ridiculous out-of-pocket price for the medication), and then ride off into the sunset. Heh, it did not go down that way.
Instead of a well-planned out adventure, I took my kids on the pharmacy tour from hell… for like 3 hours. Just so you know, my kids are 4 years old and 1.5 years old – they don’t understand “I’m sorry, I have to find a pharmacy to fill this, it’s important” – all they know is mommy is starting to freak out, and she gets angrier every time we go into one of these places.
First stop, Rite Aide.
I like Rite Aide, I always have. They have never been located convenient places for me, nor do they tend to have drive-through pharmacies (I’m not a bum, I’ve got two young children… do you know what it’s like taking two young children into a freaking pharmacy with you to fill prescriptions? Fuck! God… few things are as enervating. The drive-through is a vital part of the way I’ve come to be able to function. So, despite the fact that I’ve always gotten the best customer service from Rite Aide and have always been treated with respect there, I rarely use Rite Aide (I’m thinking that’s going to change though). But today I found myself outside of a Rite Aide when I was less than a half mile from where we were trying to go, so I figured I’d go to Rite Aid.
Well, it would have been fine BUT this particular Rite Aide is located within a square mile of a Methadone clinic, so they cannot dispense controlled substances (schedule 2 and higher) – they cannot even stock them. I had forgotten about this (not uncommon in and around Baltimore for that policy to be in effect… think back to April of 2015… the Freddie Grey riots and looting… heh, so yeah, some policies and inventories have been altered permanently), plus I was unaware that there was a methadone clinic there so without feeling defeated, because this one had nothing to do with me, I left the pharmacy and we went on to do our errands.
Fast forward about a half hour into the future…
We didn’t have a ton of errands to run, but they are young children so, you know, everything is an ordeal every time we leave the house for any reason. So, we try a few more pharmacies and get systematically rejected due to not having current insurance. I am getting visibly irritated because, as I am well aware, it is NOT ILLEGAL TO FILL A PRESCRIPTION FOR ADDERALL WITHOUT INSURANCE, DAMMIT! Son of a… !!
CVS Can SUCK IT
I decide to go try the CVS that I used on a regular basis when I lived in the area and as an ancillary pharmacy afterwards. No dice on the filling medication without insurance. Really? I can’t even fill the damn thing without insurance?! Despite the fact that you can check your records and see that I’m not a first-time patron of that pharmacy, that I have been filling that medication on a regular basis there for the last decade, that I’m not flagged in the computer as having drug-seeking behavior, and that… eh hem… I HAVE A PRESCRIPTION (and part of filling a prescription is calling and verifying… so yeah… what do you want from me).
No, still no, eh? Well, is there anything that I can do to make this happen? Because I feel like the doctor I’ve been seeing for a decade would have mentioned something to me when I told her at our most recent appointment that I was going to be without health insurance for two months, especially when I straight out… you know… asked her about it.
But ok sorry, you are a 20-year old pharmacy tech-trainee so you must know what you’re talking about. So, anything I can do about that? Oh, really?
Oh, that’s not what it is? Are you sure about that? Are you sure that you know what a prescription is? I know I’m just a layperson and perhaps I’m not down with the lingo, but one of us is apparently an idiot and I know that it isn’t me. And if you’re going to make up something, make up something better and don’t tell me something that blatantly isn’t true. You screwed up when you said that in the state of Maryland, you could not fill adderall without health insurance without a doctor’s note.
Do you think I was born yesterday and failed to consider that perhaps sometime in the last decade I may have learned a few things about your pharmacy’s policies, and that just isn’t true… and fine, you want to stand for CVS be my guest, but don’t speak for the rest of the pharmacies because, heh, that just is not true.
I have no problem with being given LEGITIMATE reasons or just having you flat out refusing me – you’re in your right – but DO NOT LIE TO ME.
This is the lack of respect I’m talking about – the fucking stigma. Why would you lie to a customer about something like that? Because you are assuming something about them based on something you know absolutely nothing about, and because of this stigma you have absolutely no respect for this customer, so you really don’t care how what you tell them to get them to go away, as long as they just go away. And what can I do? Absolutely nothing. Just take it, move on. Try somewhere else. Dehumanize this for me just a little bit more, make it just a little bit more time consuming, add a couple extra steps in there for me – I’ve got nothing better to do because I’m just a drug addict.
Rite Aide to the Rescue
I am so happy that I don’t have to do this again. I already get enough anxiety unnecessarily woven into the lining of my existence by just filling the freaking prescription month after month with insurance, I don’t think I deserve to have to run a weird marathon on top of that. Every single month. Indefinitely.
…where’s the love?*