The Addictions And Their Consequences After SHTF


In case you didn’t have enough to consider while planning your preparedness and/or evaluating your security risks following a societal collapse, have you thought about the consequences of the many addictions – be they vises or medical essentials?

While the actual numbers are sketchy, the general reality of the sheer number of people who rely on drugs or other vises are staggering – and when they can’t get them, it’s going to be a major problem in more ways than one…

Apparently there are more than 1 in 10 in the United States who are on SSRI’s (anti-depressants). Let’s call it 35 million.

Apparently there are approximately 22 million people who use ‘illegal drugs’ in the United States.

Apparently 7 of 10 Americans take at least one prescription medication. That’s about 220 million people.

There are approximately 130 million prescriptions in the United States for hydrocodone (pain killer).

Approximately 42 million people smoke cigarettes in the U.S.

It has been estimated that 18 million people are alcoholics in the United States while half of all Americans drink alcohol.

The question is this: What additional addictions are there and what possible consequence might they have on a society which has collapsed to the extent of social chaos?

For those who are preparing for a potential devastating economic collapse in which today’s modern society becomes crippled or even crushed from the devastating blow, it is a serious matter to consider that there will potentially be tens of millions of desperate people who may be wrenched from their supply chain of drugs, medications, and addictive vises.

Can you say, ‘withdrawal’?


  1. Sheer attrition will take care of the first fifty percent of those people in the first six months. Starvation and disease will kill off many of the rest as will civil war, strife, gang wars, government killers, the golden horde, etc. At the end of a year to 18 months, there won’t be much more than the hardiest and or luckiest of souls remaining anyhow. It won’t much matter though, since there will be so many melted reactor cores smoldering around the country that it will be but a matter of time for whomever remains anyway. Pretty somber assessment, but one that I judge to be pretty accurate nevertheless.

    1. IMO: Addiction withdrawal will last about a month. Most long term heroin addicts will OD intentionally while they still have a comfortable way out. Junkies won’t be a big problem because they are not inherently violent. Antidepressant withdrawal can lead to psychotic behavior but patients will naturally adjust by turning to alcohol, tobacco or another cheap and available alternative. Cocaine is only craved for about a week.

      The addiction problem will correct itself due to lack of availability.

      The bottom line is we don’t need 95% of these drugs anyway. Antibiotics and aspirin are all you need.

      I bet a bottle of hooch will cost a gold mine after SHTF plus 1 year.

      P.S. I will never have enough supplies, EVER. :)

      God Bless

  2. Hahaha Ken I really like how your articles often blend into each other. Personally I have one vice, chewing tobacco. I know, it’s gross and disgusting but it’s also more addictive than cigarettes and there are no current support systems for quitting chewing tobacco. Smokers have gums and patches and support groups and all kinds of stuff to help kick the habit. Chewing tobacco users are pretty much on their own if they want to quit. It’s probably not a big problem though because the numbers aren’t as high as with smokers.

    That being said, I was able to quit once while I was in the hospital recovering from an accident. Although, even with the help of a Morphine drip I still had cravings for it while I was there. That’s how strong it is. However, after 2 weeks of being off it I was fine. Months later I figured maybe I could just take a little, once in awhile. Hahaha. Wrong. Well I don’t have a current urge to quit but I do know that if push comes to shove it won’t be easy but I can get through it. I just have to get through those first two weeks. After that the availability will gone so it shouldn’t be a problem anymore.

    Funny thing is, I was in the hospital for months, either hooked up to Morphine or on Percocet and I never got addicted to them. I guess tobacco just has my number. For now.

    1. @ Grits
      I know this is a little off subject, but I understand that Nicotine is approximately 3-4 times more addictive than Heroine and completely impossible to totally quit. Happy I never got started, but I never never never darn those that have. Best of luck if you decide to stop again.

      1. @NRP
        Adding to that, chewing tobacco rather than smoking is also more efficient. More nicotine gets into the system. It doesn’t get burnt up or filtered by the lungs. It just goes right from the gums into the blood stream. Smokers can chew a stick of nicotine gum, chewers could chomp down the whole pack and still not get enough nicotine.

        I actually used to smoke years before I started chewing and I was able to quit that cold turkey. And it wasn’t like I found a substitute either, I didn’t pick up chewing till years later. So I know I can kick it when I’m ready, I just don’t have an urgency to right now, I’m still enjoying it. Kinda sorta. One thing I do know though, I’m not a very nice person to be around when I haven’t had any for awhile. Still a few regrets about that.

        I know it’s one of the things I need to work on, but it’s not the highest on my current prep list. I’m just glad it’s not a worse habit.

  3. Direct Answer;

    (1 McDonalds, Lets face it, 90% of Americans do not cook food anymore (and yes I know people literally addicted to fast foods)
    (2 Sleep, yea that sounds dumb but during the first few days/weeks how much sleep do you really think your going to get?
    (3 Water, now that sounds even dumber, but what happens when the pumps stop running pushing water to the cities?
    (4 Routine, 99% of sheeple live on a daily routine, if you change that routine they go crazier.


    1. @NRP
      Routine is a very interesting idea. I heard that one of the leading causes of death in retirees is from the loss of their routines. Not directly of course. Very common among retired military and police after so many years of routine. But also still common among the general population of retirees. I guess just having nothing to do really gets to people. Kind of ironic when you think about how much they complain about their routines while they’re still in them.

  4. Thought provoking Ken and something that people need to address. People are going to die when the medications and other addictive substances are shut off. Alcohol will probably be the biggest killer. Not all alcoholics will have DTs (delirium tremens) when they stop but of those that do it can be fatal. People are delirious and can not care for themselves or others. It’s not pretty. Some people who are addicted to alcohol have to drink in order to avoid seizures from withdrawal. Unfortunately the most practical treatment for alcohol withdrawal in a no medication available situation is more alcohol. Since so many people plan on stocking it is going to be more available.

    SSRI antidepressants are going to be another big problem. it might not be fatal to withdraw from them but the increase in depression that accompanies the withdrawal can lead to suicide. These are a medication that should be taped off. I use them myself for PTSD (combat medic in Viet Nam) and have experienced withdrawal when I forgot to pack them for a trip. After 4 days I was despondent. Advice is to stockpile these which is hard to do if you are trying to prep with insurance buying the meds. They won’t pay for a prescription over that which is immediately needed, usually a one month supply. Try getting it filled in advance and it will probably be denied. I would suggest to patients that they skip a dose every 5 or 6 days until they built up a couple of weeks worth of medication. If the supply becomes unavailable they can taper off of the medication. Instead of one a day maybe one every other day for a while then half of a tablet every other day for a while end then every three days for a while then stopping completely. I would also advise them to talk to their prescriber about this before the need for it arose.

    A caveat is some tablets are time released and should never be cut in half as the dose release can be all screwed up. If you are unsure talk to your pharmacist or prescriber. I’m not aware of any SSRIs that are time released but I can’t say for sure.

    Hydrocodone is an opiate and addiction can be comparable to heroin addiction. Not pretty coming off of it but not usually fatal. A lot of people are on these medications for good reason. For one reason or another they are in to much pain to function or live in relative comfort. Hydrocodone is one of the less problematic opiates that are prescribed.

    Tobacco withdrawal is another problem that I couldn’t get over for years. the military used to give us cigarettes with our C-rations. As I recall cartons were $2.00 for to packs. I would imagine our LEOs in corrections can comment on this as so many of our criminals smoke and when jailed are denied tobacco. I quit with Chantix. Many people have experienced side effects from it up to and including suicide. I had weird dreams for a couple of months. For all too many of us tobacco is a slow form of suicide.
    quit now and if using Chantix talk to your prescriber about other medications that might be helpful in the short term for alleviating them.

    Diabetic medications are going to be very problematic and to my knowledge insulin doesn’t store well in the long term. Not all diabetics require insulin initially and weight loss could alleviate some of the problem.

    Some medications have a therapeutic range and are useless if taken below the prescribed dose. For those of us who read “One Second After” you might remember the doctor commenting that when the beta blockers ran out his patients started to die off. You might be able to get these from Canada or an overseas pharmacy. There is a greater risk of counterfeit drugs but often they are fine. A lot of the generics prescribed here are sourced from out of the country providers and are just as good as those manufactured here. Consider how China treats factory managers that adulterate their product. Would you like a blindfold Mr. Wong?

    Be well.

  5. My daughter and my favorite cousin have diabetes. My daughter’s doctor will only prescribe one month at a time. In any case, insulin needs to be refrigerated. Diabetes is a huge problem in the U.S. Those patients won’t live very long if the SHTF. We should all start losing weight if we are overweight and taper off the sugar. I lost 27 pounds last year (to 112,) but then gained 8 pounds back when I broke my leg. Now I am trying to lose it again.

    For myself, I have steadfastly refused all the medications that my doctors keep prescribing — for reflux, too rapid heart rate, bone strengthening…..

    I WAS taking Prilosec for reflux. Then I found out that the Prilosec was causing my heart to race. Now I don’t take anything. However, I am addicted to caffeine. I have quite a lot of instant coffee, instant tea, and instant hot cocoa stored. That should take care of my addiction for a while; then I will have to taper off.

    1. Hey Daisy, I too am addicted to caffeine. I drank so much at one time that an attempt to quit brought on severe headaches for several days. I think I lasted a week before I gave up. Today I am a one cup a day coffee drinker. Now when there is no more coffee, I hope that my withdrawal won’t be as severe. One of the side effects of quitting coffee during that one week was I slept allot. I would take 2 or 3 naps a day.

      I currently take no medication, unlike my DH who has a dozen prescriptions including insulin. We have no illusions about his survivability when the SHTF.

    2. I am allergic to many anti inflammatories and a couple antibiotics. A couple years ago I took a Medicinal Herbs class; every saturday for 6 months. I would recommend this to everyone. Natural remedies take a little longer to take affect but they do work. I have given my family & friends several salves I have prepared and they now ask for “refills”. One friend suffered from cronic ear infections. I made him an ear oil using mullein flowers & olive oil. He uses it every day and no longer has any ear issues. I give him a yearly refill in August after I harvest the flowers. Also look into essential oils and find Herbal Anitvirals and Herbal Antibiotics by stephen Buhner.

  6. NRP, I think I’m completely quit. No desires for tobacco unless I smell someone smoking and now I can smell it from 300 feet away and upwind! When I do smell it awakens a mild desire for it but more so a pity for the addicted smoker. It is a tremendous burden on society when you consider the long term costs of treatment for associated diseases. Most of the folks you see on oxygen are ex-smokers and sometimes still smoking. I would do the math with patients who smoked. A pack a day at $6.00 a pack works out to $2190 a year. For 30 years it is $65,700. Literally all of it “up in smoke”. When you consider that many of these people are depriving their children because of their habit doing the math can be a powerful incentive to quit. I’ve had patients that smoked 4 packs a day and in many places the price is a lot higher than $6.00 a pack. Chantix also works for people who chew. It has the highest success rate of any therapy for tobacco cessation. Best of luck Grits.

    1. Thanks, I’ll have to look into that, if I can avoid being my not so nice self next time I quit that would be great.

      Having gone through those, not so nice times, has given me a perspective of what to expect in others when the time comes. And I know that not everyone will have the same restraint and self control that I had. It won’t be pretty.

  7. You missed one of the biggest addictions today: ELECTRONICS. Whether it is playing video games, watching television, tweeting on your smartphone, or surfing prepper websites, they all can be highly addicting. It has been shown that they can raise dopamine levels in the brain, so it is a true addiction. I know, I’ve struggled with it, and the best I’ve come up with is to have electronic-free days. Literally, nothing but emergency phone calls/texts, but preferably spent in a place where I don’t have a cell phone signal, so the temptation isn’t even there.

    1. John,
      I was thinking the exact same thing as I read your post from my smartphone while smoking a cigarette. I have my vices.
      I have noticed my vices and try several times a day to just not have any electronics or smokes around me. Otherwise I am surfing the net or something. I do take time out everyday to go out and play with the dogs and son without my phone near me. Also grab a book or head out in the garage and do something constructive.
      But the electronic addiction can be really tough for some. Especially those that have to check their FB account to post what they are doing every minute of the day.

    2. Great point John;
      Sort of like this Blog site…. HAHAHA
      Honestly, I do enjoy reading Ken’s articles and the comments. Plus it gives me something to do at work… LOLOL :-/

      Electronics are banned from my house after 5:00 (of course I live alone and get home around 6:00 so it’s easier) I have disconnected the Satellite TV totally, don’t like the radio, only do internet when I want to look something up, check my FB once a week if I need to or not, and read a good book instead of watching old movies.

        1. @ Beach’n, I have a feeling you can get yourself in enough “trouble” as is, no need for us to help… HAHAHA
          But if assistance is needed, you just give us a call :-O

  8. Tobacco can be grown after SHTF. It won’t go away and will be used as barter like it was with the natives hundreds of years ago.

    Opium can still be grown in warmer climates and addicts may flood down to the border in Mexico to get their fixes and seeds to grow in the US. Heroine and morphine will still be made, although harder to get and expensive. It was around before the 20th century. remember laudanum?

    Alcohol will still be made. When prohibition passed, it flourished pretty well, even right after the ban.

    Caffine can be found in other places besides coffee like tea, chocolate, Cola drinks, and Guarana, and 56 other plants, but other stimulants include ginseng, Vitamin B-12,and apples as a substitute.

    Unless a shtf moment was an extinction of all people in this country, or all have gone mad like Zombies, these things will still flourish. Many may not survive withdrawl or be killed looting in the urban areas, but these things will still be produced and traded.

    1. Agreed with all of the above, but distributing it to the millions and millions that crave may become a problem???? And the prescription drugs may also become a problem, such as incline.

  9. Excellent thought provoking article, yet again. I like NRP’s suggestion that “routine” is an addiction, I agree that it is, at least emotionally/psychologically.
    Excellent posts by all, really thought provoking!

  10. Yes I do have vices. Milk, gotta have milk. But I have no room for a cow. Cigars. But without them may be a benefit as my anger may just help me pull the trigger when needed without having second thoughts, thus getting myself killed by hesitation. I try to look on the positive side.

    1. Ahhhhh MAN, you just HAD to bring up Milk!!!! Now were in a world of hurt…. HAHAHA
      Thank god for 5 gallon buckets of freeze dried Moooooo.
      FYI Augason Farms has a GREAT dried mooooo

      1. NRP,
        Is Augauson Farms REALLY that good? I don’t want to get a can to try out then cough up a hair ball from the taste.

        1. Yes, Absolutely!!!! I was wondering myself, since I’m not a FD eating sort of man, I have probably 25 cases of there stuff (#10 cans) and have tried almost everything I have stored, from Spinach to the Meats, I just this last weekend popped open another #10 can of their Vegetable Stew Blend and gave a cpl of cups to 4 of my friends asking them to also try it and be very honest with their opinions. Every one of them said it was very good and wanted to know what it was and where to get it for their stores/pantry.
          I plan on getting a lot more. It’s not cheep by any means, but 90% of their stuff has a 20 year shelf life or more. I also look for sales on it, the run a 40% sale at times, and Wally World also carries it.
          BUT!!! when I buy it from their site I WILL be using Kens link to help him out also.

        2. I buy long term from them. I have tried the entrees (asian rice meat and beef stroganoff) Both were great (for freeze dried). I could eat them everyday. I also got a year’s supply of #10 cans. All the food items are separate in the 1 year or more package like a can of beans, dry milk, cheese powder, powder eggs, dry fruit, cereal, powdered butter, etc. Meal must be planned but the advantage is you will have lots to work with and can supplement the supplies with complementary items.

          I also love Mountain House cans and pouches as well. Just add water and they all taste great. The secret is keeping the pouch warm during rehydration and adding an extra 10 minutes to every meal.

          Get lots of hot sauce.

        3. @ tahoejohn, I totally agree, the Mountain House are also good, The pouches are almost twice as expensive as the #10 cans, so I have just a few of them for the GHB and Truck-Bag. As with all FD stuff I have eaten you really do need to let it rehydrate longer. AND it will fill you up more than “regular” foods. I.E. a serving of Vegetable Stew is only 1/2 cup of mix and 2 cups of water. Don’t sound like much, but it is, and will fill up this old/fat/guy.
          Also if you can find a source for Military MRE’s go that route, the “A”s are the better of them all.

  11. For those of us addicted to tobacco (I’ve been using Cope Snuff for over 40 years) don’t worry. Fact is we’ll be so busy fighting the parasites, the symptoms will be overwhelmed by ‘Focus’.

  12. Discussing my problem with tobacco I alluded to my anger issues when I go to long without it. A couple people mentioned headaches after being without coffee. I was wondering if someone with medical background or personal experiences could shed some more light on the effects of withdrawals from some of the other addictions listed and others that aren’t listed. It might be useful info to have, being able to identify someone’s behavior before trying to barter with them or let them anywhere near your BOL or family. Another tool for our toolbox, something to use other than just our gut feelings.

    1. @Grits, Withdrawal from alcohol (for serious alcoholics – not the social drinker) can be deadly and someone going through D.T.’s (delirium tremens) is very ugly. Withdrawal from benzodiazepines (valium) and barbituates, such as pheno-barbital for treatment of seizure, is also very dangerous.

      Withdrawal from heroin is like having the flu for a few days, not fun, but not deadly. They act like they’re dying, but they’re not.

      Caffeine withdrawal (cold turkey) will give you a serious headache. So, cut back slowly over a couple of weeks. I did it by mixing a little decaf with my coffee or tea. Got my full cup , just not the full dose of caffeine. Just increase, everyday, the amount of decaf you use. I’m now caffeine free :)

      I do worry about people who are on medication they must have (such as seizure meds). Insurance will NOT pay for an “emergency supply”. Talk to your physician and ask for a prescription for emergencies. Then shop around your local pharmacies for “out of pocket” costs. Some of the big box warehouse stores have excellent prices on generics. If you’re on name-brand meds, it’s going to be expensive.

  13. have been reading and thinking about these comments, since this thread started.

    I am coming to the firm mode of thought, that if SHTF and one does have any of the items addicts need/want it would be best NOT to trade with them. What I am thinking, is once they (the addict of whichever vice) knows that you have said item
    -it will be nearly impossible to tell them NO the next trade
    -even if you are out of said item, they are not likely (addiction being what it is) to believe you are out. Could get nasty.

    1. @Anonymous, I agree with you! And addicts know other addicts. Plus, they probably won’t have anything you need to barter with. :/

  14. interesting Ken, I have had that “posting too fast” many many times. thought it was some feature you had put on.

    1. I hadn’t realized that the ‘bug’ was that frequent… thanks for mentioning it. I will renew efforts into figuring it out…

  15. Having four young adults at home their biggest reason for drug use and “partying” is boredom with an environment that is too safe. A meltdown would be good for them. You can’t be bored when you’re scrounging for your next meal or to find shelter or fighting off people trying to steal your food. Sounds harsh, I know, but it’s true.

  16. Most physical addictions (drugs, alcohol, tobacco) begin as experimentation. It then goes from occasional use to ‘user’ status. Then one slips into being a ‘soft’ addict, sometimes called a ‘functional’ addict, one that maintains a certain level of consumption to a socially acceptable level.

    But then gradually the ‘functional’ aspect diminishes and the addiction component increases until a crossroads, a crises, is encountered. This is where the addict either succumbs to the habit or seeks deliverance. To succumb results in financial loss, mental and emotional instability, loss of employment, failed marriage, and lastly loss of health and even life.

    Everyone that has an addiction, or let’s call it a ‘dark habit’, has an ‘enabler’. This can be a person or environment or personal history or the ephemeral euphoria that comes with consumption. The enabler allows one to feel okay with, and even justified for their habit. Slowly and silently the habit becomes their master and they become the silent and obedient slave.

    Deliverance requires that the enabler be disabled. This is when that enabler be recognized for what it is: a disabler of the addicts’ ability to be free from the addiction. It is time to transition from this disabler to a true enabler, one that enables one to live life free from destructive and inescapable addictions. It is time to be set free from slavery, emancipation for the addict.

    Deliverance begins with asking for help. The answer is not be be found in willpower or intervention, but rather in desire for deliverance and recognizing when the call for help has arrived and seeks an invitation to be your personal enabler. Do you desire deliverance? Pray this prayer: “God help me, I need deliverance”. And then look for it, it will be there.

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