I have to fly tomorrow morning and I'm out of the pills that enable me to get on the plane in the first place. Help!
October 25, 2010 6:11 PM   Subscribe

I have to take a very last-minute plane trip tomorrow morning and just discovered I'm out of Xanax. There's no time for me to get more. What can I do to make it through the flight without a panic attack?

A death in my family and a relatively quick funeral means I have to fly out at 6 am tomorrow morning to make the funeral. I didn't make my reservations until late this afternoon and when I started packing just now I discovered that I'm all out of the Xanax I take only for this purpose. Literally, 10 pills has lasted me almost 3 years.

There's no way for me to get a new prescription before my 6 am flight and my doc won't call in prescriptions like this without seeing me. In fact, he's not the doctor who gave me the prescription in the first place, come to think of it.

Its a puddle-jumper and while I do ok on larger planes, this specific scenario is pretty much why I need the Xanax to fly in the first place.

I HAVE to get on the plane. Do you have any OTC remedies I should try? I think it might be too early for a couple of shots of vodka.
posted by Mimzy to Health & Fitness (25 answers total)
Honestly? I'd drink a bloody mary or two before I boarded, were I you in this case.
posted by tristeza at 6:13 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding alcohol.
posted by InsanePenguin at 6:14 PM on October 25, 2010

Alcohol makes me much more anxious during flights. It throws off my balance and makes me feel like the plane is losing altitude when it shouldn't be. Unless it's helped you before I wouldn't recommend it.

The things that help me the most are to have an engrossing activity, like a trashy novel or a book of Sudoku puzzles, and a pair of noise canceling headphones, so that I can listen to music without the roar of the engines.
posted by telegraph at 6:18 PM on October 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

(This is why I keep an emergency stash!)

If alcohol doesn't make you anxious, nthing a cocktail or two (or three). If it does, can you try taking Benadryl?

Also, this might help: previously.
posted by shamash at 6:22 PM on October 25, 2010

Is someone meeting you at the airport? If so, maybe an OTC med that you know will make you really sleepy, something you've taken before so you know how it affects you.
posted by Mavri at 6:23 PM on October 25, 2010

When I've flown and couldn't take Klonopin, I've relied on two bloody marys at the airport and trashy fashion and celebrity magazines to keep me sane.

Someone suggested Rescue Remedy to me once in this situation. I didn't try it, but I see that it's mentioned in that link from shamash.
posted by devotion+doubt at 6:23 PM on October 25, 2010

Benadryl to make you a little sleepier - you'll still be anxious, but might be able to convince yourself that you're too tired to care. If you don't have to drive, a little alcohol beforehand really isn't a bad idea, either. Meditation.
posted by ldthomps at 6:23 PM on October 25, 2010

I have panic attacks (to the point of blacking out) on airplanes and when I haven't been able to get a Xanax prescription in time, alcohol has been the only thing that has helped. I tried Benadryl once and it didn't even scratch the surface: I was just terrified and sleepy. If you know that alcohol won't make you more anxious, I'd go for it.

You're in unusually difficult circumstances here--don't worry about it being too early for a drink. Just get through what you need to get through. It's not like you're going to show up sloshed at the funeral.

Sorry to hear you've lost a family member.
posted by corey flood at 6:26 PM on October 25, 2010

I've used Xanax for panic attacks, too. Call your doctor or pharmacist, ask about Benadryl. Also, a very cold wet washcloth on the face can stop a panic attack; it's a physiological reaction; take a washcloth in a ziplock bag.
posted by theora55 at 6:27 PM on October 25, 2010

First of all, when your trip is over and done, do the SOAR Fear of Flying program. I did it and it cured my horrifically debilitating fear -- now I fly everywhere without worry. Here is the link -- they have a program you can do now for tomorrow that will help a little bit. Don't bother with the idiotic Virgin Airways "tapping" technique -- that did nothing for me.

As for your flight tomorrow, do a couple of things:

- manage your panic with 5-4-3-2-1
- talk to the pilot before you take off... this works better than anything possible... you can talk to the gate agent before boarding and board before everyone else... there is no rule against this, just so you know
- acknowledge that you are on a plane, don't try to deceive yourself
- acknowledge that you aren't an expert on flying and aren't the best judge of noises, movements, or whatever
- breathe!
- remember, this is in your HEAD... flying is insanely safe, you have an irrational fear... get it sorted out later, but for now, just release yourself from having to watch over your own safety and that of the plane... just exist....
posted by teedee2000 at 6:30 PM on October 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

Any chance you can drive instead or take a bus or train? You mentioned it's a puddle jumper; just how far away is the funeral? Can you get up at, say, 4 or 5am and drive?

If it were me, I'd be concerned that if I did have a panic attack on the plane, I'd end up missing the service anyways, and other relatives may have to miss the service to care for me. I'd try to avoid this if at all possible, for your sake and for theirs.

I'm sorry for your loss, and I wish you safe travels.
posted by pecanpies at 6:31 PM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: Call a few of your friends. Someone you know may have some stashed away for plane trips too.
posted by K.P. at 6:39 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Last time that happened to me, I bought some OTC sleep-aid from the airport store.
posted by KogeLiz at 6:40 PM on October 25, 2010

Bonine (Meclizine) are also good at making you sleepy enough that you might not really care. Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate) does the same thing, and perhaps even more so. Both are readily available OTC at any pharmacy.
posted by holterbarbour at 6:45 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by uans at 6:48 PM on October 25, 2010

If you do end up borrowing some Xanax from friends, carry it in your own prescription bottle (if you still have the empty) so it looks like your own prescription in case you are stopped and searched for any reason.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:53 PM on October 25, 2010

I sympathize, greatly. For me, it's Benadryl but also earplugs. I find the *noises* of airplanes really get to me, especially the little puddle jumpers, and I convince myself that perfectly normal airplane noises mean something Very Bad. If I pop in my earplugs before we take off and keep them in as long as we're in the air, I'm a lot happier.

I also do well with deep, steady breathing during takeoff and landing - basically the same breathing I do during meditation. Not sure that would be helpful if you don't already have a meditation practice, though - I think my body's somewhat trained to know that type of breathing means calm-down time.
posted by Stacey at 6:58 PM on October 25, 2010

I recommend trying a flight simulator. Get up into the air, and observe how it's nearly impossible to make the plane crash. Dive towards the ground, the plane picks up speed and cannot dive anymore. Pitch up and stall, the nose falls back down and the plane goes back to normal speed.

Basically, flight is inherently stable. You are not going to die. It's much more relaxing than taking a walk in the park!

So get a good book and a nice cup of your favorite beverage, curl up in your seat with a blanket, and don't worry. You are not going to die!
posted by jrockway at 7:03 PM on October 25, 2010

This probably won't work, but in your situation I would give some thought to heading over to the local ER and trying to get something from the doc in charge.
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:03 PM on October 25, 2010

Alcohol at an airport bar works for me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:07 PM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: I can't believe I didn't think of that, K.P. I called a likely friend and she was happy to help me out.

I've got my mom on the other end to give me one for the return trip, so I'm going to be fine. Thank you for all the suggestions.
posted by Mimzy at 7:20 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Valerian Root works really well for me. It's herbal and non-habit forming. I know you've got some lined up for your trip, I just thought I'd let you know just in case.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:24 PM on October 25, 2010

You want some sort of a positive GABAergic -- a GABA agonist, positive allosteric modulator, or releasing agent. Benzodiazepines like Xanax fall into this category, and alcohol does too. Alcohol is less than ideal, though, because of its other effects. But there are some other options:

Valerian root contains a weak GABA agonist, and is sometimes used to taper off benzos in cases of dependency. It might work for you, and it also has a sedative effect, which will probably be nice. I'm not convinced about the non-habit-forming claims regarding valerian, but it's certainly not more habit-forming than Xanax, and as long as you don't take it regularly you'll be fine.

If you live near an organic market or herb shop or nutritional supplement store or anything of that sort, you might be able to pick up some kava root or kava extract, which will probably work better than valerian, and is quite safe as long as you don't mix it with anything. It also works faster than valerian, and also most benzodiazepines, which is a plus.

(I've also seen L-theanine for sale on occasion, which is a GABA releasing agent. I've never tried it, and its safety at large doses is sort of up in the air, but it seems like it ought to work and there's no particular reason to believe it's dangerous. It's also more expensive, though, so I'd pass.)

None of these chemicals are likely to remain in effect as long as Xanax, so you should bring multiple doses if you need the effect to last for the entire flight.

Expect to become sleepy with valerian or kava, and don't drink anything caffeinated or you'll probably feel sort of gross.

Good luck!
posted by magnificent frigatebird at 9:36 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unisom can be pretty good for that purpose. Unisom is doxyllamine succinate - and at least one study shows that it is just as effective as phenobarbital for inducing sleep. Some people use it off label for anxiety and nausea. Best of luck.
posted by candasartan at 9:51 PM on October 25, 2010

Have to jump in again on the Benadryl recommendations even though the thread is resolved... about 10% of the population has an atypical reaction to Benadryl that makes you hyperactive and anxious instead of sleepy (myself included). So once again: don't take it for the first time right before you get on a plane.
posted by telegraph at 5:52 AM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Really, someday that high school French could come...   |   What to call these stomach faced people? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.