Traveling internationally? Make sure your medicine won’t get you in trouble in your destination country

Jun 5, 2024 | 0 comments

By Mina Elwell

When you’re planning to spend time away from home, one of the most important things you need to pack is your prescription medications.

However, not all countries have the same regulations on medications, and depending on where you’re going, medications that you were given completely legally by a doctor in one country might land you in serious trouble in another.

Some of those medications, like Adderall, Ambien, and birth control, may be extremely common in your home country and illegal at your destination.

Others, like Benadryl or Sudafed, may be over the counter in the United States but could get you arrested in Mexico.

You don’t want to miss out on your chance to relax in steamy hot springs in Yudanaka or explore remote Thai islands by tall ship, but you also don’t want to find your trip ruined — not to mention potentially end up with serious legal troubles — because of an oversight while packing your medication.

Before you leave on an international trip, always research the regulations at your destination in advance, find out if you need any special documentation for your medications, and plan accordingly.

If you bring a banned medication on your trip, it may be taken from you at the airport, which could turn your dream trip into a medical nightmare. There can be serious legal risks, too.

In October of 2017, a British traveler was arrested in Egypt after authorities found the opioid painkiller Tramadol (which is legal in the U.K. with a prescription) in her bag. Because of the large amount of pills that she had brought with her, she was sentenced to three years in prison.

Travelers from Colombia and Ecuador have also been detained for carrying Tramadol, as well as other generic opioids in their luggage. The drugs don’t even require a prescription in those countries due to a limited history of opioid abuse.

In many cases, even if you might be allowed to bring a medication in with the right documentation, having more than your prescribed dosage for the number of days that you’re staying can also cause serious issues.

In 2019, two different Australian tourists to Bali were temporarily thrown in jail because of their ADHD medications — even though one had a doctor’s note.

If you always carry some over-the-counter medications and supplements in your bag, don’t forget to check the regulations on those, too. In 2016, an American tourist and her family were kept in holding cells overnight in Mexico after a customs agent found a few Sudafed pills in her bag.

Definitely do not try to get around the regulations by shipping medications to the destination, either. In 2015, a Toyota executive was arrested for trying to mail her Oxycodone to Japan, where it is highly illegal.

Just like you carefully scheduled the itinerary for your trip, downloaded all the best travel apps for making your travel plans in advance, and packed up all the right clothes, you need to research whether you’re allowed to bring the medications you need into the country you’re visiting. Ideally, you should do this before you even book the flights because, unfortunately, there are some situations where the medications you need to be healthy simply aren’t allowed in the place you want to visit.

As hard as that may be to accept, it’s not worth risking your health or your freedom. You can always find out the specific regulations by contacting the embassy of the country you plan to visit. In some cases, you may only be allowed to bring your medications if you get a permit first.

There are a few precautions you may want to take, even once you’ve confirmed it’s legal to bring your medications with you. To be safe, it’s always a good idea to keep your meds, prescription and over-the-counter, in their original packaging, bring copies of the prescriptions for your medications, and even have your doctor write a note listing the medications you need to take and why.

You will probably never need to show anyone on your trip this documentation, but it’s definitely worth the extra effort to bring it with you, since it could save you a lot of unnecessary trouble.

Credit: Yahoo News


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