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Traveling abroad with medication

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Many people regularly depend on prescription and non-prescription medications to treat and control symptoms of a variety of medical conditions. For those advised by a physician to use a particular drug, lack of compliance may be detrimental to one's health. For some, missing even a single dose of a prescribed pill can be potentially life-threatening. Traveling away from home does not diminish one's need for the medication. At the same time, what may be legal in one country may be outlawed with serious consequences in another. The very act of bringing in the pills may be a violation that may result in the substance being confiscated, the traveler being detained, expelled, or imprisoned, or even worse. Some countries are so strict about these policies that they do not show an mercy to the needy patient. In such a case, it may be necessary to avoid travel to such a country altogether if one cannot do without one's drugs.

It is important to be aware that some drugs that are available without a prescription in one country require one in another. The very act of bringing them in may require a letter from one's physician if they are allowed at all.

Important information[edit]

  • Check the country's laws before you go. The articles on some countries describe the regulations pertaining to medication being brought into that country. Study it for awareness.
  • Carry all pills in the proper bottles. Make sure that you transport your medication in the original container in which it was sold to you, bearing the label from the pharmacy. Be sure that the name of the prescribee matches your own name exactly (and not some variation of your name) and is not expired. Do not carry even part of your supply in a separate location, especially one that is not labeled as containing that medication.
  • Carry a physician's certificate. This provides further authentication of your need for this medication.
  • If required, declare your medication. Many countries will allow you to bring in your medication, even if it is not offered to its own citizens, but will require you to declare it upon entry. If this is the case, do not try to hide it and sneak by. If you declare it honestly, agents may be more willing to let you by.
  • Some countries may check for medication when exiting as well. You may be questioned about your drugs as you are going through security at the airport. If this is the case, tell the truth.
  • Do not be evasive. Do not try to hide anything. Authorities in many countries reserve the right to search every crevice and crack of your person and belongings. In such a search, they may be able to uncover trace amounts of a substance, even when deeply hidden in a place where you think it would not be detected. If you purposely try to hide something or disguise it as something else, this will appear even more suspicious.

Obtaining medication in a foreign country[edit]

If one is spending a significant amount of time in a foreign country, or loses the supply they brought from home, it may be necessary to obtain a replacement supply. One should be aware of possible sources of this medication in the country. Simply walking into a pharmacy may not enable one to easily obtain the pills they need. One may need to see a physician in the country they are visiting, who must verify one's need for the drug, possibly either with contact with one's physician from home or medical tests.

Some medications may be impossible to obtain in the country one is visiting, or may be of a lower quality that in some cases may not be therapeutic.

Transiting with medication[edit]

Most countries require transiting airline passengers to undergo a security screening while in the process of changing planes, at which time, one's belongings will be inspected for banned items. This includes medications banned in that country, even if they are fully allowed in one's country of origin and destination. For this reason, one who is transiting and carrying medication along their journey should check the regulations for that country on medications even before booking the flight. If the transiting country does not allow the medication, one should consider a different route of travel.

Some countries that are common transiting hubs, including the United States, Japan, and Singapore, have bans on drugs that are allowed elsewhere.

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