Alli's Place

Where Alli shares her thoughts and feelings…

Traveling with medications

Do you pack over-the-counter medications when you go on holiday? Do you consider whether these and any prescription drugs are legal in the country you are traveling to? Could you be unwittingly breaking the law?

Some countries have strict drug laws which include medications that many of us can pick up at a UK supermarket or local pharmacy. The United Arab Emirates, for example, takes a particularly hard line on opiates including poppy seeds in food. Other countries restrict medications, for example Ritalin, which is used to treat ADHD.

It seems that health professionals are not as aware of this as you would hope they were! Recently the subject came up in conversation with my physiotherapist, he was unaware, so I put together an email for him with the links in this post. It has got me thinking about it again.

A couple of years ago I mentioned a possible business trip to India to my GP, I was having a prescription check up and asked if he knew whether my regular medications were restricted in any countries. He wasn’t sure but provided me with a letter stating what I take and why, to take with me. I had heard about opiate restrictions in Dubai and, being aware that some colleagues choose to fly to India via Dubai, I did some research. It was easy to find some information on Dubai but I am still not sure what is restricted in India as there seems to be less information available. I didn’t go on the India trip in the end.

If traveling to or via Dubai anything with codeine in, including cough and cold medicines, is best left at home at home. Apparently having it detectable in your blood counts as possession too. The Dubai website states:
The UAE government prohibits drugs, narcotics and chemicals and before you enter the UAE, you are advised to take all precaution to ensure that you do not carry such substances; either in person, your luggage or in medicines you may be carrying. Strict penalties include imprisonment followed by deportation.”

Here are some of the news stories I have found interesting:

In 2008 the Independent ran a warning story

The BBC news site has a few stories. One about a lady who had taken codeine for back pain can be found here.

The BBC news site also has an article warning about Dubai here, which mentions a man arrested for having a tiny amount of cannabis on his shoe.

Most of the stories are a few years old now but I wouldn’t want to risk it, would you?

General advice when travelling with prescription medication is to pack it in it’s original packaging with the prescription label, don’t combine all your medication into one container. Ensure that you carry your own medication and the name on the label matches the name on your ticket. Carry medication in hand luggage as occasionally checked in baggage goes missing. If you are worried carry a letter documenting your medication and/or a copy of your prescription. Actually finding a list of drug restrictions for a particular country is not very easy, most countries websites jut advise contacting the appropriate foreign office to check.

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