Carrying Medication to Europe


taking medication to Europe

There have been lots of stories in the news recently about travellers ending up being arrested or spending time in prison for carrying drugs that were legal in one country, but unfortunately illegal in the country they were travelling to.

I felt I had to mention this problem as more and more of us are living longer and society in general are relying on more medications, so that they can continue a fit and active lifestyle. Of course when you go abroad to a foreign country, you will naturally take those medicines with you.

The press have of course jumped on the bandwagon re-writing the stories of those unfortunate enough to have become detained and referring to “expert websites” for more information.

The news articles other than the sensationalism of the actual story, offer no real help and advice and even the so called expert sites only offer general guidelines and apart from snippets here and there, don’t provide real help and assistance to travellers.

The main point of confusion appears to be the use of drugs which contain opiates or opioids. Firstly lets clear up the confusion about the two terms

  1. An opiate is an alkaloid that comes directly from the opium poppy.
  2. An opioid is a drug normally used to treat pain and can be totally or partially synthetic. The Recovery Village provides a much more detailed answer.

Of course most people are familiar with heroin, which although starts out life as an opiate, can be turned into an opioid by introducing other chemicals, which increases the strength.

What some consumers don’t appreciate are drugs like Tramadol and Codeine (which can be found in non prescription drugs like Solphadeine, used to treat headaches and period pain etc) are strictly prohibited in some countries and the unwary traveller treated as if they were smuggling a class A drug.

Other opiate and opioid derivatives include;

  • codeine (only available in generic form)
  • fentanyl (Actiq, Duragesic, Fentora, Abstral, Onsolis)
  • hydrocodone (Hysingla ER, Zohydro ER)
  • hydrocodone/acetaminophen (Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Vicodin)
  • hydromorphone (Dilaudid, Exalgo)
  • meperidine (Demerol)
  • methadone (Dolophine, Methadose)

These drugs appear to cause issues with Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia, Dubai etc, but even countries like Australia have a problem with Codeine.

Fortunately in Europe, the policy is a little more clear and there are rules for carrying prescription Narcotics under the Schengen agreement, that exists between all members of the European Union.

If you use a drug containing a banned substance, you must obtain a doctors letter confirming the details of the drug and the usage. The letter is valid for a maximum of 30 days. Keep all medication in their original packaging and with their original labels. In reality most people will just walk through the nothing to declare channel and never be searched, but if you are unfortunate enough to be pulled to one side, this should keep you are being arrested.

Please note that Greece has recently banned all drugs containing Codeine and you can be arrested for possession even with a doctors prescription.

As mentioned above, I have found little specific information, that is all in one place, with the exception of a website called ThatsInsurance who provide ratings and reviews on UK travel insurance. They wrote an in depth article dealing with the specifics of carrying medicine abroad, which if you are unclear on the rules and regulations of a specific country, will be able to point you in the right direction.

In conclusion, if you need to carry medicines abroad, do your research before you go. Don’t rely on ignorance to get you through. The authorities in certain countries won’t and you could end up in a foreign prison.



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