Traveling internationally? It may be illegal to carry these medications

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If summer travel As the season approaches, 77% of Americans expect to take a prescription drug with them for the trip — but nearly half don't check whether it's even legal to take those medications to other countries.

Additionally, more than a quarter of Americans have had their medications seized during international travel, according to a May 2024 survey of 1,048 respondents from SingleCare, a free prescription savings service.

Certain medications commonly prescribed in the United States may be illegal or strictly regulated in other countries,” Dr. Jennifer Bourgeois, PharmD, a pharmacy and healthcare expert based in Dallas-Fort Worth, told Fox News Digital.

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Here are some important details on this topic.

4 types of medications that may be illegal for international travel

“In general, drugs with a high potential for abuse or dependence are at greater risk of facing strict regulations,” Bourgeois warned.

Jennifer Bourgeois, PharmD, a pharmacy and healthcare expert at Dallas-Fort Worth-based SingleCare, shared tips for traveling with prescription drugs during this summer travel season. (Jennifer Bourgeois/SingleCare)

These include controlled substances, which are tightly regulated because of their potential for addiction and abuse, she said.

Stimulants, which are used for conditions such as ADHD and considered illegal in some countries also fall into that category.

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Bourgeois shared the following list of prescription drugs that may be illegal to transport across the border.

No. 1: Narcotics and opioids

Drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine are heavily regulated or banned in many countries because of their potential for abuse, Bourgeois said.

No. 2: Psychotropic drugs

Drugs for mental illness, such as amphetamines (Adderall), benzodiazepines (Xanax), and certain antidepressantsmay be limited.

The packaging of medicines has been split

As Americans prepare for a summer trip this year, 77% expect to take a prescription drug with them — but nearly half don't check whether it's legal to take those medications to other countries, a survey found. (iStock)

No. 3: Medical cannabis

“Although legal in some US states, cannabis and cannabis-derived products are illegal in many countries,” Bourgeois warned.

No. 4: Strong painkillers

Some countries restrict strong painkillerssuch as tramadol, an opioid sold under the brand names ConZip and Ultram, to treat moderate to severe pain.

How to check legalities before traveling

“Taking prohibited medicines abroad can have serious consequences, such as confiscation of medicines, fines and possible arrests,” Bourgeois warned.

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“In serious cases, travelers may be detained, prosecuted and even imprisoned.”

Legal issues can also lead to delays and complications in travel plans, she added.

Medicines in toiletry bag

All medications should be kept in your carry-on luggage rather than in checked bags as recommended by an expert. This way, if there are unforeseen travel delays, you will still have access to your medications. (iStock)

Before packing your prescriptions when traveling abroad, Bourgeois recommends checking the websites of your destination country's embassy or consulate and the laws regarding medications.

“You can also consult your doctor, pharmacist or travel agent, who may be able to give you advice tailored to your destination” she added.

If there are specific restrictions on your medications in the country you plan to visit, it is best to follow the directions of the country's embassy so that you can continue to take your medications during your trip.

“Taking prohibited medicines abroad can have serious consequences.”

“For example, many countries only allow delivery of certain medications within 30 days and require you to carry a prescription or medical certificate from your healthcare provider,” Bourgeois said.

If you know that you will need to refill your prescription while you are away, please contact your pharmacy two weeks before your departure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking a appointment with your health insurer or a travel health specialist at least one month before your departure, as stated on their website.

Pack with medicines

Before packing your prescriptions when traveling abroad, check the websites of your destination country's embassy or consulate for laws regarding medications, an expert advises. (iStock)

“The pharmacist may need to request refills or a 'holiday transfer' from your insuranceBourgeois noted.

If your medication is absolutely not allowed in your destination country, Bourgeois recommends speaking with your healthcare provider to discuss alternatives and possible adjustments to your treatment plan.

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Even if your medications are allowed in the country you're visiting, Bourgeois says it's still important to follow some basic guidelines when traveling internationally.

Firstly, it is important to always have a copy of your prescription or medical document with you signed by your doctor explain why the medication is essential for you.

“Exceeding quantities for personal use may arouse suspicion.”

On its website, the CDC also recommends leaving a copy of your prescriptions at home with a family member or friend, in case you lose your copy or need an emergency refill.

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“Also, keep all medications in the original packaging so that the prescription label is clearly visible,” Bourgeois advised.

Additionally, she said, make sure the name on the prescription matches the name on your passport.

“Take only the amount you need for the duration of your trip, plus a small buffer,” Bourgeois said. “Exceeding quantities for personal use may arouse suspicion.”

Woman with prescription

Even if your medications are allowed in the country you are visiting, it is still important to follow some basic guidelines when traveling internationally. (iStock)

Also be sure to declare your medications to customs, if required by the destination country, she said.

All medications must be kept in your carry-on luggage rather than in checked bags. This way, if there are unforeseen travel delays, you will still have access to the medications you need.

5 additional medication travel tips

Bourgeois shared the following additional things to consider when bringing medications across the border.

No. 1: Take time zones into account

“Take daily medication for chronic conditions can be confusing when traveling around the world,” she warned.

“In serious cases, travelers may be detained, prosecuted and even imprisoned.”

“Be aware of time zone differences and take the medication based on your last dose, not the local time of day.”

No. 2: Check OTC rules

“It is important to also check the laws of your destination country on over-the-counter medications,” Bourgeois said.

Packing medications

'Just take the quantity with you [of medicine] you need for the duration of your trip, plus a small buffer,” advises one expert. “Exceeding the quantities for personal use may arouse suspicion.” (iStock)

“For example, pseudoephedrine – commonly known as the brand-name drug Sudafed, which is purchased without a prescription in the US – is banned in Japan and Mexico.”

No. 3: Don't buy from non-pharmacy sellers

If you are international travelDon't buy medications that aren't sold at the pharmacy, Bourgeois said.

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“Counterfeit medicines are common in many developing countries and quality is not guaranteed.”

No. 4: Stock up on staples

Before you travel, stock up on over-the-counter medications and travel items at the pharmacy, Bourgeois said.

Child receives vaccines

“Talk to your pharmacist about vaccine-preventable diseases and request a travel health consultation to make sure you're protected,” one expert recommended. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa)

Common over-the-counter medications for travel include antidiarrheals, motion sickness medications, allergy medications and medications for pain and fever.

No. 5: Understand disease risks

When traveling outside the US, it is important to understand the risk of disease in the countries you plan to visit.

“Diseases such as Hepatitis A, yellow fever and typhoid can be prevented by vaccinations', said Bourgeois.

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“Speak to your pharmacist about vaccine-preventable diseases and request a travel health consultation to ensure you are protected,” she continued.

“It is vital that you do not wait until the last minute to get your vaccinations as antibodies typically take up to 14 days to build up.”

Fox News Digital has reached out to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for comment.

For more health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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