How carrying illegal medicines while travelling can get you arrested

by - 05:47

It seems quite odd to think that prescribed medication carried across borders would ever be illegal, but this is, in fact, an actual issue. Many countries, especially in the EU, have strict regulations in place regarding the amount of medication being transmitted and the frequency with which it is done. Transporting medicine over borders is a potentially illegal act which depends on what medication one is taking with them and where they are travelling to. The punishment of the crime and whether or not it is a crime is dependent on several factors. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind and a few questions one should ask before considering travelling with medication: 

•    What does illegal medicine mean? 
In the EU, drugs are classified into schedules which determine their legality or lack thereof. The lawfulness of medicines is determined either centrally through the European Commission or each country's respective national authorities. In general, drugs with high medicinal value and low risk of abuse, such as barbiturates, are widely available and legal in the EU. Medicines legalised by the centralised European Commission may be freely sold and transported across the EU. However, drugs sanctioned through national authorities are legal only in those countries. Carrying these medicines across borders proper authorisation may prove to be illegal. 

Before travelling, it is essential that the medications carried are checked in terms of their legal history. 

•    Legal status of medication 
Punishments for these types of offences may range from fines to incarceration, depending on the nature of and amount of medicine being transported. It is essential to check the legal status of medicines in countries if one is travelling in case there are laws prohibiting use or quantity. In the EU and Schengen countries, certain prescription medicines which are entirely legal in other parts of the world fall under the Opium Act, which means they are considered narcotics in Europe. These include, but are not limited to, strong painkillers like Vicodin, sleeping pills like Valium, anxiety medication such as Xanax, and ADHD medication such as Adderall and Ritalin. Transport of these substances into or across EU borders is illegal unless one obtains either a 30-day Schengen certificate which is signed by a doctor and verified by the government of the destination country. 

•    Limitations to quantity 
Furthermore, the amount of medicine which can be transported is limited. The details vary, but in general, it is permissible to bring medications which correspond to three months of use. One may be asked to confirm the details of dosage, and so may need to corroborate with a prescription. 

It is best to confirm with the country and its particular regulations regarding the amount of medication that can be brought in. This can be done by either contacting legal authorities in the other country or just checking online pages for official institutes that can guide travellers regarding this better. 

•    Authenticity of medication 
One more thing to be noted is that while travelling with medication, it is essential to ensure that it is real. Under Directive 2011/62/EU of the European Parliament, the entry of falsified products into the supply chain is strictly prohibited. It is, therefore, recommended to keep all medication in its original packaging or prescription bottle. This makes it easier for customs officials and police to verify the need for and the originality of the medicine. 

A significant issue faced by most countries is the trafficking and insurgence of counterfeit medication that poses both health and economic risks to the population and the industry. For that very reason, countries are incredibly wary of large amounts of medication coming into the country; especially if these are not in the original packaging. 

•    Visas 
Another thing to take into account while travelling with medication is the kind of permit that is being used. More often than not, countries will not be overly suspicious of their citizens, even if they bring large amounts of medication across the border. They might also not be suspicious of individuals with long terms visas based on employment contracts etc. However, they may very well be wary of tourists, or other individuals with short term visas bring large amounts of medication into the country.  

It is best to consult immigration or legal consultant about what sort of visa is being used, and what amount of medication can be brought along with that specific visa.  

Overall, because of the many nuances in legality throughout the countries in the EU and the considerable variety of medication available in the market today, one needs to be well-informed of the laws of their destination to avoid inconveniences of any sort. The best way to do this is to check the requirements of the country one plans to travel to and ensure that the correct procedures are being followed. Once individuals going with medication reach the destinations at the train or airport terminals, customs may or may not confiscate the medication. Apart from actually seizing the medicine, in case individuals are found to be breaking the law, they may or may not be arrested. This is the worst thing that can happen while travelling on a visa, especially considering some countries have stringent prosecution laws regarding medication being transported. That being said, experts at believe that abiding by the guide above and asking all the right questions can ensure that travellers do not make mistakes that get them arrested. 

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