Continuing a Prescription for a Controlled Substance while overseas?
November 23, 2015 7:23 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone had a situation in which they were taking a prescribed controlled substance and ran out of their prescription while traveling outside the US? How difficult was it to refill the prescription? What did you do?

I am a graduate student in art curating, and looking into some curatorial residencies after I graduate.

I am also a longterm Klonopin user for panic attacks, .5mg daily. I have never abused the medication, but I did become physically dependent after 4 years of use. I am in the process of slow withdrawal along the lines of the Ashton manual.

Because my withdrawal has been so slow, I will likely not be off of the medication before I do one of these residencies. Most of the ones I am looking at are overseas and I am concerned that because Klonopin is a controlled substance, I may not be able to find it in another country, and I certainly wouldn't be bringing several months worth of medication with me to whatever my destination might be.
posted by madprudentilla to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I suspect it depends a lot on the status of klonopin in the country you're going to. It may vary from simple to get a new prescription there to illegal to bring in at all, so research the relevant laws in the specific countries you're going to.
posted by brainmouse at 7:30 PM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I certainly wouldn't be bringing several months worth of medication with me to whatever my destination might be.

Why not? If you have a prescription (or tablets from bottles from valid prescription) there isn't a problem with that.

Additionally, if you have a doctor who is prescribing for you in the US, that doctor can fax to a doctor overseas. What countries are you talking about where you are concerned this is not going to be do-able?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:38 PM on November 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yep, going to depend almost entirely on what country and how they view it. Sometimes its the same, sometimes you need special government permission in advance, sometimes what is a normal prescription in the US will get you sent to jail in another country.

I've never been searched at a border, and have accidentally taken prohibited prescription medicine into a country before (didn't realize it until reading a news article much later). In general, if I thought it was necessary, I might consider intentionally taking what I need with me as thats probably the way you're least likely to get caught (do NOT send by mail as thats way more likely to get searched). But that depends on a lot of factors and I'm certainly not suggesting it as legal advice or anything.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:39 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you have a prescription (or tablets from bottles from valid prescription) there isn't a problem with that.

Just want to point out this is absolutely false. Here's the State Department on the issue. If the medicine is illegal in the other country, a prescription from the US (or Canada, or wherever) will mean nothing.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:42 PM on November 23, 2015 [10 favorites]

If you have a prescription (or tablets from bottles from valid prescription) there isn't a problem with that.

I don't think this is a good rule, and I know people who've copped grief bringing remotely-OTC medicines into Australia, for example.

Research your destination country.
posted by pompomtom at 7:43 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It absolutely depends on the country. I had no problem getting regularly prescribed pain meds in China after a 20 minute conversation with a real actual doctor in a real actual hospital with my cousin translating for a grand total of $60, appointment and prescription, but I would not for example travel to Singapore with a 90 day supply of adderall nor expect to be able to obtain any there.

start off by googling "legal status of $DRUG in $COUNTRY" or similar
posted by poffin boffin at 8:03 PM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

We send people to Japan for up to 7 months every year, and this is a thing. People have gotten their medications seized by attempting to have them mailed by regular post, and it's a mess to get fixed.

We do have people bring this kind of thing up well before leaving and work it out somehow - either the DoD and State Dept. work out something with the host country or we make arrangements to rotate the person back for long enough to renew the prescription and return with a new maximum allowed supply.

I would ask your new employer and the State Department; it can't be the first time they've been through this.
posted by ctmf at 8:04 PM on November 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Of course, we have the advantage that our bases are US-controlled and the ships are considered sovereign US territory, so all-else-fails, the medication can stay "in the US." But that's a logistical pain in the ass and an option you probably don't have unless the embassy/consulate will do it for you.
posted by ctmf at 8:09 PM on November 23, 2015

It definitely depends on the country and the drug, and my experience has been that even experienced travelers are often misinformed about this sort of thing.

(I dealt with this with an Adderall prescription and a year of fieldwork in Guatemala. Most backpackers/expats who'd spent time in Guatemala were under the impression that, like, "Oh, it'll be fine, you can get anything you want over the counter here." Not true. In fact, psych meds are tightly controlled there, Adderall is completely illegal, and Ritalin is available only with a prescription from a Guatemalan doctor. I got it sorted out but it was a bit of a pain.)

So yes, definitely check on a country-by-country basis — and check with people who are actually in a position to understand the legal situation in the country in question. In countries where Klonopin is a legal controlled substance, your best bet may well be to find a local doctor to prescribe for you.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:16 AM on November 24, 2015

If you determine possession is legal in a country and decide to obtain it there, research how it's best/safest available -- especially if you're sensitive to a particular formulation. Along with different possession laws, countries can also have different drug regulatory processes. Depending on where you go, counterfeiting may also be an issue. It may actually be better to bring your own in original containers with ample documentation, if it's permitted.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:39 AM on November 24, 2015

Another vote for the "It depends on drug and country" side. I've had over-the-counter drugs (from the US) confiscated because it was a controlled substance in the destination country. It completely caught me off guard. And I can't think of a single country where it is fun to get caught bringing controlled substances into, regardless of intent.
posted by Ookseer at 1:53 AM on November 25, 2015

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