ADHD Meds and Going to a Foreign Country

by George H. Glade, MC, MN, ARNP* – 

Pack Medications in Your Carryon Bag –

Here are a few simple rules that will help you pass through customs with ease. Keep all your medications in your carryon bag. Checked luggage is often thoroughly searched. Items in your luggage may get lost just as your luggage can go missing. Add your medications to your bag of carryon essentials such as a toothbrush, extra underwear and your phone and laptop.

Keep Medications in Their Original Containers

Keep all medications in their original containers. Never mix different pills in the same container. Stimulants are controlled substances and possession is viewed as illegal unless your medications are prescribed. If your medications aren’t in the original prescription containers, no one can tell what they are and where you got them. Don’t take a filled medication organizer (with the days of the week). Take the organizer empty to fill later.

Letter from Your Healthcare Provider

Be prepared. Have your healthcare provider issue two identical, original letters that are clearly signed in ink. Don’t substitute a copy of the original letter for the second letter. Have two original letters on hand. The letter I write for my client states that my client is traveling, has in their possession medications that I have prescribed, and I actively monitor my client’s health. The letter has all of my contact information. It’s easy for anyone with questions to contact me. One letter is to keep in your carryon bag. You take it out only if there is a question. Your backup letter goes in you checked luggage.

Problematic Countries

Countries that can be problematic start with Mexico. Personnel in the terminals generally speak English. They know what these medications are so you want them to blend into any other medications you’re carrying. Indonesia and some parts of South America are problematic. Equator has some of the most thorough customs inspection in the world. You may be checked a couple of times before you board your plane. I’ve had customs officials take every medication out of my bag and open each containers to confirm that there were no mixed pills in any of the containers.

How to Get ADHD Medication in a Foreign Country

Don’t wait. Within the first week of moving to a foreign country, find a local healthcare provider who is able to prescribe you ADHD medications. Immediately make an appointment. ADHD-related healthcare providers are scare in most foreign countries. It may take months before you’re able to see your new healthcare provider once you get an appointment.

You will not be able to get a prescription from a US-based medical provider filled in a foreign country. Stimulant medications are controlled substances in pretty much all developed countries. Prescriptions can’t be mailed across a foreign border even if the prescription is legitimate. I have clients who take dangerous risks by having their stimulant medications hidden within other objects in packages shipped from outside the foreign country. I strongly advise against doing this.

Your best and safest course of action is to find a local healthcare provider who will write your prescriptions as one of their patients. Your healthcare records can be faxed internationally to the foreign healthcare provider to verify that you are currently under treatment for ADHD and this treatment includes stimulant medications. Again, don’t wait. Make your appointment during your first week in the foreign country even if you have a three-month supply of medications. Anticipate that far more unexpected things will happen to you in foreign countries then in the US.

About the Author


*George H. Glade, MC, MN, ARNP, was named one of Seattle’s Top Doctors and Nurses in Seattle Metropolitan Magazine in 2012. Glade is a Member of the Board of Directors of ADD Resources and is the author of Eating for Cognitive Performance and The Stimulus Driven Brain: The Essential Guide for the ADD/ADHD College Student. Currently, he is developing the Coaching Access Project, which is due to be released in late 2015.

Reviewed by ADDR May 26, 2015 (mm)
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