Moving Drugs Over the Border


By Jeremy Miville

Catchy title for a blog post, right? What is really being explored here are the tips and best practices for taking your medications with you on international trips.  For those of you looking for tips on drug smuggling, I am sorry to disappoint you, and please make better life decisions.

Now, let’s begin.

Chances are you may be flying to your international destination. You’ll want to put your prescription drugs in your carry-on bag. Be sure to review the airlines policy, and make sure your prescriptions are allowed before you reach the gate.  It is recommended, and often required, that your medications are clearly labeled, and your name appears on the prescription bottle.


The 3-1-1 rule applies, and you’ll need to store your medications in a one-quart, clear plastic bag. If you have a medical device that will not fit in a one-quart bag, keep them in a place in your carry-on that will be easily reachable when you go through security.

DO NOT try to save space by mixing your medications into one bottle. In the event you are stopped at screening, you could have a hard time explaining the differences in the pills, and may be required to show a prescription for everything.  Save yourself the hassle and leave everything in the bottles the pharmacy supplied to you.

You may want to ask your physician for a letter that explains your medical conditions and the medication required. Keep the letter in your carry-on luggage in case you are questioned at security checkpoints or during customs screenings.

Before you step foot in the airport, be sure you have researched your destination and consulted with your doctor. How will the environmental conditions of your destination affect your health? Consider altitude and humidity. Your doctor may want to make adjustments to your prescription drug levels.

Remember to check out the State Department’s Country Specific Information for your destination and contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit to ensure that your medications are not considered “illegal substances” under local laws.

One more thing! If you have a condition that could flare up during your flight, be sure to wear a medical alert bracelet that states your conditions, medicines, treatment and physician’s contact information. Your flight attendants will have a better understanding of what is happening in an event where you are unable to explain your condition during an emergency.


3 comments on “Moving Drugs Over the Border”

  1. Some countries (Uzbekistan) go through your checked bags too. they have a long list of banned medications and will confiscate. You must bring a copy of the Rx (and a letter from Doc helps).

  2. I have NEVER been questioned about meds I put in a 7-day holder, all mixed. Been to Africa, So. America, Russia, China, all of SE Asia countries.

  3. The 3-1-1 rule does NOT apply to medications. Even liquid and gel medications are an EXCEPTION to the 3-1-1 rule.

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