If you’re a fan of beer, you’re no stranger to mind-altering substances. It may seem like common sense to avoid recreational drugs while you’re abroad, but drug laws may seem extra lax in certain places around the world. And if you find yourself in a place where the authorities seem to look the other way, and you’ve been invited to a local party where there are drugs, you may be tempted.
While by no means a legal guide, this article aims to shed some much-needed light on the topic of drugs and travel.
Prescription drug laws vary around the world.
First things first: let’s talk about prescription medications. Different countries have very different laws surrounding prescription drugs. Sometimes, even drugs available over-the-counter in the U.S. are banned in certain countries. For example, certain allergy and sinus medications are banned in Japan.
Many Americans don’t give a second thought when packing their flight-anxiety-prescribed XANAX®, but double check the laws of your destination before you do.
Some countries dole out very strict punishments — including capital punishment — if you are suspected of drug-trafficking. This is especially important to note if you take psychotropic medications (such as XANAX®) or prescription opioid painkillers. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers has more detailed information about this issue.
Don’t risk it. Check before you go. If in doubt, call the local embassy.
Avoid medical tourism.
Healthcare in the United States is notoriously expensive. No doubt some Americans want to save money by buying prescription drugs abroad or even undergoing medical procedures abroad. While the savings may be enticing, medical tourism comes with a high degree of risk. For one, language barriers can cause misunderstandings that can result in very serious consequences. And bringing medication back across the U.S. border can land you into trouble too.
One alternative to buying prescription drugs abroad is to use a pharmacy referral service like Canada Pharmacy Delivery. A website like this connects American patients to licensed pharmacies in countries where medicine is substantially cheaper, such as Canada. You don’t even need to leave home! Simply ship medicine to your doorstep. While you can’t get drugs like XANAX®, which is a controlled substance, you can still find plenty of popular medications like Jardiance® (empagliflozin).
Double check the law.
Some places in the world have a reputation for having loose drug laws. You may even hear people tell you some things are legal in a country when they are not. A good example of this is the Netherlands.
Contrary to popular belief, cannabis (marijuana) is illegal in the Netherlands. So why is it that when you go to Amsterdam there are “coffee shops” everywhere with tourists merrily toking away? It’s because Amsterdam has its own “tolerance policy” where the law is not enforced when it comes to coffee shops. According to Wikipedia’s legality-by-country chart, as of May 2019, the only places where cannabis is 100% legal for recreational use and sale are Uruguay, Canada, and select states in America.
Better safe than sorry!
Your trip may be one of the most memorable events of your life, so don’t ruin it by using drugs in a country where the consequences can be dire. Your status as a foreigner won’t protect you, and your country’s embassy may be limited in its ability to help too.
If you take prescription drugs, always bring them in their original container, complete with your prescription, a clear label of the drug, and your physician’s signature. And research any additional protocols you have to adhere to when entering a country.
Fortunately, beer is legal and welcome in most places around the world! Still, it’s not wise to get too intoxicated and wind up lost in a foreign country… Enjoy an exciting adventure, but always make sure it’s a wise one.
To read more on topics like this, check out the world travel category.