Everyone knows that bringing illegal drugs into the U.S. from outside the country is a really bad idea. But what about legal drugs, like ones a doctor wrote you a prescription for? Can you get into trouble for bringing those back into the country?
You Can Get Into Trouble Taking Prescription Drugs from the U.S. into Other Countries
Before we get into the potential troubles you’ll face bringing prescription drugs back into the country, let’s touch on the troubles you’re likely to face trying to get through customs into a foreign country.
We urge you to discuss the matter with your physician while planning your trip and research your destination country’s rules and regulations about bringing prescription medications with you from the US.
Drug laws aren’t the same all over the world. Drugs that are legal in the U.S. may be illegal in another country. For instance, Ritalin, a drug commonly prescribed for ADHD in the U.S., is illegal in Japan. Several American citizens have been arrested for bringing Ritalin from the U.S. into Japan, despite having a legitimate prescription for the drug from a doctor.
Nothing ruins a vacation like being arrested for a drug charge, and in some countries, the penalties for drug possession are far more severe than in the U.S. For instance, certain drug offense convictions can result in the death penalty in places like Turkey, Malaysia, Egypt, Thailand and Indonesia.
If you can, try to avoid taking prescription drugs with you when you travel abroad.
You May or May Not Get into Trouble for Personal Importation
Bringing a drug not intended for sale or distribution into U.S for personal use is called “personal importation” and it’s illegal.
Sometimes a drug is legal in another country but isn’t available in the U.S. In most cases, it’s illegal to import these types of drugs into the United States. That’s because the FDA has not evaluated or approved these products for use or sale in this country.
Re-importation, bringing prescription drugs that were manufactured in the U.S. but purchased in another company — usually at a significantly lower price — and “re-importing” them back to the U.S. is also against the law.
In these cases, the FDA has a “Personal Use Policy” that allows individuals to bring unapproved or reimported prescription drugs into the United States. Because of the unpopularity of some of these laws (particularly re-importation) the FDA practices discretion when deciding to prosecute these individuals. Some of the factors they consider include:
- The drug is for a serious condition for which there is no effective treatment available in the U.S.
- There is no marketing or promotion of the drug to U.S. residents.
- The drug doesn’t represent an unreasonable health risk.
- You verify in writing that you’re importing the drug for your own personal use.
- You have a letter, written in English, from your doctor saying the drug is a continuation of treatment that began outside the United States or you provide the name and address of a U.S. licensed physician who will supervise your use of the foreign drug. The letter should accompany the package and be addressed to a Customs and Border Protection officer or broker.
- You’re not importing more than a three-month supply of the drug.
Speak With a Houston Drug Defense Attorney
If you are facing trial for drug charges in Houston, don’t give up hope. Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a Houston criminal defense attorney who has helped many clients facing significant fines and jail time after being arrested on drug charges in Houston and Harris County. Contact the law offices of Lisa Shapiro Strauss to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.