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Pharmacist Shares 4 Medications That Could Be Illegal to Travel With

"In severe cases, travelers may be detained, prosecuted and even jailed," an expert warned.

More than 212 million Americans intend to travel this summer, according to The Vacationer's 2024 Summer Travel Survey—so you might as well start mentally preparing yourself now for the inevitably long lines at baggage drop-off, airport security, and border control. But as any passport stamp collector knows, there are tips and tricks to avoiding extended wait times at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoints.

For starters, packing your suitcase correctly is crucial. That means knowing what items are allowed in a carry-on or checked bag, including prescription medications, as not all U.S.-regulated drugs are permitted in foreign countries.

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"Certain medications that are commonly prescribed in the United States might be illegal or strictly regulated in other countries," Jennifer Bourgeois, PharmD, a pharmacy and health expert based in Dallas-Fort Worth, said in a Fox News Digital interview.

A recent survey conducted by prescription savings service SingleCare found that 48 percent of the 1,048 surveyed respondents don't declare their prescriptions at airport customs. Meanwhile, 35 percent admitted to stashing their medication in travel bags in fear of it being confiscated by airport security. And more than 25 percent have had their medications taken away while traveling.

"Generally, medications that have a high potential for abuse or dependency are more likely to face strict regulations," explained Bourgeois.

According to Bourgeois, there are four types or groups of drugs that could get you flagged in another country. And it probably comes as no surprise that the first group is narcotics. Because of their addictive nature, opioid pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine are strictly regulated and even banned in some countries—and bringing these on vacation could land you in serious trouble, warned Bourgeois.

"Bringing prohibited medications into a foreign country can have the potential for serious consequences, such as confiscation of medications, fines and possible arrest," she said. "In severe cases, travelers may be detained, prosecuted and even jailed."

Medications used for treating mental health, like antidepressants, amphetamines (Adderall), and benzodiazepines (Xanax) may raise eyebrows at security checkpoints, too, per Bourgeois. Cannabis, in all its forms, could also be illegal to travel with, despite having a doctor's note and being legal in much of the U.S.

"Even if they are legal in some U.S. states, cannabis and cannabis-derived products are illegal in many countries," Bourgeois told Fox News Digital.

Lastly, Bourgeois cautions travelers to leave strong painkillers at home.

RELATED: 7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security.

That said, many prescribed medications are allowed across the checkpoint conveyor belt, but you should be prepared with how you pack them.

Bourgeois heavily advised keeping "all medications in their original packaging to clearly display the prescription label." It also wouldn't hurt to have a doctor's note confirming your medication and its use. Additionally, double-check that the name on the prescription label is the same name on your passport.

"Carry only the quantity you need for the duration of your trip, plus a small buffer," Bourgeois added. "Exceeding personal use quantities can raise suspicions."

Before embarking on your travels, familiarize yourself with your destination's medication laws and regulations. You don't want any surprises, and some countries may have laws in place forbidding or restricting certain medications.

"For instance, many countries allow only a 30-day supply of certain medicines, and require that you carry a prescription or a medical certificate from your healthcare provider," said Bourgeois.

"You may also consult with your doctor, pharmacist or travel agent, who may be able to provide advice tailored to your destination," she added.

Emily Weaver
Emily is a NYC-based freelance entertainment and lifestyle writer — though, she’ll never pass up the opportunity to talk about women’s health and sports (she thrives during the Olympics). Read more
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