SAI Programs Admissions Counselor Andrea Moran provides an in-depth look at how to transport your medicine on your study abroad adventure.
“Nooooo…not another pre-departure detail!” you might be thinking. I totally get it. You already have a ton on your mind as you prepare to study abroad. Luckily, preparing to take medicine abroad normally doesn’t require epic amounts of paperwork, but only good judgment and some preparation.
While it’s not as fun as planning weekend trips to the Amalfi Coast or practicing those language skills with the Duolingo app, understanding how to bring medicine to Europe is often overlooked, but an oh-so-important detail. Trust me, the last thing you want is to be caught in a European airport (without the right documentation) with a semester’s supply of illegal prescriptions (mood killer.)
Below are some important questions and guidelines to follow, to ensure you’re all set!
What medication should I be careful bringing?
It’s important to understand that some U.S. prescriptions are actually considered illegal narcotics in Europe, such as Adderall and other stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD/ADD. Even if your U.S. doctor prescribed these medications legally to you in the U.S., that won’t fly in Europe. You can still bring them legally, but you need to have the right documentation; Medications to be especially aware of include:
- ADHD/ADD medications (*Adderall, Concerta, Ritalin) *considered illegal narcotics in many European countries
- Pain medications (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Demerol)
- Anxiety medications (Xanax, Ativan, Valium)
How do I bring my medication into Europe?
To ensure legal transport and possession in Europe, especially if you are bringing Adderall (or any medication considered an illegal narcotic in Europe), you want to make sure you follow these steps:
1.) Bring a full supply of prescription medication for your time abroad. Meet with your doctor months ahead to discuss.
TIP: If your doctor or insurance company is hesitant to write you a prescription for the duration of your study abroad program, SAI can provide a letter verifying the dates of your participation in the program. (Just ask us!)
2.) Bring a signed and date stamped note from your doctor (on letterhead), that states, in English, the following:
- The name of the medicine (including the medicine’s generic name) and that the medicine is not a narcotic.
- The patient (full name) is carrying X amount of the medicine (boxes, grams, etc.) to last X number of months/weeks.
- The medicine is necessary for the patient’s health (name the condition), and that the patient cannot go without it during their stay in Europe.
3.) Keep each medicine in its original packaging/bottles.
4.) Make sure the bottles/packaging are clearly labeled. (Keep your prescription with you!)
5.) Pack the medicine in your carry-on bag (Not your checked luggage).
A note about Adderall: Sharing Adderall with others, or mixing it with other drugs or alcohol, is a considered a crime in many European countries, and will be treated by local authorities and SAI, as such. Even when you get the medicine into the country, be sure to follow the local laws.
Can I fill my U.S. prescriptions in Europe?
If you have a U.S. prescription, there are a few things to keep in mind. The brand names of European medications will likely be different from the brand names of U.S. medications. While European doctors can’t refill the
brand name of your U.S. prescription, they can likely prescribe a European equivalent. If you absolutely need a specific brand of U.S. medication (such as Adderall, that is not available in Europe), bring that supply with you, following the checklist above for transporting this medicine legally.
Otherwise, it may just be easier for you to find a similar brand of medication in Europe. At least 2 months before departure, consult with your doctor and get a list of similar, generic names for your medication. (“Generic name” meaning the chemical name for your medicine). When you’re in Europe, you can bring the generic names of your medicine to a local doctor (or local pharmacy, if the medicine does not require a prescription). The European doctor or pharmacist will likely be able to provide you something very similar. (Psst! The SAI student handbook has a list of pharmacies in your city).
Finally, if you need medicine in Europe, be prepared to pay up front for the cost at the pharmacy, but remember to keep your receipt. (You will need the receipt to be reimbursed with your GeoBlue health insurance).
Can my family ship me prescriptions or over-the-counter medicine while abroad?
In many countries, it is illegal to import prescription drugs via mail. Due to the potential for being slapped with fees or confiscated by Customs, SAI does not even recommend that students receive shipments of non-prescription medicine (including vitamins and contact lenses). Carry the supply you need with you when you depart the U.S., following the checklist above, or, plan to find an equivalent medicine at a European pharmacy, if available.
A Final Note
Our SAI Student Health Insurance Coordinator, Heather Cruciano, is an excellent resource if you have questions about medicine equivalencies in Europe. She can advise if your U.S. medicine is available in Europe, and what the brand name of the medicine is called in your study abroad country.
Finally, you can check with the foreign embassy of the country you’re visiting, to learn more about their rules for declaring prescriptions or over-the-counter medication when you go through Customs and Immigration.
With a little preparation, you’re on your way to an excellent time in Europe!