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What to bear in mind when travelling with narcotics

Some people regularly need medicines that have the status of a narcotic. If those affected wish to travel to other countries, they should familiarise themselves with the regulations in good time.

For example, a doctor's prescription is important for transport, which in turn must be certified by the highest state health authority.

People who suffer from chronic severe pain, have had an operation or suffer from anxiety or other psychiatric disorders are often prescribed certain anaesthetics by a doctor. But can you simply take narcotics, like other medicines, with you when travelling to other countries? "No, these medicines have a high potential for addiction and abuse," says Britta Ginnow, Head of Drug Licensing at the German Pharmaceutical Industry Association (BPI).

This is why their use is controlled by the state and precisely defined in the Narcotics Act (BtMG). This also includes active substances for the treatment of patients suffering from addiction. As a general rule, it is only permitted to carry narcotics for your own use. No one else may take them with them. Further rules must also be observed.

Travelling to the Schengen countries

It is permitted to take anaesthetics prescribed by a doctor with you for a period of 30 days. To do this, the doctor treating you must fill out a separate certificate for each anaesthetic. These certificates are then valid for 30 days. Patients must also have them certified by the highest state health authority or a body authorised by it before travelling.

Travelling the wide world

When travelling to "non-Schengen countries", the national regulations of the destination or transit country apply. It is important to obtain information from the embassy of the respective country in good time before travelling. Some countries require additional import licences, restrict the quantity of narcotics or even prohibit the carrying of narcotics.

It is advisable to obtain a multilingual certificate from the doctor before travelling, stating the dosage, name of the active ingredient and duration of the trip. This must also be certified by the highest state health authority or a body authorised by it.

The diplomatic mission of the destination country in Germany can provide information on this. Contact addresses can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office. It is also possible to take narcotics with you for a period of 30 days.

If import is prohibited

If patients are not allowed to take a particular anaesthetic with them, they should find out in advance whether the same or an equivalent medicine is available in the country they are travelling to and can be prescribed by a local doctor.

Wenn eine ärztliche Verschreibung im Reiseland nicht möglich ist, müssen Patienten eine Einfuhr- und Ausfuhrgenehmigung bei der Bundesopiumstelle des Bundesinstituts für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte beantragen.

Storage when travelling

"According to Section 15 of the BtMG, patients must store narcotics separately from other medicines and keep them safe from unauthorised access," says Britta Ginnow. With a few exceptions, most prescription narcotics do not have to be stored in a cool place. The relevant information on refrigeration can be found in the package leaflet. When travelling by plane, anaesthetics belong in your hand luggage and never in your suitcase.

This is because special rules apply to these medicines.

This article is from the 1/2024 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.