I'll be travelling to Australia from Ireland and know that it will be a very long flight. My doctor will prescribe a dozen tablets of Xanax and Ambien. I was wondering whether it's legal to consume this at the airport or on an airplane.

I ask because Ambien (Zolpidem tartate) is known for its very strange side effects including sleepwalking, sleepeating, and experiencing hallucinations.

  • 38
    Many airlines happily serve alcohol...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 19, 2020 at 20:46
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 22:53

4 Answers 4


If it's a prescribed drug and it's legal at both ends and all transit points of your trip, it's fine to take on board, just check Customs regulations beforehand and bring your prescription with you. I would not recommend trying out a new medication on a plane for the first time though, and combining both Xanax and Ambien sounds like a bad idea.

FWIW, I was also prescribed Ambien for a long flight once. No particularly dramatic side effects, but instead of sleeping properly I felt like I was drifting in and out of consciousness, without being able to control when I slept, and felt like a complete zombie while I was awake. It was rather disconcerting, I didn't feel rested on arrival, and I would have been quite useless if there had been any emergency/diversion/etc in flight, so I never tried it again. YMMV.

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    If you live in a place subscriptions are usually retained by the apothecary after purchase, have the doctor write in his instuctions to release them to you in the numbers you need for your travels + testing or do the testing on a first smaller batch.
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 9:18
  • @KillianDS Do you have an example? It is my impression that in at least some such countries, there are then labels affixed to the dispensed medication which include the name of the patient and the posology.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 11:25
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    @KillianDS: Make a photocopy of the prescription, or ask the pharmacy to do so for you. This has always worked for me.
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 13:25
  • 1
    I managed to understand "FWIW", but what does YMMV stands for?
    – Clockwork
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 18:57
  • 3
    @Clockwork It means "your mileage may vary", meaning it may work differently for you or someone else.
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 19:47

lambshaanxy's advice is all spot on. A few additional tips:

  • Try it out sleeping on the ground and see how it works for you first. If you're uncertain about anything, speak to a doctor and/or pharmacist or go without on the flight.

  • Not only does combining Xanax and Ambien sounds like a bad idea, it sounds like something you shouldn't do absent clear instructions from a doctor or pharmacist that you're taking two drugs that interact and a full understanding of how it works for you on the ground. Similarly, don't mix them with alcohol.

  • Take the medication and go to sleep. Don't plan to try to use the lavatory or anything while you're waiting for it to start working.

  • Know how long Ambien lasts. It can come in extended release formulations that last longer (to help you stay asleep). Depending on your size, metabolism, whether you've eaten recently, etc... they could last for quite a while. You naturally want the effects to have largely worn off before you land, so stick to taking it early in a quite long flight to be safe until you know how long the effects last for you, especially if you have the extended release version. Since this trip will involve 2-3 flights, you'll need to schedule when you plan to sleep to ensure you can take the medication when you still have many hours in the air left to go.

  • Some countries, especially in the Middle East, have strict rules about narcotics, even prescription medication, and you should be sure it's permitted for you to carry these even if you just have a layover.

  • 4
    While the advice above may be good, it should only be used as a framework for a discussion with your doctor.
    – Brian
    Commented Nov 20, 2020 at 18:26
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    Just noting: one of the most draconic countries medicine import wise is Japan. Should you journeys take there make sure to read up on the rules.
    – user4188
    Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 2:47
  • The same goes for Singapore & Malaysia. Singapore has the death penalty for drug smuggling, and take an extremely dim view of even prescription drugs they consider narcotics. If your flights are routed through either, I'd do a lot of reading.
    – delliottg
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 18:21

I've read your question and I know for sure these drugs (Xanax and Zolpidem) are restricted when entering the UAE. There are specific rules about bringing medicines and medical devices into another country. Many medicines and medical devices can be brought with you into Australia as long as they are for you and your personal use. Some require a permit and others cannot be brought with you at all.

Prohibited items are Aminophenazone, amidopyrine, aminopyrine, dipyrone, metamizole, Amygdalin/laetrile

It is better paying a call to the Australian embassy in Ireland than having trouble at the airport.

Also, please read carefully on the Official Australian Government webpage about travelling. https://www.tga.gov.au/entering-australia https://www.odc.gov.au/travellers

  • Sensible advice, but does not answer the OP's questions. Commented Nov 22, 2020 at 19:32

I study aviation safety a lot, and the very concept of doping up to fly seems very unsafe.

The fact is, the vast majority of accidents end up below the fold in the news cycle, because they are low-casualty or non-casualty events. The "Miracle on the Hudson" is actually fairly typical - there's a serious, hull-loss event (airplane not flyable again) yet everyone lives, or almost everyone. And very often, the ones who didn't, or had serious problems, were impaired in some way and unable to participate in an orderly evacuation.

It's worse than that. The Toulouse air show crash comes to mind, where even though the wings were torn off the airplane (a staggering amount of destructive force), and the wreckage was on fire... everyone got out except for a) a few who were unable to scramble to safety due to disabilities and b) those who ran back in to rescue them.

Did you catch the boldface where people who had already made good their escape, died because of running back in to save the disabled? They had inherent disabilities, not self-inflicted ones.

Keep your seat belt on, brace when you're told, exit when you're told, and leave your frickin' bag behind. (95% chance there'll be time to get it later). Have your wits to do that, and you won't get killed, and you won't get anyone else killed either.

If you must imbibe, the least likely time for a plane to have a problem is during high altitude cruise. But have your game face on for approach, landing, takeoff, and especially, ground movement.

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