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My friend is planning a trip to several countries (the UK, Australia, Thailand, and Japan). She has ADHD and is prescribed Desoxyn, which is methamphetamine. She knows that it is tightly controlled, but is mostly concerned about problems she may encounter when entering Asian countries, which have notoriously strict drug laws.

She was told by a Japanese friend to either leave the medication or cancel her trip, as she could risk arrest for bringing it into the country. She has heard from someone else that it is okay with a note from her doctor.

So, is it legal to bring prescription Desoxyn into the UK, Australia, Thailand and Japan under any circumstances?

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    Jan 17 at 15:54

5 Answers 5

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Methamphetamine is a "prohibited drug" in Japan. It cannot be legally imported even with a prescription. Hence, your friend should either go without during her trip, or cancel the trip.

Q1. Can I bring /send any prescription medicine into Japan from abroad?

A1. You can bring /send any prescription medicine into Japan without any special procedures on condition that

  1. You bring/send it only for your own use.
  2. It is not any prohibited drug in Japan such as Methamphetamine,
  3. It is not any especially controlled drug in Japan such as Narcotics.
  4. Quantity is up to one month supply.
  5. It is not permitted to SEND Psychotropic drugs.

Source: Japanese Ministry of Health FAQ: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/dl/qa2.pdf

Regardless of the description above, you cannot bring prohibited drugs and controlled drugs into Japan.

Source: https://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/policy/health-medical/pharmaceuticals/01.html

Heroin, cocaine, MDMA, opium, cannabis (marijuana), stimulant drugs including some prescription medications such as Adderall, and including some medications available over-the-counter in the U.S. are prohibited in Japan. There are no exceptions in bringing these prohibited medications into Japan, even if the medication is legally obtained outside of Japan. The import of stimulant drugs such as methamphetamines and amphetamines in particular are strictly prohibited, even when accompanied by a customs declaration and a copy of the prescription. Japanese customs officials or police can detain travelers importing prohibited items. Japanese customs officials do not make on-the-spot "humanitarian" exceptions for medicines that are prohibited in Japan.

Source: MIT Global Experiences https://misti.mit.edu/japan-preparation-and-training/japan-logistics/japan-bringing-medication

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    The same is true for Australia. Desoxyn is not an approved medication, and methamphetamine is strictly outlawed.
    – Doc
    Jan 14 at 20:13
  • 4
    I once had to read Australia bio-safety import regulations for a job. Seriously, don't try bringing anything either organic, living, or chemical to Australia without triple-checking. you might not be caught, but if you do, it will be trouble. Jan 15 at 18:32
24

There is an answer above for Japan.

You won't be able to bring it into Australia. There are a few of the amphetamines available here for ADHD (dexamphetamine, Ritalin, etc.), but methamphetamine is not one of them. Further depending on the state there are legislative requirements that a tourist might not be able fulfill. (Don't quote me on that, but it is a pain in the neck and at the minimum you'd need to qualify for Medicare.)

I would suspect something similar applies for Thailand. Furthermore, Thailand is notorious for having extremely severe penalties for drug trafficking. (Although arguably the charge here would be a personal use charge, you wouldn't want to be the one who finds out that that "arguably" is wrong. Historically Thailand has hanged people for drug importation.)

The moral of the story is under absolutely no circumstance should your friend leave the country with methamphetamine. Leave it at home, and get doctor's advice on ADHD mitigations that are travel-friendly, or have a break. These medications are generally harmless to come off of. (Amphetamines do not have the physical withdrawal symptoms, and psychological withdrawal symptoms are usually a sign of a much more concerning underlying mental illness than ADHD, like abusive drug dependence.) As always, consult a doctor instead of the internet when it comes to your health.

Finally, I am not a lawyer, or a doctor, so any advice here should be taken with a pinch of foolish salt. Be skeptical, and ask experts IRL when it comes to stakes as high as this.

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    "Historically Thailand has hanged people for drug importation." Yes, and it's a finicky country too. 18 months ago they decriminalized cannabis and now they've banned it (in part) again (and here). So if you read up on things like this, you can't trust older articles. Be very, very careful with any kind of drugs in Asia.
    – Mast
    Jan 17 at 11:47
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    Just to clarify, Ritalin is methylphenidate, which is not an amphetamine. Jan 17 at 12:13
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    "Leave it at home, and get doctor's advice on ADHD mitigations that are travel-friendly, or have a break." +100! "As always, consult a doctor instead of the internet when it comes to your health." +10000
    – FreeMan
    Jan 17 at 16:01
  • @schrödingcöder you are correct. Its functionally more or less an amphetamine, but doesnt belong to that family of chemicals
    – Shayne
    Feb 16 at 5:56
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I can’t comment authoritatively on any of the countries mentioned.

However, methamphetamine is a Schedule II Controlled Substance in the United States, and is also a Schedule II substance per the 1971 Vienna Convention on Psychotropic Substances. This, in turn, means you can expect it to be heavily regulated or more likely outright illegal in a majority of first-world countries throughout the world, because this type of thing is actually something most first-world countries tend to agree on (with a few special exceptions like marijuana). A quick Google search corroborates that this is the case for all four countries listed (though I did not dig far enough to confirm whether it’s unconditionally illegal or just heavily regulated).

Given that, I wouldn’t even consider trying to do it. These types of things invariably have true zero-tolerance policies in place, so if found to not be in compliance with regulations regarding it your friend will be arrested, and almost certainly will be convicted. That translates to guaranteed significant jail time, possible fines, and a near certainty that they will never be allowed in the country again.

The unfortunate reality is that a lot of things used for treatment of ADHD are regulated like this (because a lot of them really do have no legitimate usage other than that, and even that usage is questionable to some degree), so traveling with a particularly severe case of ADHD pretty much requires looking into alternative management strategies.

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Just for completeness since the OP also asks about the UK methamphetamine is controlled in the UK as what is known as a Class A drug, the highest level. According to the Government website you risk seven years imprisonment for possession or an unlimited fine.

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Absolutely not. Your friend needs to find a local doctor wherever they are going and have them prescribe it within the constraints of local law.

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    Except that in at least Japan and Australia this isn't possible as this particular medication is not legally available.
    – Doc
    Jan 15 at 1:49
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    I have no idea why this correct answer was downvoted.
    – Fattie
    Jan 16 at 18:03
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    @Fattie because getting ADHD medication -even to continue care- is unnecessarily difficult in many countries, requiring wait periods and extensive tests. Often it is not available in anything but the local language either, so it is almost definitely not an option for a tourist.
    – ave
    Jan 17 at 10:13
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    Probably because, while factually correct, the advice given is quite impractical.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 17 at 16:03
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    @Fattie Because in at least several of the countries listed, what is suggested is not physically possible. There is no way to get this particular drug prescribed "within the constraints of local law" when the drug in question is strictly outlawed.
    – Doc
    Jan 19 at 15:54

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