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Travelling abroad with controlled drugs

This leaflet provides information on travelling abroad with medication.  It will tell you about ‘controlled drugs’ and how you can take such medication abroad.  Contact telephone numbers and details of how to obtain further information are given at the end of the leaflet.

What are ‘controlled drugs’?

Most medications can be taken abroad without any restriction.  However some prescribed medications can contain ‘controlled drugs’.  They are defined as ‘any drug which is subject to control under the Misuse of Drugs legislation’.  Most controlled drugs are either pain killers or medication to relieve anxiety.  Examples include Fentanyl, Morphine (MST/Oramorph/Sevredol), Buprenorphine, Methadone.

How do I take ‘controlled drugs’ abroad?

Some countries limit the amount of particular drugs you can take into or out of the country. Medications that are ‘controlled’ in the UK are likely to be ‘controlled’ abroad. 

You can check import restrictions before you travel by contacting the appropriate Embassy or High Commission in the UK.  Contact telephone numbers are available on 

You will need a letter from your doctor to carry controlled drugs into or out of the UK.  This will confirm your name, address, date of birth, dates of travel, destination and medication details including dose and total amounts.

If you are travelling abroad for longer than three months, or you are carrying more than three months’ supply of prescribed controlled drug medication you will also need a personal export licence from the Home Office.  This is free and simple to obtain.  It relates specifically to you and your medication and remains valid for the duration of your trip.

If you are travelling for less than three months you will not need a personal licence.  You can simply carry your medication in your hand luggage with the letter from your doctor.

If you are not sure if you need a letter or personal licence your doctor can advise you.

What if I need a personal licence?

If you need a personal licence ask your doctor to complete an application for a personal export licence.  This is available from 

You should apply at least 14 days before you plan to leave the UK to allow time for the licence to be issued. 

Send or fax your application with a covering letter to:
Home Office Drugs Licensing and Compliance Unit
4th Floor
Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
Fax: 020 7035 6161 

How should I carry my medication?

Make sure you have enough medication to last for the whole holiday.  You should take enough medication with you to allow for extra doses in case your return home is delayed.

You should carry your medication, covering letter from your doctor and your personal licence, if needed, in your hand luggage.  You should:

  • Keep medicines in their original packaging clearly labelled.
  • Liquid medicines less than 100mls should be placed in a transparent plastic bag, with other liquids. 
  • If you need to carry more than 100mls this should be presented at security for x-ray inspection. There is no limit on the amount, however you may be asked to verify the liquid by tasting, or provide verification for the product, such as a doctor’s letter.
  • Keep medicines dry, cool and out of direct sunlight.
  • It would be helpful to carry a summary of your medical condition, and the treatments you have received, including a list of your medications.
  • Include the telephone number of your GP.

Will I have to declare my medicines to Customs in the UK?

No, not if you are travelling for less than three months or if you have a personal licence.  A letter from your doctor explaining why you need the medication will help if you are questioned by UK Customs.

Further information

Further information is available from your doctor or nurse.  You may also like to contact one of the following: 

Home Office: 020 7035 0472

Macmillan: 0808 808 0000
Freephone helpline (UK only) Mon - Fri, 9am - 8pm

This information leaflet was written by health professionals.  It has been approved by doctors, nurses and patients.  It is reviewed and updated every 2 years.

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