Can I take controlled medicines abroad?

Yes, but specific requirements apply to taking controlled medicines abroad.

What are controlled medicines?

Some prescribed medicines are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation. They are sometimes referred to as controlled drugs. This means extra legal controls apply to these medicines for safekeeping, supply and import/export. Examples of controlled medicines include:

  • anti-anxiety medicines known as benzodiazepines 
  • strong painkillers such as diamorphine
  • some medicines that contain hormones, such as anabolic steroids

As with all medicines to be taken abroad for personal use, your medicine should be accompanied by a doctor's letter. You may also need a personal licence issued by the Home Office to take controlled medicines abroad – for example, if you travel abroad for more than three months.

Check the list of controlled drugs or contact the Home Office to find out specific requirements for your medicine(s) or email

What is a personal licence?

A personal licence permits you to take prescribed controlled medicines for personal use out of the UK and bring them back in when you return.  You still need to check regulations for other countries by contacting their UK embassy.

You need to apply to the Home Office for a personal licence at least 10 working days before the date you will be travelling on. Your GP will need to provide a letter supporting your application.

Taking controlled medicines abroad

If you take your prescribed controlled medicines abroad, you must carry them:

  • in the original, correctly labelled packaging
  • in your hand luggage (airline regulations permitting)

You must also take a letter from your GP giving the information below:

  • your name and address
  • your date of birth
  • the dates you're departing and returning
  • your planned travel itinerary

The letter should also list the controlled medicines you're carrying. For each medicine, it should show:

  • the dosage
  • the total amount you are carrying

Other than medication such as the contraceptive pill, GPs do not usually prescribe more than three months of medication at one time. Patients usually have to get further supplies in the country they are staying in, but the GP will decide this based on the medication and the condition being treated – for example, epilepsy. 

Be advised your surgery may charge for writing such a letter, as GPs are not obliged to provide the service under the NHS.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 12/11/2015

Next review due: 12/11/2017