How travelling with Cold Medicine can land you in jail

Have you ever travelled with over the counter drugs for a cold or allergies? How about a sleeping pill to make the plane ride easier?

It's essential these days to know what you can and can't bring into a country. Below are a couple examples of people who didn't do their homework and had to pay the consequences.

Steven Gaines traveled to Puerto Vallarta on March 4th, 2016 with his fiancé Patty Kozer to celebrate their engagement. Steven had brought over-the-counter Wal-phed decongestant tablets to treat his sinus condition. The authorities detained him upon arrival in Mexico. Jessica Carver had a similar story in Mexico when the authorities found Sudafed on her person.

These two people had problems due to Mexico's near-total ban on medicines containing pseudoephedrine, which is contained in many common cold and allergy medicines. The ban was brought in as part of the war on drugs, and it requires a prescription be shown for psychotropic substances, including pseudoephedrine compounds.

Steven Gaines' lack of knowledge that the decongestant tablets were illegal didn’t land him any sympathy as they placed him in jail, leaving his wife Patty to find help on her own. The American Consulate gave her names of Mexican attorneys who told her she would have to pay $3,500 to get him out. Jessica Carver also ended up being detained for 24 hours and had to pay an attorney $1500 to be released.

The moral of the story is simple, when travelling abroad with prescription or over-the-counter medication, it's always best to contact the foreign government offices and confirm the status of the medication before departing. Having and carrying your prescription or other precautions may be necessary.

Be sure to visit the Travel.gc.ca’s Travelling with Medication page for more information and updates.

By Sandy Karwacki-Farber, BA

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