Arrested for prescription drugs in Dubai??????

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#1
san francisco bay area
57 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Friends, this is a REAL issue. I have traveled extensively, & visited Dubai in the past. Our Regent SS cruise begins with a night at a hotel I Dubai. The airport has a zero tolerance policy on almost all drugs-all this is documented. Recently, they have installed highly sophisticated drug sensing devices to use with random screenings. I need to carry narcotic pain killers since I will be having my fourth joint replacement surgery 6 weeks before. I will have written prescriptions for all three items that are banned. Even anti depressants and some o/c stuff can result in a "mandatory" 4 year jail sentence. The doctor 's written prescription is not always respected. I have done much research on this, and would like to know ----what you frequent cruisers know about this issue. Has anyone been checked at the airport while carrying on needed banned medication? Just google Dubai- banned drugs for an unbelievable list. I hope someone, perhaps a board administrator has some knowledge.

I am 66, walk with a cane for years, and leaving on a 50 day world cruise 12/19/11. Many thanks!
#2
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
You might want to have a look at this previous thread: Anyone had troubles in Dubai transiting with prescriptions?
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#3
san francisco bay area
57 Posts
Joined Jan 2009
Originally posted by Globaliser
You might want to have a look at this previous thread: Anyone had troubles in Dubai transiting with prescriptions?
Imam seriously considering considering canceling this trip. I need to find another airpot to fly into, even with all the letters & attestations I am ablevto get from my pain mgmt doctor, I cannot take the chance my meds that Ihave taken for years will be taken away. That could kill me. Must phone Regent & see what their advice is.
#4
Ontario, CA (The one WITH the Palm Trees!)
21,824 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
http://abudhabi.usembassy.gov/restri...dication_.html

This is the only list that seems to be working from the refernced thread. What's interesting is that not all variations of medicines are listed. 50mg is restricted but not a 100mg version, hmmmm.
***********
From their US embassy website--

These items are essentially available only in hospitals and in large community pharmacies, under the prescription of doctors. The Ministry of Health advises that unlicensed, controlled medicines can only be imported into the UAE through hospitals and not by individuals.

However, the Drug Control Department of the Ministry of health does have special regulations for personal import of such items: patients or travelers carrying prescribed prescription medications must have their prescriptions issued by licensed U.S. doctors, attested by a notary public, and duly authenticated by both the secretary of state of one’s U.S. state, and finally also authenticated by the Secretary of State of the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C.


[color=darkred]Hard enough to get the Dr signature notarized. But to also get it authenticated by the Secretary of State of your State and the US Secretary of State. Time to call your assemblyman and congressman.


#5
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by seabunny45
I cannot take the chance my meds that Ihave taken for years will be taken away.
If you absolutely have to bring medication that is totally prohibited in the UAE, then your choices may be stark. A prescription will allow you to bring some types of medication which would be illegal without a prescription, but there are other types which (as I understand it) are pretty much impossible - at least without a great deal of effort.
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#6
London
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Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by SadieN
This is the only list that seems to be working from the refernced thread. What's interesting is that not all variations of medicines are listed. 50mg is restricted but not a 100mg version, hmmmm.
No, you can also still get this list, which is the most detailed list that I have seen.

You have to remember that the lists are not comprehensive. If a particuar ingredient is prohibited in a low concentration formula, it's likely to be prohibited in any higher concentration formula too. And there are some which are obvious no-nos but which aren't explicitly on the list: heroin, for example.

I work on the basis that any ingredient whose generic name appears in bold in the list of generic names is not to be brought to the UAE in any quantity. Codeine is one that commonly catches a lot of people unawares. Pholcodine is the one that I have to watch out for because it's in my favourite cold medicine.
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#7
Arizona/Missouri
14,848 Posts
Joined Feb 2002
As a frequent Middle East business traveler, I certainly would NOT be taking any kind of narcotic (Schedule I or II in the USA) into the Middle East.

My friend's MILITARY prescription written in IRAQ for vicodin was taken away in Dubai. I truly believe if we had not been in the company of some relatively high level Kuwaiti business people, she would have had many more problems than she did. They took away my Alka Seltzer plus and left my asthma inhalers. No method to the madness but it is their country and their rules.

OP,

I would certainly inquire about joining the ship in another port and NOT one in the Middle East. Narcotic prescription drugs are a BIG problem for foreign visitors.
#8
66 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
The only thing I know is that we didn't have any problems taking venlafaxine (anti depressant) into sarsha. Maybe we were lucky? They didn't ask fir the prescription either. The drugs weren't mine but somebody else's that travelled in our group. security is very tight though... America is a breeze compared to UAE
#9
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by eveline44
The only thing I know is that we didn't have any problems taking venlafaxine (anti depressant) into sarsha. Maybe we were lucky?
I would say so. Venlafaxine is definitely on the list.

I'm sure a lot of people are lucky, and get away with things because they're not detected; many of these people probably don't even know what the restrictions are. The problem with somewhere like Dubai is that if you get unlucky, the consequences can be pretty horrendous.
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#10
66 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Originally posted by Globaliser
I would say so. Venlafaxine is definitely on the list.

I'm sure a lot of people are lucky, and get away with things because they're not detected; many of these people probably don't even know what the restrictions are. The problem with somewhere like Dubai is that if you get unlucky, the consequences can be pretty horrendous.
Yes I wouldn't want to end up in a UAE prison :S Luckily we are young and (still) healthy (knock wood), but I bet that about 90% of the travelers that go on a cruise take some kind of prescription drug. Maybe it could help to contact the cruise company and ask their advise. If the cruise ship leaves from Dubai, that means that about 3000 people have to fly into the UAE. It certainly doesn't benefit the cruise company if half of their passengers and up in prison :P Or you could contact the UAE embassy in America? maybe it would also help to ask for a international medication passport at you pharmacy.

#11
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by eveline44
Maybe it could help to contact the cruise company and ask their advise. If the cruise ship leaves from Dubai, that means that about 3000 people have to fly into the UAE. It certainly doesn't benefit the cruise company if half of their passengers and up in prison
No, but the cruise line's advice would almost certainly be: do not bring to Dubai any drugs that are on the list, whether or not you have a prescription for them. That's the advice which I would be giving if I were in the cruise line's position; and I base my views on what I am told by my sister who has lived in Dubai for a number of years now and knows the place very well.
Originally posted by eveline44
maybe it would also help to ask for a international medication passport at you pharmacy.
Is there such a thing as an internationally-recognised "medication passport"? But even if there is such a thing, I doubt that it's going to make a banned drug any less banned.
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#12
66 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Originally posted by Globaliser
No, but the cruise line's advice would almost certainly be: do not bring to Dubai any drugs that are on the list, whether or not you have a prescription for them. That's the advice which I would be giving if I were in the cruise line's position; and I base my views on what I am told by my sister who has lived in Dubai for a number of years now and knows the place very well.Is there such a thing as an internationally-recognised "medication passport"? But even if there is such a thing, I doubt that it's going to make a banned drug any less banned.
But the cruise company knows that in many cases this is not realistic. Maybe they can advice about other airports and such.

Originally posted by Globaliser
Is there such a thing as an internationally-recognised "medication passport"? But even if there is such a thing, I doubt that it's going to make a banned drug any less banned.
I know that for traveling to some countries you NEED to have one if you are taking any form of drugs, even vitamins. My parents both have one. I'm not sure what the English name is for this document, but here it's called international medicin passport. But I am not sure if it makes a difference in the UAE though... It won't hurt I would say and in most cases you can apply for one for free (although I am not sure about the United States).
#13
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by eveline44
But the cruise company knows that in many cases this is not realistic.
If a passenger really absolutely cannot find a substitute medication that's legal, then perhaps the best thing to do is not to travel to the country which their medication is illegal - and therefore pick a different cruise. Alternatively, they might think it worth their while to jump through all the hoops that seem to be necessary to avoid the risk of some pretty dire consequences.

If it were a country that was likely to take a reasonably relaxed attitude (eg just a hefty fine if you get caught), then one's risk perception might be different. But there are some pretty stories out there about the things that can happen - including the person who had a trace of cannabis stuck to the bottom of their shoe, which might have been picked up accidentally on pretty much any European street.
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#14
Arizona/Missouri
14,848 Posts
Joined Feb 2002
Going to the doctor/hospital in most Middle Eastern countries is pretty easy. I have not been in Dubai, but have been in Kuwait, Qatar and Jordan. You have to pay cash or credit card or have VERY good travel insurance that has been pre-approved by the doctor/hospital. But it is generally a very efficient system with doctors including specialists, lab tests, hospital and pharmacy all in the same building. In Kuwait you walk from station to station-see the doctor, get the tests, by the time you get back to the doctor the test results are done and you get your prescription. Qatar is similar but not so well organized and Jordan is more like the US. But all in all pretty darn easy and pretty darn cheap.

So if I absolutely, positively had to have banned drugs in Dubai, I would probably fly in early, go to the doctor and actually get the Dubai prescription. Yes, you could NOT take your banned drugs into Dubai but within a few hours, with good pre trip planning, there should be a similar substitute. Any US or Western country Embassy/Consulate can give you the names of Embassy approved hospitals/doctors.

MAKE sure you specify whether you are male or female when you ask for the approved hospitals/doctors. Had to take DH to the hospital for the "Iraqi crud" (upper respiratory from the dust) when he was in Kuwait one time. I called the Embassy and was given two doctors/hospitals. Went to the first with my escort (speaks fluent Arabic) and DH. The lady behind the counter kept looking at me and looking at the two men, trying to understand what we wanted. She had a VERY puzzled look on her face. She kept addressing her questions to me. I speak very little Arabic and she didn't speak English that well. We were in a hospital ONLY for women and primarily for baby deliveries. We all had a good laugh and went to the other hospital.
#15
66 Posts
Joined Jan 2010
Maybe this is also interesting:

These items are essentially available only in hospitals and in large community pharmacies, under the prescription of doctors. The Ministry of Health advises that unlicensed, controlled medicines can only be imported into the UAE through hospitals and not by individuals.

However, the Drug Control Department of the Ministry of health does have special regulations for personal import of such items: patients or travelers carrying prescribed prescription medications must have their prescriptions issued by licensed U.S. doctors, attested by a notary public, and duly authenticated by both the secretary of state of one’s U.S. state, and finally also authenticated by the Secretary of State of the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C.

http://abudhabi.usembassy.gov/restri...dication_.html
#16
Arizona/Missouri
14,848 Posts
Joined Feb 2002
Originally posted by eveline44
Maybe this is also interesting:

These items are essentially available only in hospitals and in large community pharmacies, under the prescription of doctors. The Ministry of Health advises that unlicensed, controlled medicines can only be imported into the UAE through hospitals and not by individuals.

However, the Drug Control Department of the Ministry of health does have special regulations for personal import of such items: patients or travelers carrying prescribed prescription medications must have their prescriptions issued by licensed U.S. doctors, attested by a notary public, and duly authenticated by both the secretary of state of one’s U.S. state, and finally also authenticated by the Secretary of State of the U.S. Government in Washington, D.C.

http://abudhabi.usembassy.gov/restri...dication_.html
Obviously you have not dealt with the US government much. Get the prescription, send it to to the Secretary of State of your State (maybe a week or two and a couple of phone calls), then send it to the US Secretary of State for an additional endorsement??? Could be MONTHS before you see anything if at all.

IF you were going to live in Dubai, may be worth it. For a cruise, waaaay too much hassle. IF you REALLY have to have specific medication for life sustainment, MUCH easier to just go to the doctor when you first arrive Dubai and get it taken care of. Or change your cruise or arrival port of entry.
#17
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
11,523 Posts
Joined Jul 2010
Originally posted by greatam
Obviously you have not dealt with the US government much. Get the prescription, send it to to the Secretary of State of your State (maybe a week or two and a couple of phone calls), then send it to the US Secretary of State for an additional endorsement??? Could be MONTHS before you see anything if at all.

IF you were going to live in Dubai, may be worth it. For a cruise, waaaay too much hassle. IF you REALLY have to have specific medication for life sustainment, MUCH easier to just go to the doctor when you first arrive Dubai and get it taken care of. Or change your cruise or arrival port of entry.
greatam, I agree with you. Getting the documentation would be difficult and it might not be accepted in the UAE. I lived in Saudi Arabia for five years and would not do it.
What about picking up the cruise at the next port?
#18
Denmark Western Australia
130 Posts
Joined Oct 2009
I have been to Dubai on three occasions. I take blood pressure medication and tablets for osteoporosis. I always carry them in my hand luggage in their original packets and with a covering letter from my doctor. My last visit was in July 2010. I have never been asked to produce any of these items and they have never been checked through customs. I have never been searched. I have always found airport staff courteous and helpful. I love Dubai. I have read through the banned medication list and as they are all US brands (I am an Australian) they don't mean much to me. I am going back to Dubai in March 2012 to catch a cruise ship and hopefully things have not changed since my last visit. Karri Bay
#19
London
22,104 Posts
Joined Feb 2004
Originally posted by Karri Bay
I have read through the banned medication list and as they are all US brands (I am an Australian) they don't mean much to me.
It's not the brand names you need to look at. It's the drug names (in the "generic name" column). The drugs that might cause trouble include the ones in bold in that list. It's worth checking it thoroughly. "I'm Australian so the rules don't apply to me" is not a defence worth running in Dubai.
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#20
Denmark Western Australia
130 Posts
Joined Oct 2009
Globilisor - I don't recall mentioning that being Australian makes me immune to the rules of Dubai and I certainly did not intend to imply that. I have travelled widely and I am well aware that in a foreign country one needs to be careful, alert at all times, and mindful of their rules and regulations. Karri Bay