Travelling with medicine containing controlled drugs

Information on carrying medicine containing controlled drugs for individual travellers entering or leaving the UK.

Controlled drugs are drugs named in the misuse of drugs legislation. You can also read the full lists in both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and schedules 1 to 5 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.

This guide should not be used in place of the law and, if in doubt, you should take your own independent legal advice. If you are prescribed medication you are responsible for checking whether it is subject to control, which may include understanding which schedule the controlled drug content is within. You can use our controlled drugs list. as a guide, but also check with your clinician. You should also find out if you can lawfully take your medicine out of the country you normally reside in – there are usually strict limits on the amount of controlled drug containing medicines you can have prescribed at any one time. This also applies to UK residents travelling abroad; many controlled drugs are not normally prescribed in quantities of greater than 1 month’s supply.

Medicines for your personal use

The personal import policy exists to enable medication containing controlled drugs to be carried on your person when you visit the UK, without a licence being issued to you, in certain circumstances. This covers:

  • up to a 3-month supply of any schedule 2-4 (part I) drugs in the form of a medicinal product which have been lawfully prescribed to you in your country of habitual residence
  • medicines listed in schedule 4 II and 5 of the regulations

In all cases, medicines must have been lawfully prescribed and dispensed to you and must be carried on your person, when you enter or leave the UK. We recommend you carry a letter from your doctor or prescribing clinician. You may need to show this at the border.

The letter should include:

  • your name
  • a list of the medicine you have been prescribed, including doses, strength and frequency; it must be evident that you are not carrying more than a 3-month supply from both your travel dates and quantities of medication listed on the letter or prescription
  • the signature of the person who prescribed your drugs and their professional registration details

If the medication that you are wanting to bring into the UK does not contain a controlled drug, you will need to check the regulations for importing with the MHRA.

UK residents receiving medical treatment abroad

If you are habitually resident in the UK and receiving medical treatment abroad, the personal import policy does not apply to you. This includes if controlled drugs are dispensed to you abroad.

If you are prescribed controlled drugs abroad and want to return to the UK with them, you need to email the Home Office. If you need to be medically repatriated, the relevant contracted company can contact the Home Office on your behalf.

Temporary residents in the UK, or visitors extending their stay (more than 3 months’ stay)

Temporary residents, for example students or those working in the UK, should travel with a small supply of any prescribed controlled drug-containing medication (up to a 3 month supply) and obtain further supplies by consulting a UK clinician.

Medicines containing controlled drugs cannot be posted to you from overseas. They should be imported for you by a registered pharmaceutical wholesaler, who can apply for any licences needed, in response to an order from a pharmacy in the UK. Medicines which are not ‘licensed’ in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare regulatory Products Agency (MHRA) can still be prescribed by a UK clinician and made available as ‘specials’ or unlicensed medicines.

Please do not attempt to have further supplies posted to you, or to bring excessive quantities with you. These will be seized and you, as the importer, may be contacted by an enforcement agency.

If you need to stay in the UK longer than you initially planned and are running out of your medicine, you must obtain further supplies of medicine by consulting a UK clinician.

Charges may be payable for the services of a clinician or any prescription charges.

Schedule 1 drugs

As a UK or non-UK resident you cannot usually travel with drugs listed in schedule 1. Licences for schedule 1 drugs are limited to research or other special purposes. Schedule 1 drugs cannot be imported into the UK without a licence in any circumstances. A Schengen Certificate is not valid instead of a licence.

Exceptional circumstances

If you are staying in the UK for longer than 3 months and need controlled drug-containing medicines for the entire duration of your stay, you should plan your arrangements to ensure you can be seen by a relevant healthcare professional, in the UK, in good time before your medicines run out.

Please be aware that the cost of obtaining either healthcare or medicines in the UK is unlikely to be considered an exceptional circumstance and we do not envisage issuing licences for this reason.

If, after reading the above guidance, you believe there are exceptional circumstances which mean that you should be able to apply for a licence to import more than 3 months’ supply of controlled drug-containing medicines you may contact us at

You should do this 1 month before your intended date of travel and we will only consider requests where supporting evidence is provided.

Your email will need to give information about:

  • the name of the medicine you are prescribed and the controlled drugs it contains
  • the dose, strength and total quantity of medicine you are seeking to bring
  • full intended travel details, your address in the UK and the purpose of your visit
  • why you consider your circumstances are ‘exceptional’
  • confirming that you can legally travel from your home country with the quantities and types of medicine you have – this could be a copy of an official government document or webpage, translated into English as necessary, or a letter or licence from the relevant authorities

You must also include a letter from your clinician including their professional registration number which sets out why the medicine cannot be obtained in the UK.

If we consider your circumstances are exceptional, we will send you an application form to complete and we will then consider your application.

Any requests for consideration of exceptional circumstances that do not provide all of the above information or supporting documents will be rejected.

Travelling outside of the UK

If you’re leaving the UK with medicine that contains a controlled drug you should be able to prove it’s yours with either a prescription or letter from your clinician.

Other countries have their own import laws for prescription medicine and controlled drugs.

You could get a fine or go to prison if you travel with medicine that is illegal in another country. Check with the embassy of the country you’re going to before you travel.

Email for more advice on leaving the UK with controlled drugs.

Contact details

Import and export licensing:


Telephone: 0300 105 0248.

This address deals with the import and export of controlled substance into or from the UK, import and export licences, applications, endorsements of licences, or general enquiries about import and export licensing.

Domestic licensing


Telephone: 0300 105 0248.

This address deals with domestic (UK) controlled substance licences including precursor chemicals, applications, renewals, compliance visits, thefts and losses, surrender or returning licence, or general enquiries about domestic licensing.

Published 16 August 2019
Last updated 11 April 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated page title to travelling with medicine containing controlled drugs.

  2. Updated guidance to make the process clearer.

  3. Guidance updated throughout.

  4. First published.