Travel Regulations for Patients Participating in Drug Substitution Treatment

International Travel Regulations for Patients Participatingin Drug Substitution Treatment

A guide designed to supply information on import regulations for substitute substances and on the possibilities of maintaining treatment abroad

© The Coordinating and Information Resource Center for International Travel by Patients  Receiving Methadone and other Substitution Treatments for Opiate Addiction  (“The Travel Resource Center”) INDRO e.V., Münster, Germany, 2005

Commissioned and funded by the Drug Policy Foundation (Washington, D.C.) and Beth Israel Medical Center (New York City) a first English travel guide had been compiled by Ralf Gerlach of INDRO e.V. between 1996 and 1997.  This guide was updated without any further financial support and put on the INDRO web site on December 1, 1997. On January 1, 1998 INDRO e.V. started to operate the “International Coordination and Information Service for Methadone Patients Seeking to Travel Abroad”. Due to the fact that methadone is not the only substance used in drug substitution therapy we also provide assistance to patients receiving buprenorphine (Subutex),  LAAM and codeine/dihydrocodeine.  Therefore, we renamed our service in July 2001. It is now called The Coordinating and Information Resource Center for International Travel by Patients Receiving Methadone and other Substitution Treatments for Opiate Addiction (“The Travel Resource Center”).  Since we receive only 5,000 € per annum from the  Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and 3,500 $US from the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute for this comprehensive service, including the updating of information provided on the German and English internet travel guides, donations are urgently needed to guarantee regular updating. Cheques can be sent by mail to the address given below. Donators’ names will be given (donators’ names).

We are of the opinion that patients participating in drug substitution treatment have the same right to travel abroad as everybody else. This right must not be withheld for the sole reason that they require a certain medical drug, i.e. methadone, buprenorphine, LAAM or codeine.  But they should be aware of what to expect if they do travel to other countries.

Therefore, this guide on “Travel Regulations for Patients Participating in Drug Substitution Treatment” has been designed to supply information on import regulations for substitute substances (such as methadone, buprenorphine, codeine or dihydrocodeine) effective world-wide and on the possibilities of maintaining treatment abroad, including useful contact addresses. It targets substitution patients who plan to travel abroad, their doctors and psycho-social advisory services as well as self-help groups and parents’ initiatives. At the same time the guide is addressed to political and medical decision makers, because grave restrictions to the substitution patients’ freedom to travel – and therefore a curtailment of self-determination – imposed by inhumane legal provisions are very evident. There is still an urgent need for action in the political field. We trust our travel guide will be able to provide some orientation and will help to reduce the expenditure of time and effort that accrues for patients, doctors and drug advisory services. In spite of all our efforts, the information mapped out here still contains many white patches. We have endeavoured to be as meticulous as possible in our research, but we cannot guarantee the correctness of our data, including the addresses, telephone and fax numbers as well as the legal framework. Still, we trust that we can meet the increasing need for information and supply essential guidelines to help close another gap in the addiction treatment system. In the interest of doctors and patients we have only used information obtained from official sources and deliberately dispensed with the documentation of methods that have stood the test of practice, e.g. regarding methadone takeaways. With a little imagination on the part of doctors as well as on the part of patients a lot is possible. We have not listed the names and addresses of methadone, buprenorphine and codeine prescribers in countries that prohibit substitution  treatment, as the publication could jeopardise their professional existence, and in some countries even their lives.

To facilitate the revision and updating of the information we should like to request all readers to let us have their critical comments, suggestions, corrections and additions. Furthermore, we should like to encourage methadone, buprenorphine and codeine prescribers from all over the world to have their names and contact details included in the travel guide (send email).

We should especially appreciate receiving reports from methadone patients on their experience with foreign travel. We would also encourage doctors and drug advisory services to communicate their experience. No identification data of patients (e.g. email addresses, phone numbers) will be given on this site! So far there are two reports on the Thailand page. Reports on other countries greatly appreciated!

We should like to thank the following people for giving donations:

Mrs. Dorothea Klieber, Parents’ Initiative, Markt Schwaben, Germany, December 10, 1997
Dr. Marc Shinderman, Medical Director, Center for Addictive Problems, Chicago, USA, January 5, 1998
Roger D Erickson, Bothell, Washington, USA, May 2, 2001
Ms. Beth Francisco, Director Advocates for Recovery through Medicine, Editor & Publisher
Methadone Today, USA, Oct. 11, 2001

First-time visitors to this site are requested to first read the Basic Recommendations before going on to the where all the regulations are documented.

Please address all correspondence regarding the travel guide to:

Ralf Gerlach
Deputy Director
Bremer Platz 18-20
48145 Münster
Phone: +49 251-60123 or -234577
Fax: +49 251-2807687 or -666580

(This page last revised August 20, 2005)