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Entering the UK with a Controlled Drug

Travellers may be carrying medicines that contain 'controlled drugs' when they are entering or leaving the United Kingdom.

Even though you may not need a personal licence for it, bringing in medicine containing a controlled drug means you may need to prove it has been prescribed to you.

Medicines Containing Controlled Substances

According to the misuse of drugs legislation, you must provide some proof that medicine is prescribed to you if:

The category of the drug, as well as the quantity you are bringing in, would determine what proof you would need.

Important: Local laws for travelling with medication and controlled drugs abroad are complex. You should check whether you can take your medicine overseas and how to get a personal licence if you need one.

Checking if Medication Contains Controlled Drugs

Your doctor (or a pharmacist) will be able to confirm whether the medicine you are taking is one that contains a controlled drug.

The controlled drugs list shows drug classifications as per the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (e.g. controlled substances used in medicines).

Drugs Listed as Schedule 2, 3, or 4 (part 1)

If you will be entering the United Kingdom carrying a medication containing a drug listed as schedule 2, 3, or 4 (part 1), you must (either):

  • Have a letter of proof in your possession that confirms the medicine was prescribed to you (e.g. by a GP).
  • Obtain a controlled drugs licence if you will be travelling in the United Kingdom (either):
    • For a period of at least three (3) months.
    • And carrying a quantity of the medicine that will last for at least three (3) months.

The rules for bringing medicine containing a controlled drug are stricter for UK residents if they had the medicine prescribed abroad. If this is the case, you must also contact the Drug and Firearms Licensing Unit.

Drug and Firearms Licensing Unit
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: 020 7035 6330
Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm
Find out about call rates

Note: The main section has more information about the rules when arriving in the United Kingdom (e.g. customs procedures, healthcare).

Drugs Listed as Schedule 4 (part 2)

Medicines that contain chemicals or substances listed as schedule 4 (part 2) have a high potential for personal abuse (e.g. methadone).

Hence, carrying a letter of proof that the medication is prescribed for you will ensure customs officers do not take it away from you at the border.

Drugs Listed as Schedule 1

Substances that contain a drug listed as schedule 1 are considered to have little or no therapeutic value, such as marijuana (cannabis).

If this is the case, you must contact the Drug and Firearms Licensing Unit in advance of travelling to the United Kingdom.

How to Get a Letter of Proof

The person who originally prescribed the medication for you (e.g. your doctor) is the one responsible for giving you a ‘letter of proof’.

As a general rule, you would need to show it to customs officers at the border (e.g. when travelling abroad with medication).

The letter must be signed by the same person who prescribed it, and include:

  • Your full name.
  • An itemised list of your medicines, including:
    • Dosages.
    • How much you are carrying.
    • Strength.
  • Which countries you will visit and the scheduled dates for your arrival.

Personal Licence for Medicine Containing Controlled Drugs

You can get an application form for a personal licence by sending an email to the Drug and Firearms Licensing Unit. The email message should include your:

  • Address in the United Kingdom.
  • Intended travel details.
  • Reason for the visit overseas.

You will need:

  • Details about the medication (including dose, quantity, and strength).
  • A letter from a doctor that includes their professional registration number.

After applying for a personal licence, you should allow at least fifteen (15) working days to receive it (e.g. before your intended travel date).

When You Don’t Need a Personal Licence

Personal licences are not a legal requirement to travel with (any):

  • Less than three (3) months of supply.
  • Medicine listed in schedule 4 (part II) of the regulations.
  • Medicine listed in schedule 5 of the regulations.
  • Travelling for less than three (3) months with any schedule 2 to 4 (part I) drugs ‘lawfully’ prescribed to you in your country of habitual residence.

Note: The Home Office has further information for individual travellers carrying medicine containing controlled drugs when entering or leaving the United Kingdom.

UK Rules for Bringing Medicine Containing a Controlled Drug