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Japan Narita Customs - Importing prescription medication on prohibited list

Japan Narita Customs - Importing prescription medication on prohibited list

Old Aug 24, 12, 3:18 pm
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It really depends on how important the medication is to you. I've gone through Narita at least 300 times and have never had a bag opened. IME, the Japanese are pretty practical minded and would prefer not to make a case out of anything where there is no real social detriment involved. My guess is that if they found it, they would just confiscate it. If you decide to take it, I would make sure it's in a prescription container and not deliberately hidden. I would not declare any meds and if stopped I would pretend I didn't know it was illegal. That said as other have pointed out there are some risks involved.

You could also send an email to this guy (Corresponding author. tel +81 337166624.E-mail address: doug(at)japanpsychiatrist(dot)com (D. Berger). He wrote an academic article on this subject.

I saw on another blog that Ritalin is OK (don't know if that works for you). This was the entry

I put this here for people who want to bring Ritalin (Methylphenidate) or Focalin XR (Dexmethylphenidate) into Japan.
It describes the situation as of 16. January 2012 and may change.
Also I'm not from the japanese government, but I sent an email to a Pharmaceutical Inspector of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and researched this throughfully.

Currently it is okay to bring up to one month supply of Ritalin to Japan that should not exceed 1.8 gramms.
If you take Ritalin 10 that consists of 10mg pills you can take 180 pills to Japan without a doctors note (Still I think having one is better).
If you need more then you have to apply for a Yakkan Shomei.

I think it's impossible for them to know if it's more of a 1 month supply, but it says so in the rules.
So just remember to not go over the 1.8 gramm limit.

http://www.incb.org/pdf/travel_regul...n-ORIGINAL.pdf (From 2004, but seems to be still valid.)

Last edited by essxjay; Apr 27, 13 at 12:59 am Reason: anti-spam edit on email addy per member request
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Old Aug 24, 12, 7:51 pm
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When I applied for my "Yakkan Shomei" I also read that there was an additional application available for specific drugs that are banned in Japan
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Old Aug 24, 12, 8:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Nogbad View Post
Oddly it seems codeine phosphate only becomes a narcotic in Japan at more than 1%, so if your tylenol 3 tablets weight more than 3g each, you'd technically be fine unless you have more than 1 month's supply (however much that means and then you could get an import form). It's all pretty silly really and I'd doubt customs are going to start weighing tablets or care about small amounts of personal use medicines. I'm sure most people wouldn't think twice about bringing their medication with them.

But as for letting amphetamines in, no chance.
They don't worry about codeine in my experience. I've brought it in myself and had it sent to me numerous times. Had one shipment rejected by customs but was not placed on any list as subsequent entries to Japan and subsequent parcels were allowed in no problems. I once had a customs guy pick up a box of codeine from my bag at Kansai, read the label and then put it back in my bag and send me on my way.

As to the OP's question. I imagine there are people unknowingly bringing Adderall into Japan every single day and I haven't been hearing stories of people being thrown in the clink or deported BUT I can't say there would be no risk. If it were me I wouldn't bring it in and attempt to get it (or something similar) from a Japanese doctor.
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Old Aug 25, 12, 11:28 am
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There are other medicines such as Ritalin which are available in Japan, but I don't know if you could get a prescription for adult ADHD. Another option might be Strattera, which isn't even a controlled substance in the US. I would research the options online and present some alternatives to the physician who wrote the prescription. Adderall is usually the default because it's cheap (generics are available) and effective.

The issue is that Adderall isn't prescribed except in a few countries, so your ability to get a prescription overseas is difficult if not impossible. Most countries, however, will allow you to import a limited supply for your use with a valid prescription. Even Singapore has a procedure for importing controlled substances with a valid prescription, including Adderall.

The only countries I know which have such a restrictive stance on importing Adderall with a prescription are Japan, Taiwan and the UAE. Japan in particular went a little overboard with the meth situation a number of years ago, and previously legal OTC meds and ADHD meds were dumped into a category of prohibited stimulants.
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Old Aug 25, 12, 9:35 pm
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Thanks for all of the responses people and thanks for merging the thread MOD

Unfortunately, both the Yakkan Shoumei and aternative medicines options will not work. The Yakkan Shoumei as discussed earlier will not allow Adderall, neither will filling out the special exemption section. The only way I know of doing it like that would be a special request from the Japanese/American Consulate, and I have no idea how to start that nor would I put in the effort to have both the American and Japanese consulates discussing my medication. Currently in Japan the only available ADHD medications are Ritalin and Straterra, Ritalin can only be prescribed for narcolepsy, not ADHD and Straterra is well... I've tried it before and it was terrible. So there are no alternative medications available in Japan.

I've come to the conclusion that I am not going to try and bring my adderall in, what alarmed me was my university telling me that I was going to have a placement test upon arrival at 8 a.m. that would determine my fate for the year. Waking up at 7 am and then taking a 2 hour Japanese test is a nightmare for anyone, but for thats just a guaranteed failure. What I think I'm going to do, is just put 1 or 2 adderall at the bottom of one of my other prescription bottles/wallet, and thats all I will be taking. I HIGHLY doubt they will find that.

I think its interesting to note though, that technically I am smuggling already because I will be taking more than a 1 month supply of anti-malaria pills as well as retin-a skin creme. If they for some reason throw a fit and deport me for having too many anti-malaria pills/skin creme, then I actually don't care to be in their country. Thanks for all of the help everyone!
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Old Aug 29, 12, 5:19 pm
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asking the wrong sort of questions?

akira2472, I think you are asking the wrong sort of questions regarding the Adderall. In your first post, you said:
So a couple months ago I got diagnosed with ADHD and was prescribed Adderall, which has been a godsend for me, my life has improved dramatically.
Shouldn't you be considering what your quality of life will be 1) off medicine 2) in a foreign country where you may have language barrier issues 3) studying at a university where presumably you'll be expected to both learn and demonstrate what you have learned?

If taking Adderall in Japan is not possible and you've already had negative reactions to alternative drugs (and I know ADHD drugs are definitely not interchangeable) perhaps a year in Japan is not in your best interest.

Can you do similar studies to your planned course in a situation where you can legallly take the medication you need for your quality of life?
CDTraveler is offline  
Old Aug 29, 12, 7:20 pm
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I'm not sure how long the medication lasts, but why not take it just before you de-plane in hopes that it lasts long enough for the test? I wouldn't want to mess with the rules, though I'm also the type that declared a chocolate bar in my bag to customs in Australia after learning that all food must be declared since I didn't want the risk of trying to smuggle.

On a side note, can you bring sleeping pills to Japan safely or is it only stimulants and codeine that they won't allow?
vanpoodle is offline  
Old Aug 29, 12, 9:54 pm
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Originally Posted by vanpoodle View Post
I'm not sure how long the medication lasts, but why not take it just before you de-plane in hopes that it lasts long enough for the test?
The half life of extended release Adderall is about 13 to 14 hours, so taking the dose the day before the test, just as the OP arrives, would put the test pretty much in the withdrawal phase, which can be pretty nasty for some people.
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Old Sep 1, 12, 6:07 pm
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Originally Posted by akira2472 View Post
what alarmed me was my university telling me that I was going to have a placement test upon arrival at 8 a.m. that would determine my fate for the year. Waking up at 7 am and then taking a 2 hour Japanese test is a nightmare for anyone, but for thats just a guaranteed failure.
Hate to break it to you, but assuming you're arriving from the US, chances are that you'll be awake at 3 or 4 am the morning after you arrive. What I would give to sleep until 7 am on the day I arrive in Asia.
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Old Oct 7, 12, 11:22 am
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Just to chime in, I've had a couple cursory searches performed in Tokyo (the last was when I was boarding the jetway for a US-bound flight). The were quite quick, surprisingly. Unfortunately, I have to take a lot of prescribed medications, some of which are illegal in the eyes of certain foreign countries. I always carry my meds in their prescribed cases, bring an up-to-date doctor's note and, for the questionable meds, I bring the pharmacy printout w/ secondary labeling, which describes all the uses of the med, who prescribed it, what quantity and when. When I have been spot-checked, the agents did not bother with the large number of labelled pill bottles in my carry-on. Like others, I was asked specific questions about firearms and items that could pose a threat to passengers as well as the standard questions re: whether I had packed my bags and kept them in sight at all times.

I find if you are extremely direct and you are helpful -- or offer to help them with your personal items, rather than get defensive, they are quite polite and efficient.

I know I do not pose a threat to anyone and anything I have has been legally prescribed and I am not going to do anything illegal with my medication, such as distribute it. In general, I try to be as respectful of other laws as possible, but when it comes to personal medication, for which I(/you) have been diagnosed and prescribed for legitimate purposes -- and a medicine you need to function -- I do not understand why other governments have to be so stringent when certain criteria is met.

Further, it seems to be a travesty when certain medication, such as valium/diazepam has been classified by the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as 1 of the 100 most essential medications in the world, yet certain governments rail against foreign nationals at customs. Hopefully, the world will be more unified in the future when it comes to customs.

I hope Akira and future travelers, who are confronted with such an awkward scenario, find international travel, particularly customs, to be a less stressful event.
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Old Oct 13, 12, 11:06 am
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Originally Posted by Nogbad View Post
Well spotted. There is no chance of import approval then and it's not just customs and the sniffer dogs you would have to worry about. A doctor's letter isn't going to get you out of this. That they specifically mention your drug brand would suggest that they are on the look out for this and have come across it before. Not only are there sniffer dogs, but the customs officials are very good at detecting nervousness in there short questioning - I have seen bags searches going on every time I've passed customs.

You're best off looking into alternatives with your doctor before you leave or discussing with a Japanese-based physician in advance about possible treatment for your time in Japan.

It is worth noting the Yakkan Shoumei procedure for anyone else who comes across this - it's required for more than a month's supply of any medicine or anything injectable.
So it sounds like the OP is best off speaking to Japanese authorities in advance about this (as you previously suggested) and then have the doctor rewrite the prescription to take three pills a day instead of one (so that a three month's supply is in fact a one month's supply).

However, if they are specific about amphetamine, then there is another class of drugs, methylphenidate, which while still a stimulant is not amphetamine (the brand names are Ritalin, Focalin, Concerta, etc.). May be worth checking because for those not particularly sensitive they work equally well. For those who tolerate amphetamine better, it may be worth having a conversation with both your own doctor as well as the Japanese authorities about a medicine called Vyvanse, which is amphetamine but specifically designed so that it cannot be used recreationally (won't work if snorted, for example) because of how it's metabolized.
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Old Oct 13, 12, 12:06 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1 View Post

2. The USA too has prohibited substances (try bringing in marijuana lawfully purchased in Amsterdam -- despite the current kerffufle --) and explaining that to CBP here.
This analogy is somewhat flawed. The marijuana brought in from the Netherlands was sold, and presumably purchased, for recreational purposes (albeit legally). Something simply being legally obtained in one country doesn't matter when bringing it to a country where the item is prohibited. However I believe the standards will often be very different when discussing substances prescribed by a physician in one country (where an item is common, legal and its prescription is a well-established practice) and then being brought to another country where said item is illegal. I don't know what would happen to the OP in Japan; I'm sure he could still get in trouble, but I have to believe most legal systems would at least acknowledge the difference.
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Old Oct 15, 12, 6:50 am
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I went through Japanese immigration yesterday. The crew on the inbound flight gave me an extra disembarkation card, so I have a spare in front of me now...

Question 3 on the back of the card asks "Do you presently have in your possession narcotics, marijuana, opium, stimulants, or other drugs, swords, explosives or other such items?"

As I have migraine and pain relief medication with me, and I couldn't remember from last year if they cared about prescription medicine, I left it blank.
At the desk they saw the blank answer and asked.
I asked it the question covered medicine, she asked if it was prescription. After I confirmed it was, she ticked the no box and let me through.
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Old Oct 21, 12, 6:48 am
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
I think everything hailstorm has said in this thread, despite the denial immediately above, has been a moral commentary.

This is a medication which makes your quality of life dramatically better. If I were in your situation, for something that important, I would try to get all the medical documentation I could, and then bring it with me. Assuming a 90 day supply is not too bulky, I'd put it in carry-on, so it doesn't get lost or stolen along the way.

If customs raised objections, I would politely explain the reasoning for it and show the documentation establishing that your medical team agrees. While it is always possible to encounter a jerk, overall, my very limited experience is that Japan customs officers are reasonable if approached in a polite, calm, rational manner.
I agree with RichardinSF. It seems like a sensible plan.

However, I would also talk to your doctors, to see if you could take a similar medication that is effective, but is not illegal in Japan.
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Old Oct 29, 12, 12:48 pm
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Concerta can be prescribed in Japan by doctors who are specially licensed to do do. But it is only for people 6-18 years old. If you are above 18, you have to show you were treated in Japan by one of these doctors BEFORE you were 18. I am not sure about the import law for Concerta. But if you are under 18 and can join the Japanese health system, it would likely to be a LOT CHEAPER to get your Concerta in Japan.
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