Smartraveller advisory: Aussies abroad and the pitfalls of prescription drug use

Health and legal risks explored

Smartraveller advisory: Aussies abroad and the pitfalls of prescription drug use

Insurance News

By Roxanne Libatique

In the realm of international travel, Australians occasionally seek consular assistance due to the misuse of prescription drugs, presenting significant legal and health implications.

In an updated warning, Smartraveller has shed light on potential hazards faced by travellers, emphasising the need for vigilance and adherence to regulations.

Health risks

For those travelling overseas, Smartraveller emphasised the importance of refraining from purchasing or utilising prescription medications without a valid prescription and proper medical guidance.

“Australians have died from using prescription drugs they've illegally bought overseas,” it said. “They may be easier to access than in Australia, but buying and using illegal prescription drugs overseas is never safe. Even if the source seems legitimate. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

“It doesn't matter if you've used the drug before. The purity and strength of drugs in other countries can vary widely from what you may be familiar with.”

Smartraveller explained that taking prescription drugs for non-prescribed purposes carries serious health risks, including memory loss, anxiety, depression, drowsiness, paranoia, irritability, skin rashes, weight gain, fertility issues, dependency, overdosing, and, in extreme cases, death—particularly when combined with other substances like alcohol.

Legal risks

Aside from warning about health risks, Smartraveller emphasised the legal risks, including severe penalties for drug offenses abroad.

“You're subject to all local laws and penalties in your destination, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Several Australians in foreign countries have received the death penalty for drug offences. Even small amounts of illegal drugs can get you arrested or jailed,” it said. “Local authorities can target areas where tourists are known to buy and use drugs. They're unlikely to be lenient just because you're Australian.”

Smartraveller further noted that it is not only recreational drugs that can lead to legal trouble; some common medicines are considered illegal or controlled substances in certain countries. These include amphetamines, medical marijuana, opioid-based painkillers, medication containing pseudoephedrine, sleeping pills, and anti-anxiety/antidepressant medicines.

“Make sure your prescription or over-the-counter medicines aren't illegal in your destination countries,” it said.

In other news, a recent survey conducted on behalf of Smartraveller and the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) highlighted the concerning phenomenon of Australians engaging in uninsured travel.

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