Can I buy my Prescription Medication in Thailand?
Have you ever stopped to consider whether the drugs prescribed by your doctor legally back home are legal in countries that you work remotely in?
For those who require medications prescribed by their doctor to function. People who decide to settle down for any period of time in Thailand are rarely aware that treating conditions such as extreme pain, extreme anxiety or panic attacks will require a little bit of advance planning and a basic understanding of Thai drug laws. The question is soon asked “Are my Prescription Drugs Legal in Thailand?”
Not every drug that is legal with a prescription in your home country is legal in Thailand, and you will need to carry a prescription with you at all times –especially on a visa/border run.
I provide this information as “hear-say” and editorial. This book does not contain legal advice, or health advice, and I am not responsible for any consequences that may occur as a result of reading this book.
Your certificate/medical prescription must indicate:
- The name and address of the patient
- The identified medical condition
- The name of the medications and the reason that those medications were prescribed for the patient’s treatment
- The posology and total amount of medications prescribed
- The name, address, and license number of the prescribing physician
Drug/narcotic classifications vary from one country to another which can get a little confusing. Let’s look at Thailand’s narcotic categories;
Narcotic Categories in Thailand
I. Heroin, amphetamines (ecstasy), methamphetamines (“yabba” and “Ice”)
II. Morphine, codeine, methadone, opium and medicinal opium, ketamine, cocaine
III. Medicinal drugs which legally contain Category II ingredients
IV. Chemicals used to make Category I and II narcotics, like anhydride and acetyl chloride
V. Marijuana, the Kratom plant, hallucinogenic mushroom
- Drugs classified as narcotics that are available with a prescription in most Westernized countries are generally prohibited in Thailand; meaning that Thailand’s Category II drugs can only be legally carried by a foreigner with a prescription
- The reason for this is because they have a high potential for abuse and are generally dispensed with a number of restrictions, even in countries where they are legal
- These drugs may be considered highly addictive, highly sedative, have appeal for recreational use, fuel the black market, and can potentially be used to cause others harm
- For example; benzodiazepines (ben-zo-dee-az-eh-peen) sold under brand names such as Xanax or Valium became illegal in Thailand back in 2013 due to their widespread use as a date rape drug
It is possible to acquire your prescribed medications in Thailand, however traditional legal methods may prove difficult.
- Pharmacies are not legally allowed to sell any of these drugs to any person from any country, regardless of your prescription or doctor’s note (How do they know it’s legitimate? For your privacy your medical records are not shared with other countries)
- Hospitals are the only place where you can acquire prescription drugs that are otherwise illegal in Thailand, however they are only permitted to sell you 10 pills at one time
- If you are carrying any prohibited drug in Thailand without a prescription you could be taken to jail, bribed/extorted by police, or worse
- Public online forums are monitored for discussions surrounding the illegal acquirement of these drugs in Thailand
- Popular destinations for young tourists such as the Full Moon Party are heavily watched by uniformed and undercover Thai police looking for drug use and transactions
- Travelers with a handful of medications which are prohibited in Thailand are required to carry a permit issued by Thailand’s own Food and Drug Administration and are legally permitted to carry a 30 day prescribed usage (I have never met anyone who has bothered with this permit as this permit is for the heavier prescription drugs)
- Travelers carrying medications containing Thailand’s Category II narcotics are required to declare the medications they are carrying into/out of Thailand; again, these drugs include Morphine, codeine, methadone, opium and medicinal opium, ketamine, cocaine
- The most common drug prosecutions in Thailand involve street methamphetamines (like “ice” or “yabba” and marijuana
- Penalties generally range from 1 to 10 years for possession of illegal methamphetamines and drug traffickers of this sort may face the death penalty, however there is no death penalty involving marijuana
Stock up on medications before you arrive, and after arrival only carry a short supply on your person at any given time.
I have been told by some older expats here in Thailand that they are able to receive their prescriptions shipped from their home countries as long as the medications are all in the pharmacy packaging, sealed, and are clearly labeled with the prescription information I listed earlier.
Some notes on acquiring medications in Thailand:
- Do not buy drugs on the street, ever
- Expect to pay at least 30 baht per pill for common prescribed medications
- There is a Thai version of Xanax called “Interdrug”; yet shoddy drug manufacturing could translate into irregular doses and cause harm or be far too weak to help you
- Stick with blister packs of generic or name brand drugs you are familiar with
- You must carry a prescription for your medications and not carry more than a 30 day supply when you go on a visa/border run
I strongly suggest that you do not take recreational drugs in Thailand, however if you choose to take any drug whether it be manufactured or grown; do not do so unless you’ve settled in and you’re comfortable with your surroundings.
I say this because there are places that openly consume recreational drugs, but it does not mean you’re safe. All recreational drugs including magic mushrooms and marijuana are illegal in Thailand. The dirtier the drug, the harder the consequence.
If you are at a full moon party, do not purchase methamphetamines or any other street drugs from locals. Recent events, attention, and scrutiny from the international community have forced Thailand to increase its undercover operations.
If you have any desire to come to Thailand to get messed up, I suggest that after watching The Beach for the 12th time, watch Broke Down Palace, too.
The information in this book is based on suggestions and experiences by a whole lot of people. Do not break the law, breaking the law is bad. Anything suggested in this book that seems like it’s breaking the law is intended to be understood as fiction.