Traveling with ADHD Medication: What to Know

You booked the flights months in advance, and now your long-awaited family vacation is coming up very soon. While thoughts of fun, visiting new cities, and less stress are on your mind, don’t forget to plan ahead if your child takes medication as part of their ADHD treatment plan. Even short trips to nearby states can end up being stressful if you don’t plan ahead.

Courtney, a mother and blogger who has ADHD, writes about things she’s learned when it comes to traveling with her daughter who also has ADHD. In her blog, World in Four Days, she writes, “We love to explore the world together as a family, but traveling with ADHD has to be approached quite differently than it does for most people. We have to think about a lot of different angles when it comes to travel. That’s especially true of international travel.”

One of the angles Courtney includes is the challenge of traveling with ADHD medication. Stimulant medication, the most commonly prescribed medication for ADHD, is classified by the US Federal Drug Administration as a Schedule II controlled substance, making it subject to tighter regulation and laws. Whether you are travelling in the United States or visiting another country, here are some things you can do to make sure your trip goes smoothly.

Traveling in the United States

If your vacation is in another state, make sure to pack enough medication for your child to last the entire trip. You might want to pack medication for a few additional days, in case of travel delays or if you decide to extend your stay.

It’s best for any type of travel to keep the medication in the original pharmacy bottles with the pharmacy label on them. Since many medications used to treat ADHD are controlled medications, some travelers feel better if they carry a letter from their child’s doctor indicating why the medication is prescribed. Just having the medication in their original prescription bottles is often enough if your family is traveling within the United States.

One parent on a popular social media site shares her family’s experience and how they avoid problems when traveling with their child’s medication.

“When we travel, I always get a letter from the doctor and bring the medication in original bottles,” she writes. “We have never been questioned or have had to show it, but it makes me more relaxed when I know we got it.”

If you are flying, you’ll want to make sure to pack your child’s medication in your carry-on bag. That way if your checked bags get lost, your child will not miss a dose of their medication. If your doctor only prescribes a thirty-day supply and you will be gone longer than thirty days, talk to your child’s doctor how you can get a refill during your time away. You may need to check with a pharmacy near your getaway spot to be sure it can receive a prescription from your child’s doctor for a needed refill.

The doctor may agree to prescribe enough medication for your entire trip or may give you a prescription for the medication to fill while you are away. However, even though you have a prescription from your child’s doctor, you may have difficulty having it filled in another state. It is important to know the prescribing laws of the state where you intend to have the prescription filled.

International travel

While there are strict regulations regarding controlled substances here at home, in some countries, these medications are banned. This means you cannot bring them into the country even if you have a prescription and letter from the prescribing doctor. If you do bring a controlled substance into another country where it is illegal, you may face arrest. To avoid this, check with the embassy of the country or countries you plan to visit (even countries where you only have a layover) to make sure that your child’s medicine is allowed. While it may be tempting to think it won’t be noticed among your belongings, the risk for detainment in another country is too great to take.

Some countries, such as United Arab Emirates and the Czech Republic, require you to obtain special approval beforehand from their country’s health ministry to legally carry controlled substances, including ADHD stimulant medications. Begin your planning early in case special approval is required, since this process can take months. You’ll want to make sure you’ll have enough time to receive approval before your family leaves for your trip.

When planning to travel internationally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends making an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider at least one month before you leave. That way you can discuss your travel plans, get the needed amount of medication to take on your trip, and your child’s provider can give you advice.

The US State Department recommends getting a letter from your child’s doctor describing your child’s medical condition, all prescribed medications, and their generic names. Ask your child’s doctor if they can write this letter while you’re at this pre-vacation appointment. Keep this letter with your child’s medications in your carry-on bag so you have it readily available as you go through customs.

“I learned a long time ago that traveling with ADHD, while intimidating at first, can and is totally doable,” says Courtney. “In fact, as long as you know what steps to take, it can be almost as simple as travel for anyone else out there.”

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Join the discussion: Does your family plan to travel this season? How do you suggest a family manage the question about medications while traveling?