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Drug restrictions in the UAE
Current as of Jan 15, 2014
Not all drugs are accepted in the UAE, and some only with prescription, although some are administered in UAE hospitals. There is a comprehensive list on grapeshisha.com, but drugs that are banned include: codeine, amphetamines, methadone, robitussin, valium, xanax, Actifed compound linctus, tamiflu, reductil, Ritalin. This is obviously a very small list, and so it is worth checking with your local UAE Embassy. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it to the UAE, even in transit. If you have to bring it, make sure you bring a prescription and letter from your doctor. If you do get ill, you can very readily get drugs in the pharmacy. Essentially drugs that may be over the counter in your home country could be banned in the UAE. This could include many common cold and cough remedies. Various sleeping tablets, painkillers, anti-depressants and hormone replacement therapy drugs are banned in the UAE, as well as sex stimulants such as Viagra for example. Other things that are banned include poppy seeds, which you could quite easily eat on a bread roll in another country, and qat leaf, used as a stimulant for chewing, especially in Yemen.
There are numerous examples where people with even a speck of drugs on them have been sent to jail for 4 years. The examples highlighted in the press have been more to do with narcotics than those perceived as medication in the UAE. Even those famous have got to go though the rigmarole of sorting out on calling on favours to get them out of the slammer, namely Dallas Austin. Other famous people that have been caught include the DJ Grooverider. Whether you are caught with a speck of dust on you or some drugs in you bag, expect the penalty to be harsh.It’s a minimum of 4 years in prison for this type of offence. The UAE is harsh on ‘drug smugglers’, and those bringing in banned substances, whether this is ‘in their system’ or in their luggage. So, if you have taken some banned substance and it is found in your blood, urine or person, you are guilty. It’s as simple as that.
You should also beware that some medication features on a controlled substance list, and so drugs that you may take normally in another country are illegal here. There was a case of Tracy Wilkinson (aka Codeine Tracy) a few years back who was a British citizen and was allegedly found with Codeine in her system. Drugs such as Codeine and Valium are banned here and you can spend the 4 years in jail for these substances.
You are likely to experience xanax withdrawal symptoms if you go to and stay in a country where the drug is banned. To avoid such an experience, it would be best if you go through drug detox to rid your system of the substance.
At the bottom of this page is a full list of Controlled Medicines and Medications. These items are essentially available only in hospitals and in large community pharmacies, under the prescription of doctors. The Ministry of Health advises that unlicensed, controlled medicines can only be imported into the UAE through hospitals and not by individuals.
However, the Drug Control Department of the Ministry of health does have special regulations for personal import of such items: patients or travelers carrying prescribed prescription medications must have their prescriptions issued by licensed doctors, attested by a notary, and duly authenticated by a number of other parties. I.e., this is a lot of trouble to go through. If you are intent on brining in the necessary drug, then it would be prudent to speak to the UAE Embassy in your country before you set out.
Essentially drugs that may be over the counter in your home country could be banned in the UAE. This could include many common cold and cough remedies. Various sleeping tablets, painkillers, anti-depressants and hormone replacement therapy drugs are banned in the UAE, as well as sex stimulants such as Viagra for example.