Traveling Abroad While Under the Influence of Opioid Painkillers

Passport Travel Journey Trip Vacation Document

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, between 26.4 million and 36 million people worldwide abuse opioids, with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers [1].

It is often wrongly assumed that since a medication is given via prescription, that it is a controlled substance and safe for use. However, countless individuals become dependent on prescribed opioid painkillers and abuse these highly addictive substances, even when used per the recommendation of a professional.

Dangers of Traveling Under the Influence of Opioid Painkillers

With long-term use of an opioid painkiller, many people build a tolerance to the dosage they are taking. This often requires an adjustment to the dosage in order to feel the same painkilling effects created by the medication. Some individuals may take this into their own hands and begin to take more of their medication without consulting their physician/pharmacists.

Pisa Italy City River Autumn Toscany CitiesThis misuse of opioid painkillers can lead to many adverse consequences, which can be detrimental to the individual consuming the medication and those around them.

It is not uncommon for a person to travel while under the influence of opioid painkillers, particularly if they are dependent on these drugs to relieve pain while traveling or better cope with physical symptoms.

Symptoms of opioid painkiller abuse include feelings of sedation, nausea/vomiting, respiratory distress, flushed or itchy skin, dizziness and disorientation, and analgesia.

These symptoms can be particularly dangerous, especially while traveling and navigating through places that are less familiar.

Staying Safe While Traveling

If at any point while traveling you are experiencing the adverse symptoms of opioid misuse, keep yourself safe and seek out help immediately. While under the influence of an opioid painkiller, there is a possibility that choices can be made that will put yourself and others at risk.

Find a safe place you can rest, call a mentor or accountability partner, or visit the nearest emergency room for immediate help and support. To prevent this type of situation from occurring, consider postponing any and all traveling plans until you are able to adequately address any issues you might be having with opioid prescription painkiller misuse and/or addiction.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What do you think are some of the risks associated with traveling while under the influence of prescription opioid painkillers?


[1]: UNODC, World Drug Report 2012.

Crystal Karges photo

About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 22, 2016
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