Japan and Prescription Medication

Earlier this year I was walking in the sunny hills around Brisbane when a friend called in a panic. Her ex-husband was taking her kids to Japan a few days later. She had just learned that ADHD medication may be illegal to carry in. I had had coffee with her ex-husband, and given him some advice about travelling in Japan. The question took me by surprise. I had never come across this issue before.

So, I walked home, jumped on my computer, and did some research. I was shocked to learn that many prescription medications used around the world are banned substances in Japan. Once I read the information on the Japanese government pages, I began to understand why.

prohibited substances

‘The “designated pharmaceutical ingredients” which are sold in foreign countries/regions with advertisement on enhancing cerebral function and other mental effects,’ was the line which explained why many of these medicines are illegal. ADHD, anxiety, and other mental health disorders are not often diagnosed. Depression was not recognised as a real complaint until the late 1990s.

Some prescription medications, such as Adderall, are a stimulant. Carrying them into Japan is comparable to carrying cocoaine, and could lead to being detained, arrested, and charged. Even if you have a prescription from your doctor. Alternative medications which are allowed would be Ritalin, Concerta, or Vyvanse. These are considered psychotropic drugs not stimulants. However, if you require more than 1 month supply, you must apply for a Yunyu-Kakunin-sho. This is available from the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare in Japan. This is a kind of import certificate which you carry with you. You must declare to Customs Officers when you arrive.


Find the link to information about medications and The Japanese Embassy in Australia here. Read more about the importing of substances to Japan on the Health, Labor, and Welfare site of the Japanese Government here.

Many other substances used in medications around the world are banned in Japan. Here is a table of the drugs, their brand names, and what they are used for.

Many medications are available over-the-counter, but there is often no one who speaks English. If you think you might need it, and it’s allowed in the country, take it with you. I had a very bad experience with over-the-counter medication in Kyoto. read about it here.

table of prohibited substances
DrugBrand NameUses
AtenololTenorminhigh blood pressure
AdrafinilOlmifonincrease alertness
AniracetamDraganon, Sarpul, Ampamet, Memodrin, Referanmemory improvement (not available in the USA)
EtiracetamEtiracetamanti epileptic
OxiracetamOxiracetammild stimulant, aids memory formation
Dihydroergotoxine Meylate/ErgoloidHydergine, Hydergina, Germinal, Nilotic, Redizork, Alkergot, Cicanol, Redergin, Hydrinedementia, stroke, Alzheimer Disease
SomatropinNorditropingrowth hormone
Vasopressin TannatePitressin Tannateused after stomach surgery to prevent several kinds of issues
TianeptineStablon, Tatinol, Coaxilantidepressant
Desmopressin Acetate HydrateDDAVP, Minirinbed wetting, haemophilia, high blood urea, diabetes insipidus
Dehydroepiandrosterone DHEAPrasterone, Intrarosa, Diandrone, Gynodian Depotadrenal insufficiency
NadololCorgardangina and high blood pressure
NicergolineSermionsenile dementia and other vascular disorders
NimodipineNimotopruptured blood vessels in brain (subarachnoid haemorrhage)
VinpocetineCavintonstroke and dementia
PiracetamBreinox, Dinagen, Lucetam, Nootropil, Nootropyl, Oikamidcognitive enhancer, myoclonus
FurosemideUremide, Lasix, Discoiddiuretic for kidney disease and heart failure
Bromocriptine MesylateParlodelParkinson’s Disease, pituitary tumour
PramiracetamPramistarmemory and attention deficits in aged people with dementia
PregnenoloneEneloneAutism, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, MS, endometriosis
Procaine HydrochlorideNovocain(e)local anaesthesia
Propranolol HydrochlorideInderalhigh blood pressure, migraine, anxiety
LevetiracetamKepprapartial-onset, myclonoc and tonic-clonic seizures, epilepsy

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