Skip to content

Alcohol & Drugs Abroad

Alcohol & Drugs AbroadDrugs & Alcohol


Your right to drink is governed by local laws. You are obliged to adhere to those laws. While the age limit may be lower in other countries, other laws may apply to your behavior or actions, e.g., being a public nuisance.

Unprotected Sex and Sexual Assault

Alcohol use can result in a number of sexual consequences, including unprotected sex and sexual assault. Most sexual assaults involve the use of alcohol on the part of the perpetrator or the victim. Alcohol misuse can result in impaired judgment, which can put you at risk for either committing a sexual assault or becoming the victim of a sexual assault.

Additional resources on consuming alcohol abroad:


Illegal Drugs

  • Do NOT consume drugs unless they have been prescribed to you. Do NOT take drugs even if people claim that they are "safe".

  • Just because a drug is legal in a country does NOT mean that it is OK for you to consume it.

  • The effects of a drug on your body will depend on many factors. Do NOT take the risk. The consequence can be death.

  • Watch your drink and how it is prepared. Watch the bartender/server take caps off bottled drinks. Drugs can be slipped into your order.

  • In some countries, possession of illegal substances can result in imprisonment without trial or capital punishment.

Leave any space where drugs are used, even if you are not consuming the drugs. If the police raid the space, you could be implicated based on your presence in that space.

Alcohol and Drug Laws in your Host Country

Important Warning from U.S. Department of State Regarding Drugs Abroad

Every year, several hundred Americans are arrested abroad on drug charges. Persons caught with illegal drugs in a foreign country are subject to the drug laws of that country, not those of the U.S.; as always, ignorance of the law is no excuse. In many countries, the burden of proof is on the accused to show that he or she is innocent of the charges.

Some Americans take advantage of an offer of an all-expenses-paid vacation abroad in exchange for carrying a small package in their luggage. When, to their surprise, they are caught, the fact that they did not know that there were drugs in that package will not reduce the charges against them.

Every aspect of a drug arrest abroad can be different from U.S. practice. For instance:

  • Few countries provide a jury trial;

  • Many countries do not permit pre-trial release on bail;

  • Pre-trial detention, often in solitary confinement, can last several months;

  • Prisons may lack even minimal comforts, such as beds, toilets, and washbasins;

  • Diets are often inadequate and require supplements from relatives and friends;

  • Officials may not speak English;

  • Physical abuse, confiscation of property, degrading treatment, and extortion are possible;

  • Persons convicted may face sentences ranging from fines and jail time, to years of hard labor, and even the death penalty;

  • Penalties for drug possession and for drug trafficking are often the same abroad, so possession of one ounce of marijuana could result in years in a foreign jail.

As with any arrest of a U.S. citizen abroad, consular officers perform a variety of services. For more information about arrests abroad, see