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Education Abroad Office

Alcohol & Substance Use

All USC travelers are encouraged to research the cultural norms around alcohol use before traveling internationally, as they can vary widely from country to country. In many countries, alcohol may be more widely available than in the U.S., and drinking ages may be lower. In others, it may be extremely culturally inappropriate or even illegal to consume alcohol. 


If you do choose to consume alcohol while abroad, keep in mind that doing so can have health and safety implications. Keep the following points in mind: 

  • Consider the drinking culture and laws in your destination country. While the drinking age may be lower in some countries, it may be frowned upon to consume alcohol quickly, in large quantities, or without food. Drinking to get drunk is rarely seen as culturally appropriate, and binge drinking is viewed as disrespectful in many cultures. 
  • Conversely, alcohol consumption is illegal for people of all ages in some countries. Additionally, ublic intoxication is illegal in some countries. If you are arrested by local authorities, you will be subject to their jurisdiction.
  • Even if it is legal for you to consume alcohol in your destination country, it is not recommended that you consume excessive quantities as intoxication can make it more difficult to promote your health and safety. Intoxicated travelers are more likely to be victims of crime or injure themselves due in alcohol-related incidents. When you are in an unfamiliar place, alcohol use may further disorient you and expose you to additional safety risks. 
  • Stay in a group. Do not leave an intoxicated friend alone.
  • In some parts of the developing world, alcohol production may be unregulated. Consuming alcohol from unregulated sources may be especially dangerous. 
  • Mixing alcohol with certain prescription medications can be dangerous to your health. Review this publication for more information.

If you are struggling with an alcohol addiction, the United Kingdom chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) provides resources about AA meetings worldwide, and in English. USC's Substance Abuse Prevention and Education team is also an excellent resource.

Substance and Drug Use

DO NOT do drugs abroad – the penalties are much too dangerous! Despite what travelers may have heard about looser drug laws outside of the U.S., drugs are illegal in most countries and drug laws are often stricter. For example, in some countries:

  • Possession of a relatively small amount of illegal drugs can be grounds for mandatory sentences or even the death penalty.
  • It can be illegal even to enter the country with drugs in one’s system.
  • Purchasing prescription medications in quantities larger than considered necessary for personal use could result in arrest on suspicion of drug trafficking.

Once travelers have ventured beyond U.S. borders, they are no longer protected by U.S. laws or constitutional rights. There is very little anyone can do to help travelers if they are caught with drugs, and it is each traveler’s responsibility to know the drug laws in their destination county before prior to travel. Explaining to a foreign government, “I didn’t know it was illegal,” will not exempt a traveler from legal action. 

For your safety, do not accept packages from anyone. This is often a scam to trick travelers into smuggling drugs or contraband. If you carry a package that contains illegal drugs or substances, the fact that you did not know you were carrying it will not reduce the charges. Possession of contraband or paraphernalia associated with illegal drug use can also cause legal action.

If you are struggling with a substance additition, USC's Substance and Prevention Education team is an excellent resource.

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