Recreational Drugs & TEFL Teachers

By drugs we are referring to so-called recreational drugs such as cannabis and alcohol etc.

This article looks at traveling with drugs and using them while you are living in a foreign country as a teacher of English.

Note that this article does not discuss the moral issues of using drugs but looks at the practicalities of the situation. The information presented here is true to the best of our knowledge but as it contains legal information we cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions; when it comes to using drugs it’s your choice and you must deal with consequences – no one else is liable but you!

Traveling with Drugs

First off we would advise very strongly against traveling with any kind of drugs even if the country to which you are leaving allows them and the country where you’re heading allows them. The risk of being caught somewhere along the line is just far too high and the sentences are often extremely severe!

it may sound obvious but every so often the papers report on a TEFL teacher who thought they could get away with going through airport security with a small pouch of drugs. And penalties range from having the drugs confiscated to being deported to being executed (Saudi Arabia‏‎ has a regularly enforced death penalty for breaking their drug laws). So beware and again, we suggest that you don’t even think about it.

Use of Drugs In-Country

If you are a recreational drug user then the first thing to find out is what the local laws are regarding drug use. These can vary greatly and taking marijuana as an example it is, for example:

  • legal to buy and use in Uruguay
  • effectively legal in the Netherlands, Peru‏‎ and Cambodia
  • ‎decriminalized in Russia‏‎, much of South America, Spain‏‎ & Italy
  • ‎illegal (but often overlooked) in India, Canada‏‎, Mexico‏‎ and the United Kingdom
  • illegal in some of the USA‏‎, much of Asia, much of Eastern Europe, France‏‎ and much of Australia
  • illegal with severe prison sentences or even the death penalty in Indonesia‏‎ (in 2013 an English teacher with 1 gram of marijuana and 2 joints faced a sentence of up to 12 years for possession here)

So if you want to use drugs the first thing to do is find out whether they are legal, illegal or what the situation is regarding them, especially as regards quantity. Some personal use may be allowed but how much can you realistically have on you to be within that limit?

Once you are in-country and decide to scout out some drugs, it may sound obvious but be circumspect. As well as the legality issue there is also an issue of what your school may think about drug use. It is thus probably best to keep your professional life well away from your drug life and never let the two meet.


Whilst alcohol (and tobacco) are freely available in most countries bear in mind that a number of countries do in fact ban its use. Although the penalties for possession of alcohol are not usually as strict as for other recreational drugs care should still be exercised in those countries where it is illegal.

The following countries have laws either partially or fully banning alcohol:

  • Afghanistan
  • Brunei
  • India (some areas)
  • Kuwait
  • Libya
  • Pakistan
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sudan
  • UAE‏‎ (some areas)
  • Yemen

Many countries also have laws about where and when alcohol can be served. Some towns have local bylaws as well so it is always best to keep and eye out and see what the locals do first before deciding to open a bottle at a local park, etc.

One common surprise for many Americans is that the legal age for drinking alcohol is often much lower in the rest of the world!

Health Checks

Some countries – notably South Korea require their teachers to have regular health checks. This is a fairly standard test looking at chest/lungs, ECG, heart, weight, eyes, blood, etc. The test also includes a drug test which does not include hair testing but does include a urine test which checks for THC, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. in 2008 the Ministry of Justice decided to leave out the cannabinoid check.

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Posted in Finding TEFL Jobs, Teaching Around The World.

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