Japan releases American held for 18 days over prescription

AP News
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Posted: Mar 10, 2015 2:19 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon woman detained for 18 days in Japan over a shipment of prescription pills for attention-deficit disorder now plans to return home.

Carrie Russell, 26, was in Japan to teach English. She takes Adderall, a drug that is commonly prescribed in the United States but contains amphetamines, which are strictly outlawed in Japan.

Japanese authorities detained her Feb. 20 at a restaurant where she was eating with friends, and they held her in a women's detention center.

Members of Congress and U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy worked for Russell's release.

Russell told The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1888ygv) she was shocked to be arrested, but the detention facility was "not anything terrifying."

She said she had bento meals, did daily chores and added to her four-word Japanese vocabulary, such as how to say "refill my water." Russell said she was not held in solitary confinement, as her family initially was told, and she was unaware of the attention focused on her imprisonment and the diplomatic efforts to end it.

She said she hopes to return to Japan, probably to teach English as she did in South Korea.

"In spite of this," Russell said, "I love Japan."

Her mother, Dr. Jill Russell of Hillsboro, sent a three-month supply of the pills to Carrie Russell in South Korea. The daughter then reshipped the unopened package from South Korea to Japan, along with some household goods.

The pills were prescribed by Carrie Russell's doctor, Michelle Mears.

The family wrote an apology letter, saying they did not intend to break the law.

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon announced Carrie Russell's release late Monday, saying he was "thrilled that common sense has won the day."

Among those who worked for her release was Loren Podwill, her stepfather and a lawyer at a prominent West Coast law firm.

Podwill was told of Carrie Russell's pending release and flew to Japan to meet her. He said she looked and sounded exhausted.

"We hope that Carrie will have learned things that will make her a better person, and will have educated American travelers to the risk of not checking first to make sure that your prescription drugs are legal where you're going," he said.