When people talk about drugs they usually mean illegal substances that people take for a variety of reasons. Different drugs have different effects but they can change the way you behave or how you feel.
Drugs come in many forms too. Cannabis is often smoked, while ecstasy is usually taken in the form of a pill. Cocaine is normally sold as a powder that you snort and heroin is a solution that a lot users inject.
Some drugs are very addictive and it can be difficult to stop taking them. There are also a lot of risks with taking drugs and some serious health effects.
Because drugs are illegal they are not regulated. That means you can never be sure what’s in them and what you’re taking. Even if you’ve tried something before and been fine, taking it again could affect you in a different way.
There are many effects of taking drugs. What effect they have on your behaviour and mood will depend on the type of drug it is. Drugs can be broadly split into three categories: Stimulants, which make you feel like you have lots of energy.
Depressants, which make you feel relaxed and chilled out.
Hallucinogens, which distort your perception of reality and may make you see things that aren’t there.
Some drugs will have mixed effects and you can experience more than one thing at once. Different people can also react differently to the same drug, so you can’t know how you’ll react the first time you take something.
If you use drugs often they can have a negative effect on your life. They can affect your physical and mental health. You might fall out with your family and friends. You could get behind with your school work. If you’re addicted you might find it hard to cope without drugs and do dangerous things to get your next fix.
There are also long-term side effects on your health if you take drugs regularly. The health effects vary depending on the drug.
Let’s look at cannabis as an example. Regular and heavy cannabis use can increase your risk of developing mental health illnesses like schizophrenia when you get older. Using cannabis regularly can also affect how your brain works. It can make it harder to learn and concentrate. If you smoke cannabis you will also have all the side effects associated with smoking. That includes an increased risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease and other respiratory illnesses.
If you want to learn about the long-term effects of different drugs, take a look at the information provided by Frank.
What are Class A drugs?
In the UK illegal drugs are divided into three classes. Class A drugs are the substances that have the worst impact on you when you take them and also on society as a whole. Cocaine, heroin, magic mushrooms, ecstasy and LSD are all Class A drugs.
The harshest penalties for drug possession and supplying are for Class A drugs in UK law.
There are also Class B and Class C drugs. These are still illegal but are not considered as harmful as Class A drugs. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to take them. All illegal drugs have serious effects.
Class B drugs include amphetamines, cannabis and codeine. Class C drugs include ketamine, GHB/GBL and anabolic steroids.
My friends say cannabis isn’t that bad. Does that mean it’s ok to try it?
Cannabis is a Class B drug and is illegal. That means it isn’t considered safe. Cannabis use is often associated with feeling relaxed and chilled out, but that isn’t the only effect it has. It can make you hallucinate. Cannabis can also make some people feel anxious or paranoid.
Smoking cannabis regularly when you’re young can affect how you learn. That means you may not do as well at school. It can also mean you aren’t motivated.
There are also strong penalties for having and supplying cannabis. If you are caught with cannabis by the police they will take some action. They will confiscate the drugs and you could face a warning, a formal caution, a fine or even get arrested.
If you give your friends cannabis without taking any money this is still considered supplying. You could get up to 14 years in prison for this.
You shouldn’t let your friends put pressure on you to try any drugs. Just because other people take cannabis doesn’t mean it’s ok. If you’re not comfortable with the situation you should say no and leave.
What’s a legal high? Is it legal to take this kind of drug?
Legal highs are substances that have been produced to give the same or similar effects to illegal drugs. Although it isn’t illegal to possess these drugs it is illegal to sell or supply them. It’s also against the law to advertise them for human consumption.
Don’t let the name ‘legal high’ fool you. These drugs aren’t safe. You also won’t know what’s in the drugs you buy. Some legal highs actually contain illegal substances. They can have serious health risks that are similar to drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.
Taking legal highs can also have serious effects. They might make you excited or paranoid. They can reduce your inhibitions. In some cases they can cause seizures, comas and even death.
I’m worried about a friend who has started taking drugs. What can I do?
If you’re worried about a friend taking drugs you should start by talking to them about it. Be aware that this may be a sensitive subject for them. They might not want to talk about it. Or they may not believe they have a problem.
Think about how you want to start the conversation. Let them know you are there to support them. Don’t be judgemental when you talk to them. If they won’t listen to you and you’re still worried you should tell someone. Talk to an adult you can trust to get some advice.
You could also try doing things with them or going to places where they won’t be tempted to take drugs.
What’s an overdose?
An overdose is when someone has a bad reaction to a drug. It happens when they take more of the drug than their body can cope with. That means there is no set amount you have to take to experience an overdose. For some people one ecstasy pill can be enough, for example.
The signs of an overdose are different depending on the drug. Drugs like cannabis, ecstasy, LSD and magic mushrooms can make someone very anxious or panicked. People who overdose on ecstasy and speed can also become really hot and dehydrated.
Other substances can make people really drowsy. This can happen if you overdose on heroin, tranquillisers or things like glue or aerosols.
In some cases people fall unconscious when they overdose. If this happens you should call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance. Put the person in the recovery position while you wait for help to arrive. When the ambulance gets to you tell them what the person has taken and give them any drugs you have left.
An overdose can be very serious and in some cases can lead to death. If you’re worried about someone who’s taken drugs you should get help from an adult. Be honest about what you’ve taken so that they know what they’ll need to do.
I’ve started taking drugs but I want to stop. Will I get into trouble if I ask for help?
Admitting that you have a problem with drug use is an important step. If you’ve decided you want to stop taking drugs there is help out there for you. People will want to support you to stop taking drugs, so you won’t be punished for telling someone that you have a problem and need help.
If you’re worried about how your friends and family will react you can talk to a confidential helpline like Frank. They can give you advice and support about what to do next. The phone lines are available 24/7 so there’s always someone to talk to.
There are some things you can try to help get through your addiction. Get rid of any drugs you have left by flushing them down the toilet. Avoid going to places where you would normally take drugs. That might mean you don’t see some of your friends as much.
Find new hobbies and interests that can distract you from wanting to take drugs. You should also think about why you started taking drugs in the first place. If it was to escape from other issues in your life you should consider speaking to a counsellor about them.
What will happen if I get caught with drugs?
The penalties for drug possession and supply vary depending on the drug. If the police find any drugs on you they will confiscate them. What happens next will depend on: The drug you had How much of the drug there was How old you are Whether you have been in trouble with drugs before.
If it is the first time you are caught with drugs and you don’t have much on you, you may just get a reprimand. The police will call your parents if you’re under 18 too. The police can also give you a fine or a formal caution. They can also arrest you. This can mean you get a criminal record and this can make it difficult when you’re applying for jobs or university when you get older. The penalties for drug possession can be harsh. If you are caught with cannabis and prosecuted you could face up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Did you know?
-24% of 15 year olds have tried drugs at least once
-45% of patients admitted to hospital for poisoning by illegal drugs were aged 16 to 34
-Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among young adults aged 16 to 24
Addaction helps people change their behaviour to become the very best that they can be. It could be their drug or alcohol use or worries about their mental health – we support people to making lasting change in their lives
Please be aware that this is NOT for emergency help. CLICK HERE for information on emergency help.