What is a drug?

Any substance that changes the way you think, feel or behave.  Drugs affect how your brain and body work; this can have very serious effects on your health and how you think and feel.  It is important to know that all drugs have the potential to cause harm and that every time someone takes a drug they are taking a risk.

Not all drugs are illegal, medicines like paracetamol are also drugs, and some drugs such as alcohol, caffeine and tobacco are legal (with some restrictions on who can buy them).  Remember that just because a drug is legal, it does not mean it is safe.

Key facts:

Most drugs can be put in 3 categories:

Stimulants (uppers)

These are drugs like Amphetamines (Speed, Bubble) Cocaine or Ecstasy. They can make you feel over confident and happy, chatty and energetic and not worried about what might happen. But they can also make you feel anxious, panicky, confused.  These types of drugs can put a strain on your heart and nervous system and give your immune system a battering, so you may get more colds, flu and sore throats. People often struggle to sleep and eat after using stimulants, so will often feel quite low and down after using them.   Nicotine (found in cigarettes and e-cigs), and caffience are both stimulant drugs.

Depressants (downers)

These are drugs like Cannabis, Alcohol, Heroin and Painkillers . Depressants slow your system down, so can reduce concentration, slow down your reactions and make you feel tired, forgetful or physically unsteady, placing you at risk of accidents.  If someone takes too much they may be sick, or become unconcious (pass out). 


Drugs like LSD, Magic Mushrooms and Ketamine can make people see, hear and experience things that others can't.  This is called a trip.  A bad trip can be really scary. The effects of hallucinogens can make you behave strangely, and make you vulnerable.


Drugs & the Law

The Misuse Of Drugs Act (1971) is the law that controls the classification of illegal drugs.

Drugs are classed as A,B,C depending on how harmful they are considered to be.

Class A drugs

Heroin, Cocaine, Crack Cocaine, Ecstasy (MDMA), LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Methadone and Methamphetamine.

Class B drugs

Amphetamines, Barbiturates, Cannabis, Ketamine, Methylphenidate, Synthetic Cannabinoids.

Class C drugs

Anabolic Steroids, Benzodiazepines (Diazepam) GHB, GBL.

New  Psychoative Substances (NPS)

New Psychoactive Substances are also known as Legal Highs.  They often provide similar effects to other illegal drugs. Some of these new substances are not yet controlled under The Misuse Of Drugs Act 1971 and there is often not enough research about them to know how they affect people,


They first became popular as a 'legal' alternative to illicit drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy and were sold a festivals etc, but it quickly became obvious that a lot of these drugs are really risky, and left people feeling very poorly.  A number of people have died after taking these substances.  We know that many 'legal highs' sold under brand names like Clockwork Orange, Bliss, Mary Jane, Vertex and Spice have been directly linked to poisoning, and emergency hospital admissions.


The 'New Psychoactive Substances Act' was created in May 2016 to put some controls around the production of NPS.  The key things to know are:

  • Chemicals used to make NPS are not allowed to be sold/imported
  • It is illegal to sell or distribute NPS
  • It is not illegal to possess some NPS (unless they are already banned)

This can seem a little confusing; and its hard to fully know which substances are already illegal. You cannot be really sure of whats in a 'legal high' that you have bought or been given, or what effect its likely to be on you or your friends.


 So with all this in mind, it may be easier to avoid NPS altogether.  Most people who have tried them tell us they are not worth the risk!

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