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Basic alcohol & drug awareness

For drug and alcohol factsheets including signs of overdose pleasee our Drug & Alcohol Factsheets.

Legal status and effects of drugs

Categories of Drugs

Drugs can be simply classified in two ways: by their legal status and by how they affect the body.

Legal Status

Drugs listed as ‘controlled drugs’ are divided into 3 categories, A, B, and C, with different penalties. Class A drugs are considered the most dangerous and have the highest penalties.

Penalties for posession and dealing of drugs

CLASS OF DRUG

PENALTIES FOR POSSESSION

PENALTIES FOR DEALING

Class A
Drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstacy, LSD, magic mushrooms and amphetamines (if prepared for injection)
Up to seven years in prison and or an unlimited fine
Up to life in prison and or an unlimited fine
 
Class B
Drugs include amphetamines and cannabis
Up to five years in prison and or an unlimited fine
Up to 14 years in prison and or an unlimited fine
 
Class C
Drugs include tranquilisers, some painkillers, GHB and ketamine
Up to two years in prison and or an unlimited fine
Up to 14 years in prison and or an unlimited fine
 

New Psychoactive Substances (Legal Highs)

Not all drugs which are misused are illegal, for example alcohol and prescription drugs can be misused.

New Psychoactive Substances  more commonly known are 'Legal Highs’ are now classified as illegal under the New Psychoactive Substances Act 2016. They can produce the same or similar effects to illegal drugs. You will not be prosecuted for possession only for being concerned in the sale or supply of these psychoactive substances to another.  They are just as harmful as illegal drugs.

How they affect the body

Drugs can be classified as depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens.

  • Depressants (downers) slow the body down and have a calming effect;
  • Stimulants (uppers) cause the body to speed up, increasing heart rate and breathing;
  • Hallucinogens (trips) alter perception, the way you see, hear, feel, smell or touch the world.

Understanding these categories can help people recognise signs of drug use. Some drugs cross categories, e.g. ecstasy has both stimulant and hallucinogen effects.

For more information on these and other drugs see the A-Z of drugs on the Know the Score website.  For information on how to reduce the harm caused by alcohol visit Alcohol Focus, where a large library of infomation is available.

Depressants

Depressants (downers) slow the body down and have a calming effect.

Read more about Depressants

Hallucinogens

Hallucinogenics (trips) alter perception, the way you see, hear, feel, smell or touch the world.

Read more about Hallucinogens

Stimulants

Stimulants (uppers) cause the body to speed up, increasing heart rate and breathing.

Read more about Stimulants

New Psychoactive Substances - NPS (Legal Highs)

These are made to produce the same or similar effects to illegal drugs

Read more about NPS