Illegal drugs

Lots of drugs are controlled by the law.

  • It is illegal to use, possess or supply certain drugs, including ones that haven't been prescribed to you.
  • Possession of cannabis is still a criminal offence.
  • You will be committing a crime simply by having prohibited drugs in your house.
  • The police can search anyone (and their vehicles) if they believe they have illegal drugs. This must be a reasonable belief, not one just based on prejudice.
  • Glue and other solvents are not illegal substances but a shopkeeper may be committing an offence by selling them to you, knowing or having reasonable cause to believe, that you may misuse them.
  • A person convicted of possession or supply of drugs faces the risk of a prison sentence.

There are no hard or soft drugs, no good or bad drugs. It all depends on what people do with them and the circumstances under which drugs are used. The legal status of a drug also tells us little about the amount of damage it can do. Tobacco and alcohol individually cause more damage and deaths than all the other drugs put together.

People may have problems with all sorts of drugs, from sleeping tablets to heroin. Taking drugs which haven't been prescribed to you can be dangerous. Never mix drugs and alcohol.

If you think someone has become ill through taking drugs and/or alcohol, send for a doctor at once. He/she will not tell your parents or the police.

If you are thinking about using illegal drugs, there are a few extra things you need to consider. The first is, do you really want to break the law?

Is it really worth it?

Even though lots of people, even professionals, use illegal drugs, that isn't a defence in the eyes of the law; some of the drugs could be less harmful than some of legal ones but if you get caught you have committed a criminal offence and if prosecuted you will have a criminal record. This could well affect the type of career you want to pursue, especially if you want to join the police or security forces, for example.

It is also worth knowing that it is illegal to allow people to consume or supply drugs in your house or car, even if you don't use them yourself. Sharing drugs with friends is classed as "supplying" and is a much more serious offence than "possession".

What's in it?

Chemical based drugs like ecstasy and LSD are difficult to produce in a pure form, so the quality and strength varies from batch to batch. This can cause problems as it is difficult to know the effect of a set dose. Some less scrupulous dealers will also sell people fake drugs that contain none of the product and sometimes contain dangerous substances. This is particularly the case with drugs in a pill form, when any pill can be sold instead, be it a dog worming tablet, an aspirin or a laxative!

Powder based drugs such as heroin and amphetamine are often less than 20% pure as they have been diluted with other powders such as talc or glucose. Apart from a lot of money being spent on a little bit of the drug, the other substances added can cause physical damage to the body, especially if they are injected directly into the bloodstream. Injecting any drugs with unclean equipment can lead to other infections and if the needle or other injecting gear has been contaminated with someone else's blood, there is a further risk of infection by HIV or hepatitis. Clean needles and advice about safer injecting are available from exchange schemes and drug projects, but the clear message has to be don't inject drugs.

Who's really in control?

Many professionals disagree as to which drugs are addictive, what addiction is and if there is such a thing as "hard" and "soft" drugs. However, they would agree that no matter what the substance, some people will have a problem because of it.

Most people start off using a drug socially because they enjoy it. The major danger is that the experience can be so good that they do it again and again and again – until they do little else! The drug becomes such a major part of their life it can cause social, physical, mental, financial or legal problems for them, not to mention the problems that it can lead to with the immediate family and the wider community.

All drugs should be given the respect they deserve. Be aware that deciding to experiment with drugs can have long term effects.

One young person said "I was off my head most of the time with my mates but we got into trouble 'cos it got expensive and anyway I couldn't stop. So I went to this place, a drugs project, and they helped me sort things out"

Where to find out more

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