Major drugs, their effects & legal status

The Facts

Here are descriptions of the major drugs used, their effect and consequences of long term use as well as their legal status in the UK.

If you are struggling with use of any one or combination of the below substances then contact Home Counties for assessment and support.

Amphetamines

Speed, Billy or Whiz

Amphetamine is a synthetic stimulant. It comes in powder form (sometimes pill form) and is usually white, yellowish or a pink colour. It is snorted, injected or ingested and it takes effect after about half an hour.

But as the body’s energy levels reduce the user is prone to feelings of anxiety, irritability, restlessness and dizziness. Amphetamines also increase weight loss and are often used for this effect.

Users can develop tolerance to amphetamines with increased use, withdrawal is primarily emotional, but users may experience a mild physical withdrawal including feelings of depression, lethargy and extreme hunger.

Amphetamines are illegal and is currently a class B drug in the UK.

  • feelings of wakefulness
  • alertness
  • increased confidence
  • sociability
  • physical or mental activity

Benzodiazepines

Valium, Diazepam

Benzodiazepines are prescription only medicines under the Medicines Act. They can be abused and bought illegally on the black market. This can be dangerous as there are no guarantees concerning strength and quality.

They are usually prescribed for short term treatment of anxiety and sleep problems. When taken at low doses tolerance does not develop to a great extent, but when people use large amounts their tolerance can develop rapidly and there is a danger of dosage increase and resulting addictive behaviours.

Withdrawal symptoms can last from several days to several weeks, and in some extreme cases, months. A medically assisted detox is strongly recommended along with therapeutic intervention.

Benzodiazepines are illegal unless they are prescribed by a GP and they are currently a class C drug in the UK.

  • anxiety
  • cravings
  • insomnia
  • panic
  • hallucinations
  • heightened sensory awareness
  • depression
  • seizures (if withdrawal too abrupt)

Cannabis

Marijuana, Cheese, Dope, Pot, Puff, Weed

Cannabis is mostly smoked with tobacco in joints but can be smoked pure in bongs or pipes. It is available in the form of resin, dried and chopped leaves and – rarely in the UK – oil. The main active compound in cannabis is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This is perhaps the most commonly used drug in the UK.

The effects of the drug are varied (dependant on the individual and the strength of the drug) These effects will vary depending on the person, the environment and the potency and amount of the drug used. Cannabis use is strongly linked to various mental health conditions such as schizophrenia and depression. Withdrawal is largely emotional with anxiety related physical manifestations.

Cannabis is illegal and is currently a class B drug in the UK.

  • euphoria
  • laughter
  • vivid sensations
  • imagery and hallucinations
  • persistent ideas
  • paranoria

Cocaine

Charlie, Chang, White, Gear, Coke, Snow

Cocaine is commonly found in the form of a white crystalline powder, and is usually snorted but is can be made into a solution and injected (although this is rare).

As a stimulant the effects of cocaine are closely related to amphetamines and crack in that they create physical and mental arousal by stimulating the nervous system. When cocaine is snorted the effect is almost immediate and then peaks and fades within 15 – 30 minutes. This often results in users repeating their use almost every 20 minutes or so in order to maintain the desired effect. This can lead to strong addictive and compulsive behaviours as well have a hugely detrimental financial impact.

The snorting of cocaine can lead to mucosal constriction and eventually perforation of the nasal septum. Long term cocaine use can impact the heart and lead to issues in the area. When combined with alcohol it can be especially dangerous in terms of sudden heart attack. Withdrawal is largely emotional with anxiety related physical manifestations.

Cocaine is illegal and is currently a class A drug in the UK.

  • feelings of wakefulness
  • alertness
  • increased confidence
  • sociability
  • physical or mental activity

Crack

Freebase, Rocks, Stone, White, Light

Crack is a smokable crystallised form cocaine although the effects are even more stronger and more short lived. They take effect immediately and last for about 10 minutes.

Crack is usually smoked and the resulting effects can lead to particularly aggressive and paranoid behaviours. Crack is highly addictive and can lead to strong addictive and compulsive behaviours as well have a hugely detrimental financial impact. Often used in tandem with heroin, these substances are often combined for injection which is known as snowballing.

Heavy and regular use can cause feelings of nausea, restlessness, insomnia, over-excitability and weight loss. Withdrawal is largely emotional with anxiety related physical manifestations.

Crack is illegal and is currently a class A drug in the UK.

  • feelings of wellbeing
  • exhilaration
  • increased confidence
  • loss of appetite
  • indifference to pain & fatigue
  • hallucinations
  • paranoria

Ecstacy/MDMA

XTC, Molly, Mandy, Pills

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