A to Z guide to common drugs

From alcohol to illegal drugs


Alcohol – Booze, Bevvies

Young people are usually aged between 13-14 when they have their first alcoholic drink without their parents' knowledge. Read our advice about underage drinking

  • Effects - after a couple of drinks people can feel relaxed and less reserved. A few more drinks can make someone more talkative, cause their speech to become slurred and make them physically uncoordinated.

  • Problems - alcohol can become dangerous in large quantities. Long-term drinking can cause physical and mental damage. Being drunk can cause people to become more vulnerable to violence, theft and assault.

  • The law - at 18 it is legal to be sold alcohol.

Amphetamines - Speed, Billy, Whiz, Phet

Young people may use amphetamines at clubs and parties or at exam times and situations where they want more energy. Read our advice about what parents should know about drugs or visit Talk to Frank for more information about drugs and alcohol

  • Effects - the drug makes users feel energised and excited. It also suppresses the appetite therefore people use it to help with dieting.
  • Problems - after effects can include mood swings, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, low energy levels. Long term usage can cause the user to feel depressed and paranoid.
  • The law - Class B drug possession means up to five years prison plus a fine. Supplying means maximum 14 years imprisonment and a fine


Cannabis - Dope, Hash, Weed, Pot, Skunk, Ganga, Zoot, Spliff, Green

This is sold as a hard or crumbly resin or as a dry herb. Buds of the cannabis plant contain more drug than the stalks and leaves. Is it usually smoked with tobacco in a roll up. There are lots of different types of cannabis, including Skunk, Sensimilia, Purple Haze, etc.

  • Effects - users feel relaxed, giggly and talkative.
  • Problems - can feel anxious, paranoid and forgetful.
  • The law - Class B drug possession means up to five years prison plus a fine supplying means maximum 14 years imprisonment and a fine

Cocaine and Crack - Coke, Charlie, White, Snow, Sniff, White Lady

Cocaine is bought as a white powder. It is normally sniffed but can be prepared for injection. Crack comes in the form of 'small rocks' and can be smoked and injected. Read our article on how to talk to teens about drugs

  • Effects - users feel confident and strong.
  • Problems - users become dependent on the drug and find themselves running into crime and violence due to the high price of it.
  • The law - Class A drugs possession means up to seven years in prison and a fine supplying can mean life imprisonment and a fine


Ecstasy - E, Beans, Pills, Doves, Apples

Ecstasy is common on the club scene.

  • Effects - energy, followed by calmness.
  • Problems - some people suffer from sickness and experience stiffening of arms and legs and in particular their jaw. Ecstasy-related deaths seem to be due to heatstroke from overheating in a club atmosphere as ecstasy can dehydrate the body, drinking too much fluid and high blood pressure.
  • The law - Class A drug possession means up to seven years in prison plus a fine supplying ecstasy can mean life imprisonment


GBL is a party drug which is particularly popular amongst university students, and can be fatal when taken with alcohol. It caused the death of 21 year old student Hester Stewart in Brighton in 2009. Its dangers were highlighted when 22 year old Mikaela Tyhurst revealed how her looks and health had been ravaged after taking GBL over the previous four years. Read more about teenage parties

  • Effects - GBL has the same effects as GHB – which is also classified as a Class C drug and known as ‘liquid ecstasy’. Produces feelings of euphoria, reduce inhibitions and cause sleepiness.
  • Problems -  potentially serious consequences when taken with alcohol or other depressant or sedatuve drugs. 
  • The law - GBL was made illegal in December 2009. It is now classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs act 1971. Anyone caught with this drug can get up to two years in prison or an unlimited fine. 


Heroin - Smack, Junk, H, Brown, Gear, Skag

Comes as a white, greyish or brown powder. Often smoked it can also be injected or sniffed.

  • Effects - reduces physical and emotional pain and gives warm, drowsy feeling to allow users to forget their problems.
  • Problems - First time users are usually sick and it can take weeks/months to become 'hooked'. Overdosing on heroin is a major risk as street heroin is mixed with other substances. Overdose can mean falling into a coma or even death. Withdrawal symptoms can mean flu-like symptoms - sweating, shaking.
  • The law - Class A drug possession means up to seven years in prison plus a fine supplying can mean life imprisonment and a fine


Ketamine - Green, K, Special K, Super K

Powerful anaesthetic drug with medical uses which is usually sold as a white crystalline powder or tablet.

  • Effects - painkilling effects as well as altering perception. Low dose users might feel euphoric, and higher dose users might hallucinate.
  • Problems - numbness and unexpected muscle movements as well as feeling sick. Large doses can lead to unconsciousness.
  • The Law - Class C Drug possession can mean up to two years in prison and a fine supplying can mean 14 years imprisonment and a fine.



Khat - Qat, Quat, Chat

Khat is a leafy green plant and the leaves are chewed. 

  • Effects - similar effects to Speed, more talkative and more energy, appetite supressant. 
  • Problems - can lead to insomnia and confusion. High use can lead to high blood pressure and heart palpitations. 
  • The Law - Khat is now a class C drug which means that you can go to prison for two years for possession or much longer for dealing. It will also be an offence to bring Khat into the UK from other countries. 


LSD - Acid, Tabs, Trips

Sold as small squares of paper with cartoon designs. These are swallowed and take up to half an hour to have an effect. A trip can last for as long as 12 hours.

  • Effects - drug changes the way that users see and hear things. There is heightened self-awareness and users can hallucinate.
  • Problems - 'bad trips' can be frightening. Users might feel anxious and accidents can occur when users are not in control of their faculties.
  • The law - Khat is now controlled as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act.


Magic Mushrooms - Shrooms, Mushies, Magics

Generally only available during the autumn in the wild. They can be eaten either raw or cooked, made into a tea or smoked. 20 mushrooms would be a usual dose.

  • Effects - hallucination can occur. It takes around half hour to take effect and can last for as long as nine hours.
  • Problems - picking a poisonous mushroom by mistake.
  • The law - Class A drug possession can mean up to seven years in prison and a fine supplying can mean life imprisonment and a fine.

Mephedrone - Meow Meow, M-Cat, Drone, Bubbles, Bounce

Mephedrone (often called 'meow meow#) is a powerful stimulant and belongs to a group of drugs that are closely related to the amphetamines - including amphetamine itself (often called 'speed'), methamphetamine and ecstasy. There is very little evidence about mephedrone and what long-term effects it has, but there have reports of people hospitalised due to the short-term effects. Also, you can never be entirely sure that what you're buying is actually mephedrone and not something else.

  • Effects - Euphoria, alertness and feelings of affection towards the people around you, anxiety and paranoia, can also overstimulate your heart and circulation; and can overstimulate your nervous system, with risk of seizures.
  • Problems - Not enough long terms tests have been done. It is said to be highly addictive too. There were six deaths involving mephedrone reported in 2010 in England and Wales.
  • The law - Mephedrone is a Class B drug, so it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.


Tobacco - Ciggies, Fags, Tabs

5% of thirteen year olds smoke a cigarette or more a week. Around 1/3 of older teenagers smoke on average more than 10 cigarettes a day.

  • Effects - first time smokers often feel sick and dizzy. One or two cigarettes increase pulse rate and blood pressure.
  • Problems - users quickly become physically dependant on cigarettes. Long-term smoking can result in heart disease, blood clots, heart attacks and lung infections.
  • The law - selling any tobacco products to anyone under 18 is illegal.


Volatile substances (solvents)

Used by younger teenagers, these are particularly dangerous as they can kill unpredictably, even first time users. Substances misused can include nail varnish removers, aerosols, butane gas, glues, petrol, dry cleaning fluid.

  • Effects - sniffers feel light headed, dizzy and as if they are drunk. Some users might experience hallucinations.
  • Problems - fainting and vomiting can occur. If a user becomes unconscious they can choke on their own vomit.
  • The law - it is illegal for people to sell volatile substances to someone they know is under 18 years old and who is going to sniff them.

Visit Talk to Frank for more information for young people about drugs and alcohol. 

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