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A-Z List of Drugs

list of drugsDrugs are everywhere around us, which is why it’s good to be aware of the current list of drugs and what they can do.

We’ve put together this A-Z list of drugs to help inform people about street and prescription drugs to help you understand more about the risks. Simply click on any names in the right-hand menu to learn more.


Why young people take drugs

Many parents worry about their child becoming involved with drugs and often feel they don’t know enough about drugs to help prevent their child from coming to harm.

It’s a common misunderstanding that a young person uses drugs because they must be having problems at school or home. There are, in fact, many reasons why a child may take drugs. Perhaps they enjoy the short-term effects or maybe their friends use them and it’s a social activity. They might just be curious or want to experiment, as a part of growing up. They could want to break the rules and think it will be fun and rebellious, without realising the consequences.

Types of drugs

A drug is basically something that changes the way you think or feel. Drugs include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, prescription and illicit drugs.

Drugs can be divided into the following groups:-

  • Analgesics – drugs which kill pain, e.g. heroin.
  • Depressants – drugs which slow everything down, e.g. alcohol, gases, glues and aerosols.
  • Hallucinogens – drugs which act on the mind, altering the way the user sees and hears things, e.g. cannabis, L.S.D. and magic mushrooms.
  • Stimulants – drugs which make everything seem as if they’re going faster, e.g. cocaine, crack, ecstasy, poppers, speed and tobacco.

What are some of the risks of taking drugs?

All drugs carry risks and drugs affect different people in different ways but the major risks involved with taking illegal drugs are:

  • The user may never know exactly what it is they are taking. What is bought is unlikely to be pure and you can never be sure what it has been mixed with.
  • You can never be sure what effect a drug might have, even if it has been taken before.
  • If drugs are injected and shared around, you are at greater risk of catching a dangerous infection such as H.I.V. or hepatitis B and C.
  • If you mix different drugs this can be very dangerous and that includes mixing alcohol with a drug.
  • Women who take drugs may experience heavier periods and some women’s periods have been known to stop.

Drugs and the law

A major risk with drug taking is that you could end up with a criminal record, which will have ramifications in your future, for example, with job prospects.

A first offender who is caught in possession of an illegal drug and has admitted that he/she has committed a criminal offence, may receive a formal warning or caution from the police.

If found in possession (being caught with an illegal drug for your own use) of a class A drug (e.g. cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, L.S.D.), there is a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and/or a fine. However, possession with intent to supply has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or a fine.

If found in possession of a class B drug (e.g. amphetamines), you may face a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment and/or a fine. If caught in possession with intent to supply (which can include giving and sharing drugs) it’s a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and/or a fine.

If you have a drugs record,  obtaining a visa to travel to some countries may become difficult or even denied.

Drugs in the workplace

Drug and alcohol abuse are significant social problems but they also feature in the workplace. According to the Government’s General Lifestyle Survey 2011, 10.8 million adults drink at levels that pose a risk to their health. Up to 45% of young workers (aged 16-29) and 40% of workers under 40 have experimented with illegal drugs. A survey by DrugScope and Alcohol Concern found that:

  • 27% of employers say drug misuse is a problem at work.
  • 60% have experienced problems due to staff drinking alcohol.

According to the findings of the 2014 crime survey for England and Wales, 8.8% of the working age population has taken an illicit drug in the past year. Research has suggested that the actual use of illegal drugs while at work is very low, however this could now be higher with the prevalence of home working.

Research gathered from 4,620 people in employment attending accident and emergency (A&E) departments in Wales (printed in the BMA 2017) found that:

  • 38 per cent reported having previously used drugs
  • 13 per cent reported using drugs in the last year
  • 7% reported using drugs in the last month

Cannabis was the most reported drug used in the last year (11%), followed by ecstasy (2.5%), amphetamines (2.3%), and cocaine (2.2%).

However, the use of prescription drugs at work is much more common. An estimated 1.5 million people are addicted to prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the UK, while many others use them occasionally. Many of these drugs can have a significant effect on performance, concentration and alertness.

What can I do if something goes wrong?

Sometimes drugs can make people very drowsy or even unconscious. People sometimes take drugs that make them panicky and, as a result, may start to hyperventilate, feel sick and dizzy. When taking ecstasy or speed there is a risk of overheating and dehydration.

If you see someone who is drowsy or unconscious : –

  • Make sure they have plenty of cool, fresh air.
  • Do not frighten or startle them.
  • Do not throw water over them.
  • Turn them on their side and put them in the recovery position (on their side).
  • Phone 999 (U.K.) immediately if symptoms persist or they become unconscious. Make sure you tell the ambulance crew that you believe drugs have been taken. If possible, give the suspected drugs to to the medical team.

If someone is getting panicky and breathing rapidly: –

  • Try to calm them down.
  • Help them to breathe slowly and deeply by counting each breath slowly in and out with them.
  • Keep them away from loud noises and bright lights. If in a club, get them outside.
  • Do not give them anything to eat or drink except small sips of water.
  • Talk quietly and keep telling them the panicky feeling will go away and that they will be okay.

Drug abuse facts and figures in Britain

  • 7,376 hospital admissions for drug related mental and behavioural disorders
  • 14% less than 3 years ago in 2015/16 (8,621), but still 30% higher than in 2008/09 (5,668)
  • Admissions were around 6 times more likely in the most deprived areas, compared to the least deprived areas
  • 18,053 hospital admissions for poisoning by drug misuse
  • A 6% increase on 2017/18, and 16% higher than in 2012/13 (15,580)
  • Admissions were around 5 times more likely in the most deprived areas, compared to the least deprived areas
  • 2,917 deaths related to poisoning by drug misuse
  • A 17% increase on 2017 (2,503), and 46% higher than ten years ago in 2008 (2,004)
  • 9.4% adults (16 to 59) had taken an illicit drug in the last year
  • 20.3% of young adults (16-24) had taken an illicit drug in the last year

Current information on drug statistics can be found in the following:

How to test for drug use

We offer a variety of drug and alcohol tests for the most common drugs. The tests are available with different testing strips so you can choose which drugs you want to test for. They are easy to use and are available for the home, workplace or for medical professionals. Take a look at our products to browse the range of drug testing kits.

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