Simple, accurate health tests for the home and the workplace.

Drug Classification


The 1971 Act (amended through the Criminal justice 2003 Act, which came into effect in 2004) divides drugs into three classes depending on the degree of harm deemed attributable to each drug. In turn the maximum penalties for being convicted of an offence under the Act are fixed according to the class of drug.

The drugs which are deemed most harmful are in class A and those deemed least harmful are in class C. Within each class, penalties are highest for trafficking offences and lower for possession.

Maximum penalties

ClassDrugPossessionSupply and production
ACrack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth)Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or bothUp to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
BAmphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine)Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or bothUp to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
CAnabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khatUp to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids – it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use)Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Temporary class drugs*Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivativesNone, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drugUp to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.

Psychoactive substances

You can also get a penalty for ‘psychoactive substances’, eg laughing gas.

Psychoactive substancesPossessionSupply and production
Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with othersNone, unless you’re in prisonUp to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above don’t count as psychoactive substances.

  • Any class B drug in injectable form is treated as a class A drug.
  • Tried before a Magistrates court.
  • Tried before a Crown court.
  • Includes supply, offer to supply, production, import and export. The same penalties apply to allowing premises to be used for supply. Unauthorised import or export is prohibited by the Misuse of Drugs Act but is an offence under the Customs and Excise Management Act, so fines on summary conviction
    can reach three times the value of the goods seized.

Selected list of controlled drugs

Drugs are listed in alphabetical order of their non-proprietary name. Common trade (or proprietary) names of those marketed for medical use in the United Kingdom are given in brackets.

DrugSchedule 1986 RegulationsClass (1971 Act amended through the Criminal justice 2003 Act)
Amylobarbitone (Amytal)3B
Butobarbitone (Soneryl)3B
Cannabis and cannabis resin1B
Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)4C
Codeine (Actifed, Phensedyl)2&5B
Dexamphetamine (Dexedrine)2B
Dextromoramide (Palfium)2A
Dextropropoxyphene (Distalgesic)2&5C
Diazepam (Valium)4C
Diethylpropion (Tenuate)3C
Dihydrocodeine (DF 118)2&5B
Dipipanone (Diconal)2A
Flurazepam (Dalmane)4C
Lorazepam (Ativan)4C
LSD, lysergamide1A
Meprobamate (Equanil)3C
Methadone (Physeptone) (EDDP)2A
Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy)1A
Methylphenidate (Ritalin)2B
Nitrazepam (Mogadon)4C
Opium, medicinal2&5A
Opium, raw1A
Oxazepam (Serenid)4C
Pentazocine (Fortral)3B
Pentobarbitone (Nembutal)3B
Pethidine (Pamergan)2A
Psilocin and related compounds, found in Liberty Cap mushrooms1A
Quinalbarbitone (Seconal)2B
Temazepam (Euhypnos)3C
Triazolam (Halcion)4C

Maximum penalties under the law:

Possession2 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine
Supplying/dealing:14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine
Possession with intent to supply:14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine