Inspite of what you may be told by popular culture there is no such thing as a safe drug. This is especially true of modern cannabis.
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Common substances of misuse fall into four broad categories. These are:
Stimulants include cocaine and crack cocaine, amphetamines (speed) and amyl nitrate. Ecstasy (3,4 Methylenedioxymethylamphetamine - or MDMA) is both a stimulant and a hallucinogen.
Crack is not soluble in water and the relatively large crystals are usually smoked.
Cocaine in any form is a Class A drug. It is illegal to produce, supply or possess it. It is also illegal to allow premises to be used for the supply, production or consumption of cocaine. Penalties are high.
Amphetamine, dextramphetamine, and methamphetamine are collectively referred to as amphetamines. Their chemical properties and actions are very similar. These drugs stimulate the central nervous system.
Amphetamines are Class B drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is illegal to produce, supply or possess them.
Nitrates are popular in clubs and also as a sex drug, sometimes said to be used for its muscle relaxant properties, but more often for added stimulation at the time of orgasm. The purchase of Amyl nitrite is controlled but Butyl nitrite can be bought from sex and other speciality shops, or in clubs. Amyl nitrite can only be issued by pharmacists, but it is not illegal to possess this drug.
Cocaine and crack cocaine interfere with the chemistry of the brain, especially with regard to the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine; amphetamine stimulates the release of adrenalin, whilst nitrate inhalants cause the blood vessels to dilate.
Depressants slow down the central nervous system. Apart from alcohol, the two types of depressant most commonly open to misuse are barbiturates, such as Seconal and Nembutal, and benzodiazepines like Vallium and Mogodon.
Barbiturates used to be commonly misused in the 1950's and 1960's, but because of their addictive properties and association with suicides and accidental deaths, their use as medicines has been reduced significantly since the 1970's. The illicit market in these drugs has become smaller because of their reduced availability.
Barbiturates are Class B drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is illegal to produce, supply or possess them.
Benzodiazepines have now become drugs of misuse. Vallium, Librium and Temazepam, the most commonly abused tranquillisers, are often taken with alcohol. These two types of drug amplify each others effect.
Benzodiazepines (e.g. Temazepam) are classified as Class C drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. It is an offence to possess them without a doctor's prescription. It is an offence to supply them to another person. However, if Temazepam is illicitly prepared for injection, then it becomes a Class A drug under the 1971 Act. Penalties for possession and/or supply of Class A drugs are very high.
Analgesics are chemicals that provide relief from pain. Paracetamol and aspirin are examples of mild analgesics.
Far more powerful pain killers are derived from the fruit of the opium poppyPapaver somniferum. These include heroin, morphine and codeine.
Heroin is a Class A drug. It is illegal to supply or possess it. Penalties are high.
Drugs similar to heroin, such as morphine, opium, methadone, dipapanone and pethidine are also Class A drugs. Codeine and dihydrocodeine (DF118) are Class B drugs unless they are prepared for injection when they become Class A drugs.
There are some synthetic analgesics that are also powerful and subject to misuse. Methadone, physeptone, diconal, pethidine and palfium are some examples.
Methadone is a class A drug and it is only legal for a person to possess methadone if it has been prescribed for that individual. If prescription for an individual involves drinking the methadone syrup within the clinic or pharmacy dispensing it, possession of the drug outside of those premises would constitute an offence - it would be unlawful possession.
The maximum sentence for unlawful possession of methadone is 7 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The maximum sentence for supplying methadone (including giving some to a friend) is life imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
Cannabis is the most widely used illicit drug in the UK, with up to 3 million consumers per year. It is most commonly smoked.
Cannabis is now a Class C drug. It was reclassified in January 2004.
It is illegal to grow, produce, supply or possess cannabis, except under special UK Home Office licence. It is also an offence to allow premises to be used for growing, producing, supplying or using cannabis.
Hallucinogens are unique in that they do not have any legal medical application and are all drugs of misuse.
The most common hallucinogens are LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide), ecstasy and psilocybin (magic mushrooms).
LSD and ecstasy are Class A drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is illegal to produce, supply or possess them. The offence of supply - in the eyes of the law - can be committed by giving a single dose to another person.
If you believe you, a friend or loved is using drugs and is addicted, please do not hesitate to contact Fullstop Addiction Services, this is the first step on the road to recovery.