Drugs can be split into three categories:
- Stimulants, which speed up your body’s system – e.g. cocaine or ecstasy
- Depressants, which slow down your body’s system – e.g. alcohol or heroin and opium-related painkillers (morphine, codeine)
- Hallucinogens, which cause you to hallucinate – e.g. LSD or magic mushrooms
A legal drug is a substance that causes you to feel or act differently, but which is not against the law to buy or sell. For example, alcohol is a drug, but people over 18 can buy and drink it (though it is against the law for adults to buy alcohol for
people under 18).
Sometimes young people use other legal substances, such as sniffing petrol and glue. It is important to remember that these substances were not designed to be sniffed and can have a dangerous effect on the body. Just because a drug is legal does not make
Sometimes people are prescribed legal drugs by their doctor and then use them inappropriately, for example by taking too many of them. This is still very dangerous, even if the drugs are legal. Some people will also buy drugs that are legal from drug
dealers instead of being prescribed them by their doctor. In this case, the drug that they are buying might not be the real drug at all, which creates an added danger.
Illegal drugs are drugs that you are not allowed to make, sell or buy. You can be arrested and face fines or time in prison for doing so. However, if you decide to get help remember that this will be treated as confidential, and will not lead to police
involvement. For more information on illegal drugs see the websites further on in this resource.
There are other types of drugs which used to be called ‘legal highs’ that contain chemicals that produce similar effects to drugs like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy. They are now called ‘new’ or ‘novel psychoactive substances’,
and are illegal to make or supply. They include things like ‘Spice’ and ‘mephedrone’. You can find out more about them on the Drugwise website.
When buying illegal drugs, you are unlikely to know what is actually in them or how strong they are, and could end up taking something very dangerous.