You might think that people who talk about the risk of drug use are scaremongering. Talk of people going mad, moving on from occasional use to more frequent use of harder drugs, it might all seem extreme but there are genuine risks attached. Drugs are unpredictable and illegal drugs are unregulated so you can never really know what you’re getting.
Drug use is common in young people and this includes the student population. Some people try drugs and decide it’s not for them, some people use drugs occasionally and can take or leave them and others go on to become more frequent users. Around 50 percent of young people admit to having tried at least one recreational drug, most commonly cannabis. It’s likely that you will be offered drugs at some point in your life, if you haven’t been already and it’s important to remember that it’s your body and you have to decide for yourself how to treat it. Understanding the law, the effects and the risks could enable you to help yourself or someone else who is in trouble.
The following factors all increase the risks when using drugs:
Some drugs are stronger when they’re added to other ones making mixing drugs extremely dangerous. Certain combinations mask the symptoms of an overdose and even prescription drugs mixed with recreational ones can pose huge risks, including death.
’Supply’ doesn’t just mean dealing or selling drugs in large amounts. It also includes selling tiny amounts of drugs to friends or giving them away for free. Having drugs on you or at home is classed as possession, that includes storing or carrying them for someone else. Being found with a large amount of drugs on you carries more serious penalties.
Driving under the influence applies to drug driving as much as drink driving and you can be charged under the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Letting people take drugs in your house can get you a conviction, even if you don’t take any yourself. You could get thrown off your course at uni if you get caught with drugs. If you get a major drug conviction it can affect your future job prospects. Major drug convictions can also affect your freedom to travel in the future
Pure Ecstasy is MDMA, a stimulant with very mild hallucinogenic effects. It is mainly sold in pill form and newer pills contain less MDMA so are more likely to contain other drugs. It is also referred to as E, pills, tablets, XTC or names based on the pictures on the pills. Side effects can include anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia, epileptic fits, dehydration, overheating, collapse and death.
The long-term effects of ecstasy are uncertain, but may include memory loss and depression.
This stimulant made from leaves of the coca shrub is sold in wraps of whitish powder and is also known as coke, charlie, powder, beak or gack. The risks include psychological dependency, damage to nose, heart attacks, overdose, anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction. Overdose is more likely when injected.
A smokable form of cocaine which is sold in small lumps and is also known as base, wash, stones, or rock. The risks include cravings, addiction and overdose.
Lysergic acid diethylamide is a hallucinogen which is sold dotted onto paper squares, or in tiny tablets or capsules also known as acid, trips and tabs, which are swallowed.
The risks are panic or paranoia which can lead to accidental or deliberate injury. Users can also suffer flashbacks, where part of the trip is relived, weeks or months and in some cases even years after taking acid.
Most commonly Psilocybe semilanceata mushrooms, which grow naturally in Britain and can be either picked fresh or bought dried. They are also known as ‘shrooms, mushies, majicks and are eaten raw, cooked or made into tea. The risks are picking the wrong type of mushroom and being poisoned, bad trips, diarrhoea, flashbacks.
Possessing raw mushrooms is not illegal. If they are prepared for use they are Class A.
This drug made from morphine, extracted from opium poppies is also known as Brown, smack, H, horse, skag, gear.
Heroin gives the user feelings of comfort, relaxation or sleepiness and can also cause sickness and vomiting.
Risks of heroin use include overdose, constipation, coma, infection, physical dependency, abscesses from injecting and sharing needles, as well as the risk of HIV/AIDS.
A synthetic opoid used in the treatment of heroin addiction.
The effects are similar to those of heroin but can last up to 24 hours longer, meaning heroin users attempting to withdraw do not need to take methadone as frequently.
Methadone is a powerful drug, excessive doses can lead to overdose or coma. Misuse can also be fatal. It is a very addictive drug, and tolerance will increase with use.
Class A also includes any class B drug prepared for injection
Maximum penalty for possession: Seven years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Maximum penalty for supply: Life sentence and an unlimited fine.
Synthetic stimulants, up to 95% impure sold as an off-white, greyish or pinkish powder that may contain small crystals, or small pills and known as speed, whizz, or uppers.
The risks include irritability, aggression, paranoia, psychosis, overdose and addiction. Injecting makes overdose more likely and increases the risk of HIV and hepatitis infection.
The leaves or tips of the Cannabis sativa plant which contains the active ingredient THC. It has many names including marijuana, weed, hash & grass and can be smoked as a joint, smoked in pipe or eaten. Risks include paranoia, anxiety, nausea and heavy use may affect short-term memory. Strains of cannabis are getting stronger leading to its reclassification from C to B.
Maximum penalty for possession: Five years in prison and a fine.
Maximum penalty for supply: Up to 14 years in prison and a fine.
An anaesthetic with painkilling and hallucinogenic properties, it comes in tablet, liquid or powder form. The drug is intended to be used by vets as a sedative and anaesthetic. It may also be known as Green, K, special K, super K or vitamin K. Common effects include out-of-body experiences, hallucinations and temporary paralysis. As with LSD and other hallucinogens, the effects of taking ketamine are influenced by the user’s mood and environment. Because ketamine numbs the body, users run the risk of serious injury without even realising they’ve been hurt. Because of it’s dissociative effects, a ketamine hit can be an alarming experience, even for those used to taking other drugs. Excessive doses can cause serious breathing problems, unconsciousness or heart failure.
Tranquilizers are designed to have a calming effect but should only be used on prescription. Tolerance builds up, which means you need to take more to achieve the same effect. It is also to become dependent and withdrawal can be very difficult. If combined with other drugs, especially alcohol, fatal overdose can occur.
Designed to treat muscle weakness after surgery, sports enthusiasts claim steroids make them able to train harder. If they are taken as part of a strict exercise regime, they can help build muscle mass. They can also help users recover from exercise faster.
Maximum penalty for possession: Up to two years in prison and a fine.
Maximum penalty for supply: Up to five in years prison and/or a fine.
These are the maximum penalties and given in a Crown Court, they don’t usually apply to first-time offenders or people caught with tiny amounts of drugs. In a Magistrates Court, where less serious offences are dealt with, the maximum sentence is six months imprisonment and a £5000 fine. In court, the sentence given will also depend upon:
If someone is taken ill while you’re in a club, try to find the first aider and if it appears serious call an ambulance.
Here are some tips that may help you deal with some of the common side effects of drugs but if in doubt you should always call for help.
If someone is freaking out and showing signs of anxiety or panic, lead them away from bright lights and loud noises. Try to calm them down by talking to them and reassuring them. If you are unable to get through to them you need to call for help.
Many drugs, like alcohol can cause dehydration. Couple this with the temperature in a crowded club and it’s easy to overheat. The signs include dizziness, tiredness, cramps in arms and legs, dark urine and difficulty urinating. If someone appears overheated sit them down in a cooler, quiet place and get them to sip a pint of water very slowly.
Splash a little tepid water on their face or neck or wipe them down with a damp towel.
If someone collapses it should always be treated as an emergency and an ambulance should be called. Try to gently bring them round and loosen any tight clothing they’re wearing, but don’t shake them hard.
Check to see if they are breathing, and, if they are breathing put them into the recovery position on their left side with their right arm and leg bent, making sure their head is back and their airway is open. If they are not breathing, they need mouth-tomouth resuscitation. If you don’t know how to do this, put them into the recovery position and wait for help to arrive.
Talk To Frank
General information and advice about all street drugs. Call 0300 123 6600 open 24hrs every day.
Young Addaction Liverpool provides support for young people between the ages of 10-25 who wish to reduce or give up drugs and alcohol.
They offer an outreach service which works in communities in Liverpool. Outreach delivers drug and alcohol awareness sessions to young people that are known to use drugs or alcohol. These sessions aim to increase awareness and promote harm reduction. Sessions are carried out in schools, Universities, training providers and youth centres across the area.
They also offer a breakfast club, where anyone under the age of 25 can call in for breakfast and have an informal chat with a project worker if they want to. Young Addaction offer a variety of services including:
Advice & support
One to one key work to reduce or stop substance use Family support & intervention
Risk management & harm reduction
Referrals are accepted for any young person who lives in the Liverpool area and who are using drugs or alcohol. This is usually via standard referral form, which is available on request. Alternatively referrals can be made over the phone.
Opening hours are: Monday to Friday 9am5pm. Wednesday 9am-7pm.
Contact: Young Addaction Liverpool 65-67 Hanover Street Liverpool L1 3DY 0800 0196 197 (free from a landline) 0151 706 9747