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Drug misuse in the UK

This article contains information relating to the origins of drugs, types of drugs and the signs and symptoms of taking drugs, which in some cases leads to death.
Handling and use of the drugs mentioned in this article is against the law and if caught supplying, using or smuggling illegal drugs you will be presecuted under the Misuse of Drugs act 1971 and potentially face a heavy custodial prison sentence.

For confidential drugs advice talk to FRANK - 0800 77 66 00

Drug use

Misuse of drugs is becoming a familiar aspect of every day life, and is not specific to any given society. It can be said that there is no social or cultural lifestyle where the use or misuse of intoxicating drugs is not an occurrence.
Drug abuse has become noticeably increased in all areas of society i.e. the rich and the poor, but even more so in the young and up and coming professionals through the student culture.
As has always been the case curiosity and following the crowd adds to more people becoming involved in taking drugs.
In social circles taking drugs appears to be the normal thing to do. Today’s celebrities (supposed role models to our children) don’t help; there are often news articles relating to people in the public eye being involved in taking drugs in some form. A very bad example for the younger generation who are lead to believe it’s ‘cool’ to do as their idols do.

Drug usage can be broken down into two main areas:

  • Affluent users (recreational/experimental use)
  • Habitual users – the construction of lifestyles to support an addiction to drugs and the resulting criminal behaviour to feed drug habits.

Drug Terminology

This refers to ones expectations of what will happen when they take a particular drug.

This refers to the physical, social and cultural environment in which the drug is used.

What may have added to the increase in drug use?

  • Improvements in communications, i.e. mobile phones
  • The different methods of taking drugs, for example injection, buccal (administration through the mucosal membranes lining the cheeks - buccal mucosa), oral and transdermal (delivered across the skin for systemic distribution).
  • Technological developments in the production and manufacturing of drugs.
  • Spread and growth of illegal covert jungle (e.g. in Columbia) and street laboratories.
  • The spread of global communications through the World Wide Web.

Types of drug use

These can be categorised a follows:

  • Experimental
  • Recreational
  • Dependent
  • Psychological
  • Medicinal

How do drugs arrive into the UK

Drug smuggling is becoming more sophisticated and imaginative all the time in an attempt to avoid Customs and frontier controls.
Drugs can be smuggled in a variety of methods through major ports and airports. However smugglers employ other methods using smaller general aviation aircraft and pleasure boats either using airfields or remote stretches of coastline.

This can be put into context when you consider that annually:

  • 23 million passengers arrive into the UK through various airports from over 175 destinations worldwide.
  • 115 thousand tonnes of air freight arrives into the UK.
  • 670 thousand sea containers arrive into the UK.
  • 10 million tonnes of sea cargo arrives into the UK
  • 654 thousand sea passengers arrive at various ports with in the UK

Customs and frontier control officials have to police this vast amount of traffic in order to try and apprehend potential drug smugglers.

What is a drug?
A drug is any non food substance whether legal or illegal that changes or alters the mental or physical capabilities or health and well being of a person.

Types of drugs and their effects


Types of stimulant drugs:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamine
  • Ecstasy
  • Anabolic Steroids
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco

Effects of Stimulants:

  • Drugs whish speed up the central nervous system to increase neural activity in the brain.
  • Caffeine and ecstasy make people feel more alert and awake and are sometimes referred to as ‘uppers’.


Types of depressant drugs:

  • Heroin
  • Alcohol
  • Solvents
  • Cannabis

Effects of depressant drugs:

  • Drugs whish slow down the central nervous system to suppress neural activity in the brain.
  • Alcohol, heroin and tranquillisers are depressants and sometimes referred to as ‘downers’
  • Large quantities make people feel sleepy
  • Very large doses can lead to fatal overdose as the vital systems of the body like breathing are slowed to a point where they stop.


Types of hallucinogenic drugs:

  • LSD
  • Ecstasy
  • Magic Mushrooms
  • Cannabis (skunk and hybrid)

Effects of Hallucinogens:

  • These drugs alter perception. The way you see, hear, feel, smell and touch your surrounding environment.
  • This can mean that your senses can get all mixed up or changed
  • People may see colours more brightly or hear sounds differently or say they can (synaesthesia – when two or more of your five senses that are normally experienced separately are joined together).
  • People might also see things that are not there.
  • LSD and magic mushrooms are the strongest type of hallucinogens

Drug Classification / Categories.

Class A

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine / Crack Cocaine
  • Ecstasy
  • Cannabis Oil
  • Opium
  • Prepared Magic Mushrooms
  • Any class B drug prepared for injection

Class B

  • Codeine
  • Amphetamine

Class C

  • Tranquillisers
  • Temgesic (contains buprenorphine and is a type of painkiller).
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Majority of prescription medicines.
  • Cannabis resin
  • Herbal Cannabis

Drug information and signs of drug use


  • Heroin is part of the opiates family of drugs which is derived from the opium poppy.
  • As well as being prescribed as painkiller, opiates have other medicinal uses such as cough suppressants and anti diarrhoea agents.
  • Heroin is a synthetically modified opium alkaloid known as diamorphine in its pure medical form.
  • Street heroin is a poor relation of medical heroin, usually brown instead of white, indicating a lesser quality opium paste.
  • A number of synthetic opiates are derived from heroin as painkillers, for example, Pethidine and Methadone.
  • Heroin comes from three main areas known as the golden triangle (Burma, Laos and Thailand) and the golden Crescent (Afghanistan and Pakistan).
  • At origin the heroin can be as much as 90% pure. By the time it arrives at the user it can be between 5% to 50% pure mixed with glucose powder, chalk dust, caffeine, baking powder, flour and talc.
  • Heroin can be swallowed, sniffed, smoked and injected.
  • If smoked, the heroin is heated on a piece of tin foil and then the fumes inhaled, commonly through a small tube. This is known as “chasing the dragon”.
  • Heroin is a sedative and as such depresses nervous system activity including reflex functions such as coughing, respiration and heart rate, dilating blood vessels and giving a feeling of warmth.
  • Heroin also depresses the bowel activity resulting in constipation.
  • In higher doses sedation takes over, the user becomes drowsy and contented
  • Excessive doses produce stupor and coma. Death from respiratory failure is possible.
  • Tolerance develops to heroin and to obtain the repeated euphoria the user must increase the dose.
  • After a period of time the user becomes addicted and requires the drug just to feel normal.


  • Amphetamines are synthetic stimulants similar in structure to norepiniphrine, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain.
  • There are three main types of amphetamine and speed the street name given to illicit amphetamine is a mixture of at least two of them.
  • Amphetamines are used as dieting aid (Adifax).
  • Other names used are speed, whiz, uppers.
  • 21% of 19 to 24 year olds have used amphetamines.
  • The drug was used in the Second World War and the Vietnam War as a stimulant to increase the performance of the troops. Adolph Hitler and John F Kennedy were also high profile users.
  • Amphetamines arouse and activate the user mush as the body’s natural adrenaline does in the face of emergencies or stress.
  • Breathing and heart rate speed up, the pupils widen and appetite lessons. The user feels more alert, energetic, confident and cheerful, less bored and tired.
  • With higher doses intense exhilaration, rapid flow of ideas and feelings of greatly increased physical and mental capacity are common.
  • As the body’s energy stores become depleted the predominant feelings may be anxiety, irritability and restlessness.
  • High doses over a few days can produce delirium, panic, paranoia, hallucinations and feelings of persecution (referred to as amphetamine psychosis) which disappear as the drug is eliminated from the body.
  • The effects of a single dose last between 3 to 4 hours, bit can take 3 to 4 days for the body to recover from.

Cocaine and Crack Cocaine

  • Cocaine is a white powder derived from the Andean coca shrub.
  • Cocaine has powerful stimulant properties similar to amphetamines.
  • Until 1904 Coca Cola contained Cocaine.
  • Cocaine is no longer expensive but is still regarded as the “jet set” drug.
  • Cocaine can be injected or sniffed.
  • Cocaine is commonly sniffed via a small tube and absorbed in to the blood supply via nasal membranes.
  • Crack is raisin sized rocks of cocaine that are smoked.
  • The effects of cocaine are similar to amphetamines; however the high only lasts a short time, between 15 to 210 minutes.
  • These effects are physiological arousal followed by exhilaration, feelings of well being, decreased hunger, indifference to pain and fatigue and feelings of great physical strength and mental capacity.
  • Sometimes these effects are replaced by anxiety or panic.
  • When smoked the effects of crack are almost immediate and very intense, but shorter lived.
  • Neither tolerance nor heroin like withdrawal symptoms occur with repeated use of cocaine but users develop a strong psychological dependence on the feelings of physical and mental well being afforded by the drug.
  • After discontinuing, the user will feel fatigued, sleepy and depressed. All of which reinforce the temptation to repeat the dose.
  • Dependence is more likely and more severe and its onset more severe if the cocaine is smoked.
  • Repeated sniffing damages the membrane lining of the nose and may also damage the structure separating the nostrils (septum).
  • Repeated smoking causes respiratory problems, and partial loss of voice.


  • Ecstasy or MDMA, known on the streets as “E” and many other things is classed as an hallucinogenic amphetamine.
  • The drug is produced in underground laboratories in the UK, Holland and in particular Belgium.
  • Ecstasy is usually sold in tablet form but can be purchased as a powder.
  • In tablet form they usually have a motif on the tablet (for example super heroes etc)
  • Due to the large profits available tablets sold as ecstasy may contain little or none of the drug but might concoctions of drugs such as amphetamines, LSD or Ketamine.
  • Because of its stimulant properties the drug is used socially where the user wants to stay up all night long.
  • The drug is usually taken orally, but it may also be snorted and even sprinkled onto a joint and smoked.
  • Effects are experiences after 20 to 60 minutes and last for several hours.
  • Once taken pupils become dilated, the jaw tightens and there is usually brief nausea, sweating, dry mouth and throat, some rise in blood pressure and heart rate and a loss of appetite.
  • There can be some loss of bodily co-ordination making it difficult to operate machinery or drive.
  • Once stopped there may be residual effects similar to amphetamine users including fatigue and depression lasting for several days.
  • Taken in quantity these effects are experienced more acutely.


  • Cannabis is an illegal substance.
  • Cannabis is derived from three main cannabis plants (sativa, indica and ruderalis) found growing wild in most parts of the world and easily cultivated in the UK.
  • Only the leaves of the female plant are of any use.
  • It is generally used as a relaxant and mild intoxicant.
  • Cannabis is the most widely used illegal; drug in the UK.
  • Over 8.5 million people have tried it at least once.
  • The commonest form of cannabis in the UK is resin which is scraped or rubbed from the plant and then compressed into brown blocks.
  • Cannabis is usually smoked in a “joint” often with tobacco. The herbal form without tobacco.
  • The most important psychoactive ingredients are the tetrahydrocannabinols or THC.
  • Nowadays cannabis with a very high THC content (commonly known as Skunk and northern lights) is grown in the UK from seeds imported from Holland.
  • In the UK, cannabis is generally smoked with tobacco in a joint or spliff, but can also be smoked in a pipe, brewed into a drink or cooked in food.
  • The effects depend largely on the expectations, motivations, and mood of the user, the amounts used and on the situation in which it is used.
  • The most common effects are a pleasurable state of relaxation, talkativeness, bouts of hilarity and a greater appreciation of sensory experiences including sound, colour and taste.
  • Higher doses bring on feelings of perceptual distortion, forgetfulness and confusion of thought process.
  • This can lead to temporary psychological distress and confusion which can occur particularly amongst inexperienced users or if the user is feeling anxious or depressed. The effect is known as cannabis psychosis.

GHB – Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate

  • GHB is a depressant drug that slows down body actions.
  • GHB is sold in small bottles.
  • Small doses feel like having a few drinks of alcohol.
  • Inhibitions are lowered and libido is increased.
  • Higher doses cause sleepiness, nausea, vomiting, muscle stiffness and confusion.


  • Rohypnol is a tranquiliser.
  • It is ten times more powerful tan Valium.
  • Its medical use is for short term relief of severe insomnia, to induce sleep at unusual times and as an anaesthetic.
  • It has been described as a date rape drug after being placed into the drinks of females.
  • A dye has now been added that turns drinks blue.
  • It works by depressing activity in the part of the brain that controls emotions. The drug blocks transmission of electrical impulses, reducing communications between brain cells.
  • After placing in a drink it induces a trance like state.


  • Ketamine is a powerful anaesthetic drug that is used for operations on animals.
  • People originally took it in the belief that it was ecstasy however it is now becoming a drug of choice.
  • Ketamine usually comes as a white crystalline powder of tablet.
  • Ketamine causes a phenomenon called the “K Hole” where users experience a detached experience which is followed by numbness of the limbs and strange muscle movements.
  • Ketamine is a Class C drug which means that it is illegal. Possession can result in up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else can result in up to 14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.


Mobile phones and driving – What is the Law?




*Source - Automobile Association (AA)

Hand held mobile phone laws and driving offences involving use of a mobile phone
Since 1st December 2003 it has been a specific offence to use a hand held mobile phone while driving. From February 2007, drivers caught using a mobile phone while driving have received a £60 fine PLUS three penalty points on their licence. In December 2007, new guidance was issued stating that those involved in more serious accidents would also be charged with dangerous driving and face a prison sentence of up to two years.

Prosecution and court
If an individual refuses to accept the fixed penalty, or the officer who stopped the driver feels that the offence committed was so severe that a fixed penalty is simply inadequate, then the case may end up in court. If this happens fines will almost certainly be larger and disqualification is also possible. The maximum fine in a court is £1000. If the driver is driving a bus or a goods vehicle the maximum fine is £2500.

Serious offences using a hand held mobile phones when driving
The above offences apply if the driver is seen using a phone. If there is an accident, or careless driving has been witnessed while the phone is being used, drivers can also be prosecuted for careless driving or dangerous driving. In the worst case scenario, if someone is killed, they may also be prosecuted for causing death by careless or dangerous driving. If a death is caused, fines can be much greater, and a prison sentence becomes almost certain.

Hands free mobile phones
Hands free mobile mobiles are excluded from the above, however if a driver is seen not to be in control of a vehicle while using a hands free phone they can still be prosecuted for the offence just as if they were using a hand held phone.

Employers (or other callers)
Employers may be open to prosecution if:
• they cause or allow an employee to drive while using a phone or to not have proper control of the vehicle
• they require an employee to use a phone whilst driving
• an employer may be liable if an employee drives dangerously because they are using a phone installed by the employer

Cyclists using mobile phones
It is not an offence to cycle and use a hand held mobile phone, however it is still possible to be prosecuted for careless or dangerous cycling.

Calls may be made to 999 or 112 (the Eurpean Union universal emergency number) in a genuine emergency where stopping is unsafe or impractical.
Other devices that send or receive data, such as hand held internet devices are not exempt, however one exception is a two way radio (devices used by Police and other law enforcement organisations).

Mobile phone use - Guidelines
to use a hand held mobile phone while driving OR while stopped with the engine switched on (this also applies to a hand held mobile phones on loud speaker - having the phone on loud speaker does not make you exempt from the law and any penalties you acquire). This applies to any use of the phone, for example making/receiveing calls, using the internet, using smartphone apps and texting at the wheel.
If you have a hands-free phone, stop to make or take a call. If this is not practical leave it to voicemail. If you really must talk keep conversations short and tell the caller you will find a safe and legal place to stop and phone back. By using a hands free mobile phone while driving, although you are not breaking the law, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of committing other offences caused through lack of concentration.

Employers should issue specific company advice on mobile phone use as part of their internal contractual policies and procedures.

Find a solicitor specialising in Motoring Offences in the Solicitors Directory


Should the UK leave the EU?

It's all well and good jumping on the UKIP band wagon; assuming Britain will be better off leaving the EU, but do people really know the full facts? All that seems to be published in the newspapers here in the UK are biased articles about stopping the vast numbers of Europeans from settling over here and how that in itself will help the UK economy etc etc.... Maybe there is some truth in that but there are many pros and cons to be considered.

If we leave the EU (a non biased independent view):


We wouldnt have to 'open our doors' to the citizens of the nations within the EU
We wouldn't have to allow the right of citizens of the EU to work here
Restricting such movement will mean less strain on our public services saving the UK money

There is an arguement that immigrants aid the UK economy by filling holes in our labour market boosting productivity
The free movement of people within Europe is a two way thing. It's estimated that over 700,000 Brits live or work in the EU; many have seconds homes abroad, therefore, if we restrict the number of people coming in it is likely other countries will respond and disallow this to continue.

Budget and Business

We wouldnt have to contribute millions to the EU budget helping to reduce the UK deficit

Of the amount contributed we also receive a rebate in subsidies, many agricultural
The % of contributions made into the EU is miniscule against the deficit % of GDP in the UK
Payments made into the EU budget aid Eastern European countries in building their infrastructure making them bigger potential markets for British goods and services
We would lose EU regulation (of which a large amount of the contribution made is for) - a good example of how this would affect the every day person is the mobile phone industry. The EU has insisted that mobile phone companies put a stop to over-charging customers using phones abroad. If we leave the EU we would have have to rely on British competition authorties to protect us.


Due to the Eurozone crisis levels of foreign investment in the UK could rise

Some argue whether foreign nationals would want to invest in the UK if we weren't part of the EU, which would mean our GDP would be approximately 2% lower

Imports and Exports

We would still be able to sell good to the EU so whats the problem?
There would still be a demand for importing from EU countries due to demand, such as German cars
British manufacturers may be encouraged to export to other countries around the world such as China

EU countries are the UK's biggest export market, supporting millions of jobs. Falling export growth would have a big impact on the UK economy, even pushing us into recession.
We import more than we export to the EU, therefore the government could impose tariffs on European imports due to the demand of certain goods

June 2013