Drugs, A - Z

2c

Class A

Drugs of the 2C family, such as 2CB, 2CT-7, 2CI and 2CE, have both psychedelic/hallucinogenic and stimulant effects. Their effects are a cross between ecstasy and LSD.  As hallucinogens or psychedelics they can make you see objects and reality in a distorted way and may cause hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren’t there). As stimulants they can make you feel awake and alert and may cause changes in your emotions.

These drugs are relatively new to the market and are not widely available in the UK.  Currently there's very little medical information about them.    

Key effects and risks of 2C drugs include:

  • An energy buzz with possible feelings of alertness, of being alive and of being in tune with surroundings –like ecstasy, particularly when taken at lower doses.

  • Headaches and nausea; and at high doses – more serious confused, agitated or even delirious states.

The 2C drugs have both psychedelic/hallucinogenic and stimulant effects, somewhere between ecstasy and LSD, these include:  

  • Users can feel really aware of colours, sounds and smells or experience distorted senses.

  • Hallucinations.

  • The body feels hypersensitive and you may become sexually aroused.

  • The effects have been reported usually to last from two to four hours but sometimes for some hours longer.

  • The more you take, the more intense and uncontrollable the experience will be.

Class B

2-DPMP is a powerful stimulant that has been found in the product ‘Ivory Wave’. It was taken as a ‘legal high’ and has amphetamine-like stimulant effects similar to speed. 2-DPMP effects can be both powerful and long-lasting, with effects that can last as long as 5-7 days - some users have had to go to hospital for help.

The related compounds D2PM and diphenylmethylpyrrolidine are also stimulants, with similar effects and risks to 2-DPMP.

The key effects and risks of 2-DPMP and related compounds include:

  • Feelings of euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and feelings of empathy.

  • Paranoia, hallucinations, severe agitation and muscle spasms.

  • Over-stimulation the heart and circulation.

  • Over-excitation of the nervous system – with risk of fits and dangerous overheating of the body.

There has been limited research of 2-DPMP, but the studies that have been carried out indicate that it is a very potent amphetamine-type stimulant. 2-DPMP is a long-lasting drug, capable of causing severe agitation, which can last for several days after a single dose.

Taking 2-DPMP or related compounds can induce:

  • Feelings of euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and feelings of empathy.

  • Chest pains, anxiety, insomnia, severe agitation, hallucinations and paranoia.

Alcohol is a depressant and generally slows down brain activity:

• A small amount can reduce feelings of anxiety and reduce inhibitions, which can help you feel more sociable.
• It can exaggerate whatever mood you're in when you start drinking.
• The short-term effects of alcohol can last for a day or two, depending on how much you drank, including any hangover.

• Long-term effects include damage to the brain, body and its organs. This can take years to develop and can lead to a wide range of serious health problems, like cancers, that you may not realise are due to alcohol.

Remember that the more you have of a drink, and the stronger the drink, the more units you are drinking.

Class A

Amphetamine-type stimulants [ATS] is the term used for amphetamine and a group of drugs that are chemically similar to amphetamine and have amphetamine-like stimulant effects. This includes:

  • amphetamine sulphate (aka speed)

  • dexamphetamine (Dexedrine)

  • methamphetamine (aka crystal meth)

  • other amphetamine-like drugs, such as 4-methylamphetamine (aka Ket Phet or Phet Ket)

  • PMA (paramethoxyamphetamine) and PMMA (paramethoxymethamphetamine)

  • ephedrine

  • mephedrone

  • MPA (methiopropamine)

  • some medicines, such as methylphenidate (aka Ritalin) used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and the related drug ethylphenidate

  • MDMA (methylenedioxyphenethylamine)

ATS are all stimulants, which people take to keep themselves awake, energised and alert. ATS can make you overactive, agitated or even psychotic.

ATS have been used in wars to help keep soldiers alert and they are the main ingredient in diet pills, because they stop people feeling hungry. 

Since there are lots of different types of ATS, there are differences in their effects and how powerful they are.

ATS can:

  • Make users feel very up, alert and energised, wide awake, excited and chatty. Clubbers take ATS to get the energy to dance for hours without getting tired

  • Have other effects that make clubbing and dancing more enjoyable, such as mild hallucinogenic effects, feelings of being ‘in tune’ with their surroundings and making music and colours more intense.

  • Produce empathic effects like feelings of love and affection for the people users are with and for strangers around them.

  • Stop people feeling hungry.

  • Lead to agitation, panic attacks or even a psychotic episode.

  • Have physical side effects like dilated pupils, a tingling feeling, tightening of jaw muscles, sweating, raised body temperature, headache and the heart beating faster.

  • Increase heart rate and blood pressure and can raise the risk of heart attack – the higher the dose, the greater these effects.

  • Lead to lowered inhibitions, which can lead to users taking risks that they wouldn’t normally take, such as having unsafe sex.

  • Give a high but this is often followed by a long slow comedown, making people feel irritable and depressed.

Class C

Steroids are drugs that mimic certain natural hormones in the body that regulate and control how the body works and develops. There are two main groups of natural steroids - anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. It is the anabolic steroids that tend to be misused, mainly because they are similar to the male hormone testosterone and they can improve endurance and performance and stimulate muscle growth. 

Some people take the anabolic steroids to help build muscles or to try and look more ‘manly’. Other people take them to improve how they perform at sports, such as sprinting and cycling.

The key effects of anabolic steroids include:

  • If taken alongside a strenuous exercise regime, they may help with faster recovery times and with the building up of muscle mass.  

  • They can make some users feel paranoid, irritable, aggressive or even violent, and they can cause dramatic mood swings.

  • They can sometimes cause unwanted changes in appearance.

  • They may help sports players train harder and longer.

Class B

Benzofuran compounds are stimulants like ecstasy and amphetamines (such as speed) which can cause:

  • Temporary feelings of love and affection for other people.

  • Feelings of anxiety or even panic attacks.

  • Paranoid and confused states.

  • A rise in body temperature which could lead to overheating.

  • Overdose and death.
     

    Benzofuran compounds, such as 6-APB, 5-APB, 5-APDB and 6-APDB are relatively new drugs, so not a lot is known about their long term effects. As they act like ecstasy and amphetamines it is likely that the risks associated with their misuse will also be similar.

It’s one of the most widely-used drug in the world.

  • Cannabis is naturally occurring - it is made from the cannabis plant.

  • The main active chemical in it is tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short).

  • THC is the ingredient in cannabis that can make you feel very chilled out, happy and relaxed.

  • THC can also make you hallucinate, meaning that it can alter your senses, so that you might see, hear or feel things in a different way to normal.

Cannabis has a number of different effects. It is classed as a sedating and hallucinogenic drug. Its effects can turn out to be pleasant or unpleasant:

  • Taking cannabis can make people feel chilled out, relaxed and happy, and they may get the giggles or become very talkative.

  • It can make you more aware of your senses, and the hallucinogenic effects can even give you a feeling of time slowing down.

  • It can make you feel very hungry – this is sometimes called ‘getting the munchies'.

  • Some people have one or two drags on a joint and feel light-headed, faint and sick. This is sometimes called a ‘whitey’.

  • Cannabis may cause feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic and paranoia.

Class B

The chemical ‘cathinone’ is a naturally occurring stimulant drug found in the plant, Khat.

Cathinones are the family of related chemicals, including cathinone and many synthetically produced chemicals, like mephedrone, methylone (M1) and MDPV. Cathinones are ‘cousins’ of the amphetamine family of drugs,  which includes amphetamine itself (speed) and MDMA (ecstacy), and which have similar effects. Cathinones were sold online and in headshops as so called ‘legal highs’ until they became Class B drugs in April 2010.

  • Cathinones can cause feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness.  In a situation of only recently-emerging evidence on what are the exact effects and risks each of the different cathinones, it is accepted that they broadly have a balance of effects similar to amphetamines (speed) and to MDMA (ecstasy).

  • The cathinones’ effects are similar to amphetamines (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy), producing feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness.

  • The negative effects of the cathinone family are also therefore considered to be similar to those of amphetamines and MDMA.

Class A

It can give a powerful high that can leave you feeling really down

Powder cocaine (also called coke), freebase and crack are all forms of cocaine. They’re all powerful stimulants, with short-lived effects – which means that they temporarily speed up the way your mind and body work, but the effects are short-lived. Both ‘freebase’ cocaine (powder cocaine that’s been prepared for smoking) and ‘crack’ cocaine (a ‘rock’ like form of cocaine) can be smoked. This means that they reach the brain very quickly, while snorted powder cocaine gets to the brain more slowly.

All types of cocaine are addictive, but by reaching the brain very quickly freebase or crack tend to have a much stronger effect and be more addictive than snorted powder cocaine. Injecting any form of cocaine will also reach the brain more quickly but this has serious additional risks, including damaging veins and spreading blood bourne virsues, such as HIV and Hep C.

Here are the main effects and risks of taking cocaine:

  • It can make you feel on top of the world, very confident, alert and awake, but some people can get over-confident, arrogant and aggressive and end up taking very careless risks.

  • It raises the body’s temperature, makes the heart beat faster and reduces your appetite.

  • When the effects start to wear off, people experience a long ‘comedown’, when they feel depressed and run down. This crash can happen for days afterwards.

Taking cocaine makes users feel on top of the world, wide-awake, confident and on top of their game – but some people are over-confident on it and so may take very careless risks. Its effect is much like speed (amphetamines), but is usually stronger and doesn't last as long.

It can also have other effects:

  • Raising the body’s temperature

  • Making the heart beat faster

  • Reducing feelings of hunger

  • After a big night on cocaine, it's not unusual for people to feel like they've got the flu.

The effects of crack smoking are virtually immediate, peaking for about two minutes and lasting for only about 10 minutes.

When snorting coke it takes longer to peak but the effects still don’t last that long, only around 20-30 minutes.

When the effects of any cocaine use start to wear off there can be a very strong temptation to take more, particularly with the long ‘come down’, the crash period sometimes lasting for days afterwards.

Class B - Prescription

Codeine is an opiate drug  used to treat mild to moderate pain. It is available either from doctors as a prescription only medicine or, directly from a pharmacy combined in lower doses with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. It is used to treat pain that does not respond to simple painkillers.

Someone who takes the combination painkillers containing codeine at higher than recommended doses in order to get a stronger codeine effect, can easily consume doses of aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol that could be fatal.

The key effects and risks of codeine itself include:

  • Feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness

  • Nausea, constipation, confusion, sweating, itching, mood swings and feelings of laziness.

Codeine has similar effects to the other opiates:

  • Feelings of warmth and well-being, calm, relaxation and sleepiness.

  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, drowsiness, confusion, sweating, itching, dry mouth, mood swings and feelings of lethargy.

Class A

Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is a hallucinogenic drug, which means you’re likely to experience a distorted view of objects and reality and it can cause hallucinations. It’s effects are similar to LSD and magic mushrooms. As with LSD, some people refer to using DMT as ‘tripping’, which can be a good or bad experience.

A number of indigenous people’s traditions and religions use drinks or food, such as ayahuasca, that contain DMT.

This has led some people to consider DMT as being ‘spiritual’ and ‘safe’ rather than seeing it as a chemical hallucinogen.

The key effects and risks of DMT include:

  • A distorted view of objects and reality or actual hallucinations. These effects are normally pleasurable and can come on rapidly, can be very intense and may last for two hours.

  • Until you have taken DMT you can't tell how strong it is or how it's going to affect you. Once the ‘trip’ has started, you can’t stop it.

  • Intoxication with DMT can cause nausea and vomiting.

Class A

Ecstasy (also known by its chemical name, MDMA) is often seen as the original designer drug because of its high profile links to dance music culture in the late 80s and early 90s. Clubbers took ecstasy to feel energised, happy, to stay awake and to dance for hours. The effects take about half an hour to kick in and tend to last between 3 to 6 hours, followed by a gradual comedown.

The main effects and risks of ecstasy include:

  • An energy buzz that makes people feel alert, alive, in tune with their surroundings, and with sounds and colours often experienced as more intense.

  • Users often develop temporary feelings of love and affection for the people they're with and for the strangers around them.

  • Short-term risks of ecstasy can include feeling anxious or getting panic attacks, and developing confused episodes, paranoia or even psychosis.

  • Some people have been known to take another ‘E’ when they haven't yet felt the expected ‘high’ of their first ‘E’. The danger then is that both Es kick in at once and you’ve got a double dose of effects to deal with.

A big problem with ecstasy is that it’s rarely pure. Sometimes, there is no MDMA at all. Sometimes, it contains other drugs, like PMA, which can be fatal. Regardless of what it looks like and what it is called, you can’t be sure what’s in a pill or a powder and you can’t predict how you’ll react.

Ecstasy makes users feel energised, alert and alive – and on its own, it’s not a drug that makes people violent.

It can also have other effects:

  • Ecstasy makes people feel ‘in tune’ with their surroundings, and can make music and colours more intense.

  • Users often have temporary feelings of love and affection for the people they're with and for the strangers around them.

  • Short-term effects of use can include anxiety, panic attacks, confused episodes, paranoia and even psychosis.

  • Lots of people feel really chatty on E., (although these chats don't always make sense to people who aren't on an E!).

  • Physical side effects can include dilated pupils, a tingling feeling, tightening of the jaw muscles, raised body temperature and the heart beating faster.

Class B

Etizolam is used as medicine in Japan and India, to treat anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks, but it not licensed as a medicine in the UK. It can:

  • Slow the brain and body down and can cause sedation/sleepiness, relaxation and a feeling of calm.

  • It can help stop fits.

  • Similar drugs have been shown to cause short-term memory loss.  

  • They can be highly addictive.

The side effects of etizolam are sleepiness/drowsiness, decrease/shallow breathing, loss of coordination, which could become fatal, especially if you mix it with other drugs that slow down the nervous system, such as alcohol.

As etizolam has a range of possible effects:

  • They slow the brain and body down.

  • They make the user feel calm and relaxed and can help people get to sleep.

  • They help to stop fits.

  • Some cause short-term memory loss.

  • Big doses can make a user forgetful and make them overly sleepy.

GHB

GHB (gammahydroxybutrate) and GBL (gammabutyrolactone), are closely related, dangerous drugs with similar sedative and anaesthetic effects. 

GBL is converted to GHB shortly after entering the body. Both produce a feeling of euphoria and can reduce inhibitions and cause sleepiness. 

But both can kill  and are particularly dangerous when used with alcohol and other depressant or sedative substances.

GHB and GBL produce essentially the same effects: feelings of euphoria, reduced inhibitions and drowsiness. The effects start after about 10 minutes to an hour and can last for up to seven hours or so.

Glues, gases and aerosols contain volatile substances which are depressants, which means  they slow down your brain and body’s responses and produce a similar effect to being drunk. 

The effects can vary from person to person and depend on what specific glue, gas or aerosol has been used, but the common effects can include:

  • Mood swings, aggressive behaviour, hallucinations, vomiting and blackouts.

  • Feeling like being drunk with dizziness, dreaminess, fits of the giggles, and difficulty thinking straight.

  • In the case of some glues, gases and aerosols,  you can develop a red rash around the mouth.

  • Getting a 'hangover' afterwards -  such as a severe headache, feeling tired and/or feeling depressed.

Class A

Heroin is a drug made from morphine, which is extracted from the opium poppy. Opium has been around for many hundreds of years and was originally used to treat pain, sleeplessness and diarrhoea. When morphine is made into heroin to be used as a medicine, it’s called diamorphine, and is stronger than morphine or opium. Like many drugs made from opium (called opiates), heroin is a very strong painkiller. ‘Street’ heroin sold as 'brown' is sometimes now used by clubbers as a chill out drug after a big night out.

It is still just the same street heroin but some people mistakenly think it's not as addictive.

Here are some of the main effects and risks of heroin:

  • A small dose of heroin gives the user a feeling of warmth and well-being, bigger doses can make you sleepy and very relaxed.

  • The first dose of heroin can bring about dizziness and vomiting.

  • Heroin is highly addictive and people can quickly get hooked.

  • Injecting heroin and sharing injecting equipment can  be very risky, as it runs the risk of the injector catching or spreading a virus, such as HIV or hepatitis C. There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and that an abscess or blood clot may develop.

Heroin gives users a feeling of warmth and well-being, bigger doses can make people sleepy and very relaxed.

It also slows down the way the body works and is a very strong pain-killer. The first dose of heroin can bring about dizziness and vomiting.

The effects of heroin can last for a number of hours so it is important to be careful using any other drugs or alcohol in that time.

Class B

It’s a powerful general anaesthetic which stops you feeling pain and it’s used for operations on humans and animals. The effects don’t last long, but until they wear off, ketamine can cause a loss of feeling in the body and paralysis of the muscles. It can also lead to you experiencing a distortion of reality.

Ketamine can:

  • Reduce sensations in the body, giving you a floating or detached feeling as if the mind and body have been separated, with some people feeling incapable of moving. This has been linked to having a near-death experience and is sometimes called "entering the k-hole".

  • Change how you see and hear things and can cause hallucinations. You can 'trip' for between half and hour to several hours, and after-effects may be felt for some hours afterwards.

  • Cause confusion, agitation, panic attacks, and impairment in short and long term memory. Frequent use is sometimes associated with the development of depression.

  • Cause very serious bladder problems in regular users. They can have problems peeing and when they do it can be very painful. Sometimes the damage is so bad that the bladder has to be removed by surgery. The urinary tract, from the kidneys down to the bladder, can also be badly affected.

It’s a general anaesthetic that can produce ‘floaty’ feelings, as if the mind and body have been separated. Other effects include:

  • It can make you feel very chilled out and relaxed.

  • It can make you physically incapable of moving. You can feel completely detached from your body and surroundings, which has been compared to having a near-death experience, sometimes called “entering the k-hole”. For some people this is an enjoyable effect.

  • Like LSD, ketamine can alter perception of time and space and can cause hallucinations. It can lead to good or bad ‘trips’ that can last from half an hour or so to several hours, with after-effects that may be felt for some hours.

LSD

Class A

LSD stands for its chemical name, lysergic acid diethylamide, and is commonly called ‘acid’. It’s a powerful hallucinogenic drug – this means that users are likely to experience a distorted view of objects and reality, including seeing and sometimes hearing things that aren’t there (these are hallucinations). The experience of taking LSD is known as a ‘trip’. Trips can be good or bad, but until you take it you don’t know how it will affect you – and once it's started you can't stop it.

Here are some of the main effects and risks of taking LSD:

  • Time and movement can appear to speed up and slow down. Colour, sound and objects can get distorted and you can experience double vision.

  • These distortions of your senses can be quite unpredictable, sometimes pleasant, but sometimes very frightening (these are called 'bad trips').

A good trip can make users feel relaxed and happy, with pleasant hallucinations. A bad trip can make you feel agitated and confused, with unpleasant and scary hallucinations. How the trip goes can be affected by your surroundings, who you’re with and how comfortable you are with them, and by your mood. If you don’t feel safe or comfortable, you’re more likely to have a bad trip.

It can also have other effects:

  • A trip can appear to involve a speeding up and slowing down of time and movements, while colour, sound and objects can get distorted. Users experience hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t there).

  • LSD can also make you feel tired, anxious, panicky and depressed.

  • LSD can cause unpleasant, frightening or scary hallucinations and distortions of your senses – and these effects can be quite unpredictable.

  • Trips can feed off your imagination and may heighten a mood you're already in. So if you’re in a bad mood, feeling worried or depressed, LSD may just make these feelings worse. 

Class A

Magic mushrooms can give you a good trip, making you feel confident, relaxed and in good spirits – or they can give you a really scary bad trip. You won’t know what will happen until you take them. The more you take, the longer your trip could last. If you feel that you’re having (or going to have) a bad trip, let your friends know and get their help. Go to a nice quiet spot where you feel safe and can relax.

They can also have other effects:

  • Magic mushrooms can distort colours, sounds and objects. They can make you feel as if your senses are mixed up so that, for example, you think you can hear colours and you can see sounds. Some people can feel more emotionally sensitive or more creative or feel enlightened.

  • They can also speed up and slow down your sense of time and movement.

  • They can make it feel like you're dreaming when you're awake.

  • Sometimes, magic mushrooms can make you feel disoriented, tired or sick and can give you stomach pains or diarrhoea.

Class B

Mephedrone (sometimes called ‘meow meow’) is a powerful stimulant and is part of a group of drugs that are closely related to the  amphetamines, like speed and ecstacy. There isn't much evidence about mephedrone and it's long term effects as it's quite a new drug but because it is similar to speed and ecstasy  the long term effects may well be similar. There have reports of people hospitalised due to the short-term effects. 

Also, you can never be entirely sure that what you’re buying is actually mephedrone and not something else.

The main effects and risks of mephedrone include:

  • Euphoria, alertness and feelings of affection towards the people  around you.

  • Feelings of anxiety and paranoia.

  • Mephedrone, or meow meow, can also overstimulate your heart and circulation; and can overstimulate your nervous system, with risk of fits.

Mephedrone is often described as a mix between amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine. The effects of mephedrone last for about an hour, but this can vary.

  • It can make you feel alert, confident, talkative and euphoric – and some people will temporarily feel strong affection to those around them

  • Mephedrone can make users feel sick, paranoid and anxious, and it can cause vomiting and headaches.

  • It risks overstimulating and damaging your heart and your circulation.

  • It also risks overstimulating your nervous system, which may cause hallucinations, feelings of agitation and even fits.

  • It can reduce your appetite, so you don’t feel hungry.

Other effects that people have reported include heart palpitations, insomnia, loss of short-term memory, vertigo (a form of dizziness), grinding of teeth, sweating and uncomfortable changes in body temperature.

Class A

Mescaline is a psychedelic or hallucinogenic drug whose use leads to altered perceptions. It comes from button-shaped ‘seeds’ found in the Peyote cactus and also from some other members of the Cactaceae plant family and from Fabaceae bean family. Mescaline has been used for thousands of years and is best known as a drug used by some Native Americans in Mexico as part of their religious ceremonies.

Most users chew the button shaped ‘seeds’ to produce the hallucinogenic effects, which can last for between 12 - 18 hours.

The key effects and risks of mescaline include:

  • An altered state of consciousness – with altered thinking and changes in time perception –  often described as enjoyable and illuminating

  • Prominent changes in visual perceptions with intense visual distortions and possibly hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there)

  • Development of vomiting, headaches and feelings of anxiety

Mescaline is considered a hallucinogen or psychedelic drug and its effects include:

  • An altered state of consciousness – with altered thinking and changes in time perception –  which is often described as happy, positive, enjoyable and ‘illuminating’

  • Feeling like you are in a dream-like state

  • Prominent changes in visual perceptions with intense visual distortions and possibly hallucinations (where you see things that aren’t there). These can happen with your eyes open or closed. Less common are auditory hallucinations (hearing things that aren’t there)

  • Some people can experience moderate to severe vomiting and/or headaches

Class A

Methadone is a synthetic opiate manufactured for use as a painkiller and as substitute for heroin in the treatment of heroin addiction. It has similar effects to heroin but doesn't deliver the same degree of buzz or high as heroin.

Opiates are sedative drugs that depress the nervous system. They slow down body functioning and reduce physical and psychological pain.

A patient who is addicted to heroin will often be prescribed methadone to take instead of heroin and the dose of methadone is gradually reduced over time. This means that the patient can give up heroin avoiding acute withdrawal symptoms.

The key effects of methadone include:

  • Reducing physical and psychological pain.

  • Feelings of warmth, relaxation and detachment.

  • Overdoses that can lead to coma (and even death from respiratory failure i.e. when breathing stops).

Methadone is a sedative drug that depress the nervous system. Its effects can start quickly and can last several hours.

These effects include:

  • Slowing down body functioning and reducing physical and psychological pain.

  • Feelings of warmth, relaxation and detachment.

  • Relieving feelings of anxiety

  • Depressing the nervous system and the breathing, with risk of fatal overdose.

Class A

Methamphetamine is part of the amphetamine family of stimulant drugs. Different amphetamines differ in how powerful they are and how they are considered under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

The key effects and risks of methamphetamine include:

  • Feeling very up, exhilarated, alert and awake.

  • Feeling agitated, paranoid, confused and aggressive.

  • There’s evidence that long-term methamphetamine use can cause brain damage, although this gradually gets better if the user stays off the drug for a long time.

The crystal form of methamphetamine, sometimes called Crystal Meth or Ice, is extremely powerful and addictive. Some compare it to ‘crack cocaine’ as both are smoked and give an intense, powerful ‘high’ followed by a very severe ‘comedown’, and both are very addictive.

Methamphetamine makes users feel very up, alert and energized as well as agitated, paranoid, confused and aggressive. It can also have other effects:

  • Increased levels of activity and feelings of arousal.

  • Reduced appetite.

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack – the higher the dose, the greater these effects.

  • Lowered inhibitions, which can lead to users taking risks that they wouldn’t normally take, such as having unsafe sex.

The effects of methamphetamine can last a very long time and can be followed by a severe come-down. Smoking the purer, crystalline form of methamphetamine, Crystal Meth, produces a very intense 'high' similar to that produced by crack cocaine but much longer lasting – a period of between 4 and 12 hours when you’re not really in control.

Although there is little known about MXE we do know that it is chemically related to ‘dissociative anaesthetics’ like ketamine and PCP. So it’s reasonable to assume that it shares some of the same effects and risks. This is backed up by reports from people that have used MXE and doctors who have treated people who have taken MXE.

It normally takes 10 – 15 minutes for the effects of MXE to be felt, but sometimes it can take 60 – 90 minutes. This can lead to some people thinking that they haven’t taken enough, so they take more and end up taking too much and having a bad time.

The effects of MXE tend to be similar to ketamine effects, but are more intense and longer lasting and include:

•MXE can make people feel very chilled out, relaxed and euphoric. Some users have said that they feel ‘enlightened’ when taking MXE. Others have reported being agitated.

•MXE can produce a feeling of ‘floating away’, as if the mind and body are separated (called a ‘dissociative state’). You could feel completely detached from your body and surroundings, putting yourself in danger of accidentally being hurt or being hurt by others.

•Other dissociative effects can develop, even a severe form of dissociation, catatonia, when someone is awake but doesn’t respond to or interact with anything.

•MXE can cause hallucinations.

•MXE can also cause involuntary eye movement, loss of balance and poor coordination, unsteadiness on your feet and slurred speech. These effects are not seen when people use ketamine.

Class B

Naphyrone is a stimulant drug closely related to the cathinone family which includes mephedrone. Naphyrone does not have a long history of use, so there is little evidence of its long term effects or on the risks from using it. However, due to its similarity to other cathinones, naphyrone is likely to share the same effects and risks. 

The high potency of naphyrone by comparison with other cathinones suggests that it is likely to be associated with a higher risk of accidental overdose.

The key effects and risks of naphyrone include:

  • Feelings of euphoria, alertness, talkativeness and empathy

  • Anxiety, paranoia and overstimulation of the heart and circulatory system

  • Over-excitation of the nervous system, which can cause fits.

Naphyrone does not have a long history of use, so there is little evidence of its short and long term effects. As naphyrone is related to the cathinones it can be assumed that it is likely to share the same effects as other cathinones, such as euphoria, talkativeness, alertness and feelings of empathy.

New psychoactive substances – often incorrectly called legal highs – contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (like cocaine, cannabis & ecstasy.

Although some of these so-called ‘legal highs’ have been legal in the past, many are currently illegal. And it’s important to realise that when the Psychoactive Substances Act comes into effect in spring 2016, none of these drugs will be legal to produce, supply, or import (even for personal use) for human consumption.

New psychoactive substances might sound like an awkward term, but it’s more accurate than legal highs. You’ll still hear people talking about legal highs, and since it’s a widely understood term, you might still find it used on this site. But they’re all illegal when the new law comes into effect.

There’s not enough known about many of these drugs to know about their potency, their effects on people, or what happens when they’re used with other substances or alcohol' The packaging might describe a list of ingredients but you can’t be sure that this is what’s inside.  So you can’t really be sure what you’ve bought or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends. Many NPS are sold under brand names like ‘Clockwork Orange’, ‘Bliss’, ‘Mary Jane’  and some have been linked to poisoning, emergency hospital admissions and, in some cases deaths.

The main effects of almost all psychoactive drugs, can be described using four main categories:

  • Stimulants (like mephedrone, naphyrone) act like amphetamines, cocaine, or ecstasy, in that they can make you feel energised, physically active, fast-thinking, very chatty and euphoric.

  • Downers or sedatives (like GBH/GBL, methoxetamine)  act similarly to benzodiazepines (drugs like diazepam or Valium), or GHB/GBL, in that they can make you feel euphoric, relaxed or sleepy.

  • Hallucinogens or psychedelics  (like NBOMe drugs)act like LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine and methoxetamine. They create altered perceptions and can make you hallucinate (seeing and/or hearing things that aren’t there). They can induce feelings of euphoria, warmth, ‘enlightenment’ and being detached from the world around.

  • Synthetic cannabinoids (like Spice or Black Mamba): act similarly to cannabis. The effects of these are similar cannabis intoxication:  relaxation, altered consciousness, disinhibition, a state of being energised and euphoria.

Legal

Nitrous oxide is a gas with several legitimate uses, but when inhaled it can make people feel euphoric and relaxed. This happy feeling has led to it being nicknamed ‘laughing gas’. Some people also experience hallucinations.

However, there is a risk of death as a lack of oxygen can occur when using nitrous oxide. This risk is likely to be greater if the gas is consumed in an enclosed space or if a substantial amount is rapidly used.

There are three main legitimate uses of nitrous oxide:

  • To numb pain during medical procedures such as dental work.

  • In engines to increase their power output.

  • In catering, in whipped cream aerosol cans to prevent the cream going ‘bad’and in food packaging to prevent the food from rotting.

Nitrous oxide is depressant-type drug, which means it slows down your brain and your body’s responses.

The effects of nitrous oxide vary depending on how much has been inhaled but they include:

• Feelings of euphoria, relaxation and calmness.
• Dizziness, difficulty in thinking straight and fits of giggles/laughter.

• Sound distortions or even hallucinations.
• In some people, a headache can be an unwanted immediate effect.

Class A

Opiate/opioid painkillers are medicines with effects similar to opium. They act by stimulating opioid receptors in the brain and nervous system. There are a large number of opiate/opioid medicines including codeine, morphine, dihydrocodeine, methadone, buprenorphine and diamorphine (also known as heroin).  Opium comes from the flower of the opium poppy and has been used for many hundreds of years to treat pain, sleeplessness and diarrhoea. Increasingly the terms opiate and opioid are used interchangeably when referring to these drugs. Opiate is sometimes used to refer only to those drugs derived directly or indirectly from natural opium. However, they all act on the opioid receptor in the body. 

Opiate painkillers are available either from doctors on prescription; or, in relatively low doses over-the-counter, at a pharmacy, combined with aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. They are intended to be used for a limited period of time to treat pain that does not respond to standard effective painkillers like aspirin, ibuprofen and paracetamol.

Although opiate painkillers will vary in how powerful they are, they are all sedative painkillers that can depress the nervous system, and so slow down body functions and reduce physical and psychological pain. They can also be highly addictive. 

Although they are normally safe to take if you follow your doctor’s/pharmacists instructions, some people who have used opiate painkillers regularly become dependent on them. If they are taken primarily to get high and to feel better, the risk of addiction will be greater.

The key effects and risks of opiate painkillers include:

  • Pain relief.

  • Feelings of well-being, relaxation and sleepiness.

  • Constipation.

  • Suppressed coughing.

  • Nausea, vomiting, sweating, itching, mood swings and feelings of lethargy

  • Addiction.

  • In overdose, breathing stops. 

PCP

Class A

PCP was developed as an anaesthetic - a drug used in an operation and other procedures to temporally stop a patient from feeling pain. Doctors stopped using it because it can cause  hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there), make you feel really confused, and affect your mood.  

PCP can:

  • Make you feel numb and like they are not part of reality.

  • Cause changes to the way you see things. This might include seeing things that aren’t really there (hallucinations) and changes in how you experience time.

  • Change you’re mood in ways you don’t expect. It might make you feel really happy and upbeat but can also cause you to feel very down, panicky  and paranoid. You may believe things that aren’t true. Some people become more aggressive and violent.

  • When you take any drug you aren’t always in control of your own actions. People who have taken PCP have died from the injuries they have caused themselves and from hyperthermia (getting very hot). Clotting problems with your blood, muscle breakdown and kidney failure have also been reported.

  • Combining an anaesthetic drug like PCP with depressant drugs like alcohol is also dangerous.

Class C

Phenazepam is a powerful benzodiazepine, which are drugs referred to as minor tranquillisers because they relieve tension and anxiety, and help the user feel calm and relaxed. Phenazepam has been reported as approximately five times stronger than Valium (another well known tranquilliser), so it is easy to take too much and overdose. Phenazepam is not used in the UK as a medicine, but it is used in

Russia to treat epilepsy and neurological disorders. Phenazepam was previously sold and marketed as a ‘legal high’ or as fake Valium.

The key effects and risks of phenazepam include:

  • A sedative effect, relieving tension and anxiety, and making the user feel calm and relaxed.

  • A loss of coordination, dizziness and drowsiness.

  • Phenazepam is a depressant so mixing it with other depressant drugs like heroin, other tranquillisers or alcohol, can lead to an accidental overdose and possibly death.

  • It provides a sedative effect, relieving tension and anxiety, and making the user feel calm and relaxed.

  • It can also cause a loss of coordination, dizziness and drowsiness.

  • Big doses can make a user forgetful and send them to sleep or potentially put them into a coma.

Class C

Piperazines are a broad class of chemical compounds which mimic the effects of ecstasy. They were produced as a legal alternative to ecstasy (though have since been classified as Class C drugs) and have been found as a cutting agent in some ecstasy pills. The best known piperazines are BZP (benzylpiperazine), TFMPP, DBZP and mCPP.

The key effects and risks of piperazines include:

  • Feelings of arousal, euphoria, wakefulness and wellbeing

  • Agitation, vomiting, stomach pain, fits, irregular heart rhythms, diarrhoea, allergic reactions and fever have been reported.

Class B

Methylphenidate (which is probably better known as Ritalin) is a stimulant and is used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The methylphenidate based drugs are also stimulant drugs, whose chemical structure is similar to the chemical structure of methylphenidate


Although these drugs differs in how strong they are, how quickly they start to work, and how long their effects last, they share the same kinds of stimulant effects and risks as methylphenidate, which include:

  • Feeling ‘up’, excited and chatty.

  • Feeling energised and able to do things for hours without getting tired, things like dancing, talking, and going out.

  • They can make people overactive, anxious, panicky, confused, agitated, paranoid or even acutely psychotic (this is a mental state when you see or hear things which aren't there and can have delusions), which can lead you to put your own safety at risk.

  • Most stimulants can put a strain on your heart and can cause heart problems, which can be fatal, especially if you have a pre-existing heart problem.

The methylphenidate based drug ethylphenidate has been sold under its own name and under brand names, such as Gogaine and Nopaine, as an alternative to cocaine 

PMA

Class A

PMA is similar to MDMA (the chemical in ecstasy). It can make you feel alert, alive and full of energy. Its similarity means that PMA is actually sometimes sold as ecstasy. However, PMA is more poisonous and can kill at lower doses than MDMA. Also like MDMA, it can cause a fatal rise in body temperature.

The effects of PMA also take longer than MDMA to begin to be felt – so some users have overdosed by mistakenly taking pill after pill thinking nothing is happening, which can also be fatal.

In recent years there have been a number of deaths and hospitalisations that have been linked to PMA and/or PMMA. It appears that those affected thought they were taking ecstasy pills containing MDMA and did not know that the pills contained PMA and/or PMMA. As with any drug you can never be sure what it is your buying and how it might affect you.

As PMA is often sold as ecstasy pills rather than sold by its own name, a lot of the street names associated with PMA are actually street names for ecstasy pills. Sometimes PMA and/or PMMA containing pills even look like regular ecstasy pills.

PMA is similar to MDMA (the active substance in ecstasy) but can kill at lower doses as it is more poisonous. 

PMA effects include:

  • Giving people an energy buzz that makes them feel alert and alive.

  • Feeling in tune with surroundings.

  • Sounds and colours are more intense.

  • Feelings of great love for friends and strangers

Salvia divinorum is a Mexican plant, with leaves that contain psychoactive chemicals that produce hallucinations when chewed or when dried and smoked.  Sold on the internet and in ‘headshops’ as ‘herbal ecstasy’, salvia is one of a number of substances marketed as ‘herbal highs’. 

Depending on dosage, experiences can vary from the fairly mild to full blown with psychedelic hallucinations.  At higher doses users can experience dramatic time distortion, vivid imagery and scary hallucinations.

Although salvia has been around for hundreds of years, there has been very little research carried out into its effects.  Depending on dosage, experiences can vary from the fairly mild to full blown with psychedelic hallucinations.

  • It can provide enjoyable hallucinations.

  • At higher doses users have reported experiencing dramatic time distortion, vivid imagery and scary hallucinations.

Class B

Speed is a stimulant and people take ‘speed’ to keep them awake, energised and alert.

  • Speed makes people feel wide awake, excited and chatty. 

  • Clubbers take it because it gives them the energy to dance for hours without getting tired.

  • Amphetamines were once the main ingredient in diet pills because they stop people feeling hungry.

  • People take it because it gives them the energy to do things for hours without getting tired, things like dancing, talking, and going out.

  • Speed use can lead to agitation, panics or even a psychotic episode (this is a mental state when you see or hear things which aren't there and have delusions).

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemicals that have been developed to act like the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which acts on cannabis receptors in the brain.

Since synthetic cannabinoids act like cannabis the effects - good and bad - are similar to cannabis. Some users will feel happy and relaxed, may get the giggles, feel hunger pangs and become very talkative. Others mainly feel ill or paranoid.

Because synthetic cannabinoids react more strongly with the brain's cannabis receptors so they're more potent than natural cannabis. This means it's easier to use too much and experience unpleasant and harmful effects. 
Synthetic annabinoids are usually sold in 'herbal' smoking mixtures. Sometimes these smoking mixtures have been found not to contain any synthetic cannabinoids at all!

There are lots of different types of synthetic cannabinoids. Some were previously illegal and some weren’t, but since 26 May 2016 when the Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect, none of these drugs are legal to produce, supply or import for human consumption.

Synthetic cannabinoids act like THC, the active substance in natural cannabis, but are often more potent, so it's easier to use too much and experience unpleasant and harmful effects.
Typical effects include:

  • Feelings of being happy, euphoric and relaxed with some people gettings the giggles, feeling hunger pangs and become very talkative, while others get more drowsy.

  • Mood and perception can change and concentration and co-ordination may become difficult. Synthetic cannabinoids, possibly because of their potency, are more likely to be associated with hallucinations than natural cannabis.

  • Some will have quite bad reactions, such as paranoia, panic attacks and forgetfulness. 

Synthetic opioids are man-made drugs that mimic the effects of natural opioids (such as opium or heroin). Synthetic opioids, like all opioids, can reduce feelings of pain, can produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation and sleepiness and can be addictive. They can also suppress and even stop breathing and have been linked to a number of deaths across Europe, including in the UK, and the rest of the world.

Fentanyls are a family of synthetic opioids – they range in potency but some are incredibly strong and can be effective at very small doses, making it easier to take too much, to overdose and die.

As with natural opiates the effects of synthetic opioids include:

  • Pain relief

  • Euphoria or well-being

  • Relaxation

  • Sleepiness

Users have also reported sweating, itching and nausea.

Tobacco is found in cigarettes which you smoke.  It comes from the leaves of the tobacco plant and contains many different chemicals.

One of the chemicals is nicotine, which gives smokers their 'hit' but is also highly addictive. This means it can be hard to quit smoking even if you want to.

Regular smokers believe that smoking tobacco helps them to relax, to handle stress and to feel less hungry.

But smoking can make your clothes and breath smell and can affect your skin and hair.

It can also cause serious damage to your health – it’s a risk factor for emphysema, heart attacks, strokes and lung cancer. It's estimated that smoking tobacco contributes to 100,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.

Regular smokers believe that smoking tobacco helps them to relax, to handle stress and to feel less hungry.

However, tobacco smoke (tar) contains over 4,000 chemicals and many have effects on various parts of the human body, including the brain, lungs, heart and mouth. 

Most of the cancers associated with smoking are due to the tar in the smoke.

Smoking any drug gets it to the brain very quickly. When a tobacco smoker inhales it’s estimated that the nicotine in the tobacco smoke reaches the brain in around 8 seconds.

This speed of action contributes to a user becoming hooked to the nicotine in tobacco.

Class C

Tramadol, like other opiates, stimulates brain opioid receptors but it also increases brain serotonin levels. It is a medicine used to treat moderate to severe pain. It is only available with a prescription from your doctor. Other opiates include codeine, methadone and heroin.

Although tramadol is not as strong as heroin, it shares many of the same effects and both are addictive.

Tramadol can:

  • Produce feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness.

  • Worsen side-effects and risks when used with certain antidepressants that tend to increase serotonin levels.

  • Feelings of warmth and well-being, relaxation and sleepiness.

  • Typical opiate effects of fatigue, drowsiness, nausea and retching, constipation and sometimes confusion.

  • Less often, diarrhoea, dizziness or fainting, excessive sweating, itching, raised blood pressure, tightness in the airways, muscle weakness, sensory disturbances, hallucinations, fits and blood disorders.

Class C

There are two types of tranquillisers – ‘major’ (which are non-addictive antipsychotics) and ‘minor’ (which are relaxants that are addictive and liable to misuse).

Here we’re just talking about the ‘minor tranquillisers’. These tranquillisers can induce periods of calmness, relaxation and sleep and are used to treat anxiety and insomnia. They are prescription only medicines that can normally only be prescribed following a consultation with a doctor.

There are many different types of minor tranquillisers, but the most common are the group of drugs called benzodiazepines. These include Xanax, Rohypnol, Valium (also called diazepam), temazepam and phenazepam (although this latter drug is sometimes found in street drugs, it is not prescribed by doctors in the UK).

The key effects of tranquillisers include:

  • Sedation –  depressing the nervous system and ‘slowing’ the brain and body down.

  • Relief of tension and anxiety – helping the user feel calm and relaxed.

  • Help with insomnia.

  • Dependence –  with some people getting very reliant on their use and finding if they stop that they get nasty withdrawal symptoms, including decreased concentration, tremors, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, panics and depression.