Drugs and Alcohol

On this page we'll look at the following, simply click on the links below to be taken straight to the section.


Thirteen - Alcohol
Thirteen - Psychosomatic Substances
Thirteen - Cannabis
Thirteen - Drug Running
Thirteen - Drugs, alcohol and the law



Life is all about making choices and it’s important for you to know the facts.

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a depressant substance, which means it slows down your body's responses in all kinds of ways. Just enough can make you feel sociable; too much and you’ll have a hangover the next day, and may not even remember what you got up to; and way too much alcohol in a single session could put you in a coma or even kill you.

Alcohol can have a significant effect on your brain, behaviour and can interfere with your physical development.

People respond to alcohol in different ways, depending on age, weight, mood, etc. Some might feel more talkative and sociable whilst others might feel depressed or experience mood changes, potentially becoming argumentative or aggressive.

Mixing alcohol and other drugs is very risky as the combination produces effects difficult to predict.


Short Term Effects?

Short term effects can last a day or two, depending on what you drank and how much. Click on the boxes below to find out more about effects people experience:

Alcohol slows your reaction time, affecting your speech (becoming slurred) and your vision (losing focus).

It can be harder to concentrate and people can act carelessly and get confused.

You might say things that you’ll regret later and this can affect your relationships.

Losing your balance and increasing the chances of having accidents, injuries, falls and being admitted to hospital.

You do things that you wouldn’t normally do ending up in dangerous situations, potentially displaying violent or antisocial behaviour.

Alcohol affects your decision making process and puts you at risk of being hurt by others, having unplanned sex, getting STIs and pregnant.

Drinking can cause stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Your liver might not be able to process all of the alcohol overnight and it’s likely for you to wake with a hangover.

Drinking too much on a single occasion (binge drinking) can be dangerous. This can cause vomiting, seizures, irregular or slow breathing, pale skin, passing out. In extreme cases can cause a person to fall into a coma and even death. To find out what to do if a friend is dangerously intoxicated, click here.



Long Term Effects?

Drinking large amounts of alcohol for some time will take its toll on many of the body's organs and may cause permanent damage.

There are many long-term health risks associated with alcohol misuse. They include:

  • Affects development of parts of the brain, particularly areas involved with planning and judgement.
  • High blood pressure
  • Sexual problems, such as impotence or premature ejaculation and infertility.
  • Stroke
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver disease as the liver struggles to cope with alcohol.
  • Cancers
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Physical dependence to alcohol

The best advice is not to drink alcohol until you are 18 as this could affect your emotional and physical health - but if you still decide to do it...

...stay safe

Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food helps to limit how quickly you feel drunk.

Have a spacer drink. Use soft drinks or water between alcoholic drinks. It will reduce the effects of a hangover.

Have smaller drinks or avoid spirits. Spirits contain a higher level or alcohol and you might get severely drunk much quicker.

Try not to mix alcoholic drinks. It will be easier to keep track of what you drink and will reduce the risks of alcohol poisoning.

Passing out. If you are with someone who passes out turn them onto their side (recovery position) so they cannot choke on their own vomit and ring an ambulance or find an adult to help you.

Who can I talk to?

If you want more information you can talk to your GP, the school nurse, or contact East Riding Young People’s Service.




Psychoactive Substances

New psychoactive substances

Often incorrectly called legal highs – contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs (like cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy).

Clockwork Orange, Bliss, Mary Jane black mamba, Pandora's Box , Cherry Bomb, Clockwork Orange, China White, Bliss and Mary Jane, spice, Mephadrone, magic crystals, poke, rush, salvia, train wreck,

The names will change form area to area and the drugs will give side affects of drugs commonly known, ie cocain, cannabis, MDAMA etc The effects are normally a lot worse, as they are man made drugs so some bits of the NPS will be strong and other bits of the same batch will be weak depending on how much chemical has been sprayed onto the drug.

What is a Psychoactive Substance?

Psychoactive substances, often incorrectly called legal highs, contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs like cocaine, cannabis and 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 came into effect in spring 2016, none of these drugs are legal to produce, supply, or import (even for personal use) for human consumption.

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.

Effects of “Legal Highs”

There are usually four main categories that psychoactive substances fall under, these are:

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, methoxamine) 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 LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine and methoxamine). 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 to cannabis intoxication: relaxation, altered consciousness, disinhibition, a state of being energised and euphoria.

What Are the Risks?

You can’t really be sure of what’s in a ‘legal high’ that you’ve bought, or been given, or what effect it’s likely to have on you or your friends. There is hardly any research conducted into these substances and they are constantly changing. One of these substances that had been investigated contained pond cleaner.

Many of these risks are increased if the drug is combined with alcohol or with another psychoactive drug. There have been cases of death too. Each category contains its own risks and these risks are significantly increased when taken together.

Stimulant can make you feel overconfident and disinhibited, induce feelings of anxiety, panic, confusion, paranoia, and even cause psychosis, which can lead you to put your own safety at risk. This type of drugs can put a strain on your heart and nervous system. They may give your immune system a battering so you might get more colds, flu and sore throats. You may feel quite low for a while after you’ve stopped using them.

Downers or sedative can reduce inhibitions and concentration, slow down your reactions and make you feel lethargic, forgetful or physically unsteady, placing you at risk of accidents. These type of drugs can also cause unconsciousness, comas and death, particularly when mixed with alcohol and/or with other downer drugs. Some people feel very anxious soon after they stop taking downers, and if a severe withdrawal syndrome develops in heavy drug users, it can be particularly dangerous and may need medical treatment.

Psychedelic or hallucinogenic which act like LSD, magic mushrooms, ketamine and methoxamine can cause confusion, panics and strong hallucinatory reactions (‘bad trips’), and their effects can make you behave erratically and put your own safety at serious risk – including from self-harm. This can interfere with your judgement, which could put you at risk of acting carelessly or dangerously, and of hurting yourself, particularly in an unsafe environment.

Synthetic cannabinoids could lead to severe or even life-threatening intoxication when taken in sufficiently larger doses. They can also affect your central nervous system, and lead to seizures, fast heart rates, high blood pressure, sweating, increased body temperature, being agitated and being combative (ready to fight).






What is Cannabis?

Cannabis (also known as marijuana, weed, pot, dope or grass) is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK. 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.

There are many myths about cannabis. These include that it’s safe because it’s natural, that using cannabis will completely ruin your life, your health and your future or that using cannabis will lead you into using other, more dangerous drugs. What is true is that cannabis can have some very real, harmful effects on your mind and body, as well as creating longer-term problems.



What are the Effects?

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.

Cannabis may cause:

  • Sickness
  • Increased heart rate
  • Poor concentration
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Paranoia
  • Poor coordination

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 also 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’.

What are the Risks?

Cannabis can mess with your mind and with your mood. It can disturb your sleep and can make you depressed.

Cannabis can freak you out, it can cause feelings of anxiety, suspicion, panic and paranoia.

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.

Regular cannabis use is known to be associated with an increase in the risk of later developing psychotic illnesses including schizophrenia. There is also a chance of developing drug induced psychosis.

A recent review of cannabis research published in the British Medical Journal found those driving under the influence of cannabis had nearly double the risk of a crash.

Tobacco and cannabis share some of the same chemical 'nasties', so, like smoking tobacco, smoking cannabis can make asthma worse, can cause wheezing in people without asthma and can even lead to lung cancer.



Drug Running

What is it?

Urban gangs are sending junior members to market towns or coastal villages, where they run increasingly sophisticated drug dealing franchises. The gangs recruit local rural children to do the grunt work while senior gang members manage operations from their headquarters.

Senior gang members don’t choose just anyone to go into the country. They need a workforce that’s easily controlled – so it’s often the youngest members who are put on the train.

Children as young as 12 are known to be transporting and selling drugs for urban gangs.

They can spend weeks at a time in the countryside, returning only when their supply is sold out. Orders from local customers are relayed to them via a dedicated phone line – the so-called ‘country line’ - which is usually manned by higher-ranking gang members back in London.

When an order comes in, the runners go out to deliver it.

Although it is not illegal to be a member of a gang much of the activity that criminal street gangs get caught up in is. If caught committing an offence you could end up with a longer sentence just for being part of a gang.

There are many different and complex reasons as to why people join gangs. It could be for status, to feel a sense of belonging, to make money, to earn respect or for protection from other gangs.

Status is a key factor that influences members of criminal street gangs. Having access to weapons provides a gang with an immediate status – as other rival gangs will be fearful. This is why many gangs pose with photos of guns and knives on their social networking sites - to ‘show off’ how easily they can access weapons.

It is illegal to carry a weapon and if caught they will face time in prison.

Many street gangs are involved with the supply and dealing of drugs. This can be a way that gangs make money. Dealing in drugs, like running a business has many different roles and levels of people controlling the entire operation. One emerging operation is negatively impacting the lives of thousands of young people is known as 'county lines'.

County Lines

Gang members are moving into drugs markets outside their local area’s where they usually live and operate, particularly coastal towns, market towns, or commuter towns close to large cities because they are unknown to the local police, there is less competition locally from rival gangs, and non-metropolitan police forces tend to have less experience of addressing this type of activity. The exploitation of vulnerable people is central to county lines. For example, young people are groomed and/or coerced into moving or selling drugs, and the homes of vulnerable adults can be taken over as a base from which drugs are sold.


Cuckooing is a type of crime whereby a drug dealer befriends a vulnerable individual who lives on his or her own. The drug dealer then moves in, takes over the property, and turns it into a drug den.

Exploitation of Children as 'Runners'

A commonly recurring theme in county lines is the exploitation of children and young people. County lines operators often groom and use young people as ‘runners’, making them carry drugs or money to and from the areas where the operation has been established. This is often via train but also by car and coaches.

Children are also often made to stay over at the location (known as ‘the trap’ or ‘trap house’) and made to distribute the drugs in the area.

Some criminal gangs, usually as part of gang initiation, are involved in sex crimes and there has been a significant increase in cases of gang rape in the UK over the past 5 years. The role and relationship of girls in criminal street gangs is very complex. Girls affiliated with gangs are often used by multiple gang members to establish status, seek revenge and even used to lure rival gang members in honey traps.

Although criminal street gangs are predominately male only, there are some girl only street gangs operating in the UK too.

If involved with a criminal street gang it can be very difficult for members to leave. There are many organisations that can help and support young people with gang exit strategies.



Drugs, Alcohol and the Law

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

The Misuse of Drugs Act (MDA) divides drugs into three classes as follows:

Class A:
These include: cocaine and crack, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth), fresh and prepared magic mushrooms.

Class B:
These include: amphetamine (not methamphetamine), barbiturates, codeine, ketamine, synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice and cannabis. All cathinone derivatives, including mephedrone, methylone, methedrone and MDPV were brought under control as Class B substances in 2010.

Class C:
These include: anabolic steroids, minor tranquillisers or benzodiazepines, GBL and GHB, khat and BZP.

Class A drugs are treated by the law as the most dangerous. Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act can include:

  • Possession of a controlled drug.
  • Possession with intent to supply another person.
  • Production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs.
  • Supplying another person with a controlled drug.
  • Offering to supply another person with a controlled drug.
  • Import or export of controlled drugs.
  • Allowing premises you occupy or manage to be used for the consumption of certain controlled drugs (smoking of cannabis or opium but not use of other controlled drugs) or supply or production of any controlled drug.
  • Certain controlled drugs such as amphetamines, barbiturates, methadone, minor tranquillisers and occasionally heroin can be obtained through a legitimate doctor’s prescription. In such cases their possession is not illegal.


The law is even more complicated by the fact that some drugs are covered by other legislation, are not covered at all, or are treated in an exceptional way under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Temporary Class Drug Orders

On 15th November 2011, The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was amended to allow the Home Secretary to place a new psychoactive substance not already controlled as a Class A, B or C drug but causing concerns, under temporary control by invoking a temporary class drug order.

Temporary class drug orders (TCDO) come into immediate effect and last for up to 12 months. This period allows the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) time to provide expert advice on the temporary class drug and its potential harms. During or at the end of the 12 month period the TCDO is subject to Parliamentary review. The review considers the independent report given by the ACMD.

After 12 months the TCDO will expire unless it is brought under permanent control of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or extended.

Offences committed under the 1971 Act in relation to a temporary class drug are subject to the following maximum penalties –

14 years’ imprisonment and an unlimited fine on indictment

and 6 months’ imprisonment and a £5,000 fine on summary conviction.

Simple possession of a temporary class drug is not an offence under the 1971 Act.

Read more about TCDOs here.


Giving a child under 5 alcohol, unless in an emergency or under medical supervision (Children and Young Persons Act 1933) is an offence. It is also an offence for a vendor to knowingly sell alcohol to an under 18 year old and to buy alcohol when under 18.

A 16 year old can consume beer or wine (but not spirits) in a pub if having a meal in an area set aside for this purpose with an over 18 year old present.

In some areas there are by laws restricting drinking of alcohol on the streets at any age. Police also have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s who drink in public places.

Poppers (liquid gold, amyl or butyl nitrite) are not covered by the MDA and are not illegal to possess or buy. They are often sold in joke and sex shops but also in some pubs, clubs, tobacconists and sometimes music or clothes shops used by young people. Though not fully tested in court, the Medicines Control Agency has stated that poppers is regarded by them as a medicine and so falls under the Medicines Act 1968. This allows only licensed outlets, such as chemists, to sell the drug. Poppers are also not controlled under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

Solvents (aerosols, gases, glues etc.) are not illegal to possess, use or buy at any age. In England and Wales it is an offence for a shopkeeper to sell them to an under 18 year old if they know they are to be used for intoxicating purposes. The Government has extended this legislation to make it illegal for shopkeepers to sell lighter fuel (butane) to under 18s whether or not they know it will be used for intoxicating purposes.

Anabolic Steroids are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as class C drugs but their legal status is complicated. In most situations the possession offence is waived meaning that people who possess or use steroids without a prescription are unlikely to be prosecuted. However, in some areas of the UK police have successfully prosecuted people for possession of steroids when the steroids have not been in the form of a medicinal product. It is always an offence to sell or supply steroids to another person. People can also be prosecuted for possession with intent to supply if they have large quantities of steroids without a prescription for them.

Tobacco It is an offence for a vendor to sell tobacco products to someone they know to be under 18 years old.Cigarettes must be sold in their original packaging and it is illegal to sell single cigarettes to anyone, adult or child. Since 1st July 2007 smoking in public places has been banned in the UK.

Minor Tranquillisers are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act as Class C drugs but the possession offence is waived so that it is not illegal to possess or use them without a prescription. It is an offence to sell or supply them to another person. The exception is temazepam and rohypnol tranquillisers which are illegal to be in possession of without a prescription.


Maximum penalties under the Misuse of Drugs Act:

Drug class Possession Supply
Class A 7 years + fine Life + fine
Class B 5 years + fine 14 years + fine
Class C 2 years + fine 14 years + fine

Maximum sentences differ according to the nature of the offence – less for possession; more for trafficking, production, or for allowing premises to be used for producing or supplying drugs. They also vary according to how harmful the drug is thought to be.

Less serious offences are usually dealt with by magistrates’ courts, where sentences can’t exceed six months and/or a £5,000 fine, or three months and/or a fine. Most drug offenders are convicted of unlawful possession. Although maximum penalties are severe, only around one in five people convicted of possession receive a custodial sentence and even fewer actually go to prison, with the majority of fines £50 or less.

Psychoactive Substance Act 2016

The Psychoactive Substances Act received Royal Assent on 28 January 2016. The act applies across the UK and came into force on 26 May 2016.

The act:

  • makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, possess on custodial premises, import or export psychoactive substances; that is, any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. The maximum sentence will be 7 years’ imprisonment
  • excludes legitimate substances, such as food, alcohol, tobacco, nicotine, caffeine and medical products from the scope of the offence, as well as controlled drugs, which continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971
  • exempts healthcare activities and approved scientific research from the offences under the act on the basis that persons engaged in such activities have a legitimate need to use psychoactive substances in their work
  • includes provision for civil sanctions – prohibition notices, premises notices, prohibition orders and premises orders (breach of the 2 orders will be a criminal offence) – to enable the police and local authorities to adopt a graded response to the supply of psychoactive substances in appropriate cases
  • provides powers to stop and search persons, vehicles and vessels, enter and search premises in accordance with a warrant, and to seize and destroy psychoactive substances

Producers and suppliers may be given a Notice or Order as follows:

  • Prohibition Notice: a warning to stop doing prohibited activity
  • Premises Notice: a warning to a property owner, landlord etc. to take steps to stop prohibited activity
  • Prohibition Order: a Court Order to stop doing prohibited activity
  • Premises Order: a Court Order to a property owner, landlord etc. to take steps to stop prohibited activity

Orders can last for up to three years and being in breach of an Order is a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence of up to two years, an unlimited fine, or both.




Talk to Frank: 0300 123 6600 Or Visit:,

NHS Alcohol Info:

NHS Drug Info:

Drink Aware: (drinkline) 0300 123 1110 Or Visit:

YFS Drugs and Alcohol Advice for young people

East Riding young people's support service

Young People’s Service Open Access for 16+