You are here:

Got a relationships question?

worried girl

Get expert help on mates, dating, being in a couple and family life.

Next Steps

  • Frank - Talk to Frank gives free information and advice about drugs.
    Tel: 0800 776600
  • Release - The charity Release gives advice on drugs and legal problems.
    Tel: 0845 4500 215

Related articles

Drinking and the law

Make sure your leglessness doesn't turn into lawlessness

Rights on arrest

If you're arrested, what happens next? And what are your legal rights?

Drug laws abroad

Different countries have different laws - be warned.

Not so special K?

Rhiann and Phil talk about both their pleasant and frightening experiences while on the veterinary anaesthetic ketamine.

Should drugs be legalised?

We ask you whether you think drugs should be made legal.

How dangerous is cannabis?

We put your questions about cannabis reclassification to a Home Office minister.

Connect with us on

  • connect with us on facebook
  • connect with us on twitter
  • connect with us on youtube
Are you prepared for the Morning After?

Find out about your hazy relationship with drink and sex.

Our Community

Girl thinking

Need someone to talk to? Check out our message boards - a safe space to talk about whatever's on your mind :)

Local advice finder

Search our database of more than 16,500 local, regional and national organisations which offer advice and support.

Latest articles


Drugs and the law

The law on drugs is complex. But if you're caught with an illegal substance, ignorance won't wash with the police.

Knowing the score means:

  • Understanding the laws that govern different drugs;
  • Understanding your rights if suspected of possession, or possession with intent to supply a controlled substance.
Cannabis was reclassified from Class C to Class B in January 2009. put your questions to Home Office Minister Alan Campbell MP about the changes.

The Misuse of Drugs Act divides drugs into three classes:

Class A

  • Cocaine, crack, crystal meth, ecstasy, heroinLSD (acid), magic mushrooms, methadone, opium, and any class B drug prepared for injection;
  • Less common substances: dextromoramide (e.g. Palfium), dipipanone, fentanyl, mescaline, pethidine, PCP, all parts of the seeds of the opium poppy (after mowing);
  • Maximum penalties: seven years in prison and/or a fine for possession, life imprisonment and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

Class B

  • Amphetamines (speed), barbituratescannabis, codeine. This class also includes the following less common substances: dexamphetamine, dihydrocodeine (DF0118), methaqualone, methylphenidate hydrochloride (Ritalin), phenmetrazine (Filon);
  • Maximum penalties: five years in prison and/or a fine for possession, 14 years in prison and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

Class C

  • Ketamine, some tranquillisers like Temazepam, the supply of anabolic steroids;
  • Maximum penalties: two years in prison and/or a fine for possession, five years prison and/or a fine for possession with intent to supply.

These penalties are given in a Crown Court. In a Magistrates Court, where less serious offences are dealt with, the maximum sentence is six months imprisonment and a £5000 fine. The actual sentence you're likely to get will also depend on:

  • The drug involved;
  • Any previous criminal record;
  • Your personal circumstances (i.e. being a single parent);
  • The attitude of the presiding magistrate/judge.

Some other drugs are controlled by the Medicines Act. It may not be illegal to possess drugs such as prescription medicines, but supply is still an offence.

We went to the Ministry of Sound to find out whether you believe drugs should be legalised.

Other drug laws

Most drugs are covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. These ones aren't:

  • Alcohol: There are lots of laws about alcohol, covering where it can be sold, who too, and where you can drink it.
  • Solvents: It is not illegal to use, but a shopkeeper can be prosecuted for selling a solvent to under-18s who they know will use it for sniffing;
  • Cigarettes: It is illegal for a shopkeeper to knowingly sell to under-18s. However, it is not illegal for under-18s to smoke;
  • Amyl nitrates (poppers): Amyl nitrate is a prescription-only medicine. Possession is not an offence, but supply is restricted by the Medicines Act. Butyl and Isobutyl nitrate are not restricted in any way. The stuff available from jokes and sex shops is usually butyl or isobutyl nitrate. If any amyl nitrate is present, however, then supply is restricted. Use is not.

Drug testing on arrest

If you're arrested and taken to a police station, you may be tested to find out if you've taken any Class A drugs. You may be tested if you've been arrested for a 'trigger offence'. Trigger offences include street robbery, burglary, car theft, handling stolen goods or supplying drugs.

A person cannot be forced to provide a sample for testing, but it is an offence to refuse to provide a sample without good cause.

If you test positive for Class A drugs, you'll be required to attend a compulsory drug assessment by specialist drugs workers. The assessment will determine the extent of your drug problem and help you into treatment and other support, even if you're not charged with an offence.

Those who fail to provide a sample or comply with a required assessment face a fine of up to £2,500 and/or up to three months in prison.

Updated: 12/01/2012

  • Print this page
  • Share/Bookmark

We use cookies to make your experience of better. To accept cookies use 'continue', to find out how to get rid of them use 'manage cookies'.

continue manage cookies