The effects of drugs

Drug misuse can be harmful to your health in both the short term and the long term, and could possibly lead to addiction.

Getting help

Find out where to get advice and what will happen if you have treatment:

Cannabis (hash, weed, grass, skunk, marijuana)

What is cannabis?

Cannabis is a calming drug that also alters perceptions. It's seen as "natural" because it's made from the cannabis plant, but that doesn't mean it's safe. It can be smoked, often with tobacco, in a "joint" or "spliff", or in a pipe or "bong". It can also be drunk as a "tea" or eaten when mixed with food, such as biscuits or cakes.

How does cannabis make you feel?

Cannabis can make you feel relaxed and happy, but sometimes makes people feel lethargic, very anxious and paranoid, and even psychotic.

How does cannabis affect your health?

Cannabis has been linked to mental health problems such as schizophrenia and, when smoked, to lung diseases including asthma

It affects how your brain works, so regular use can make concentration and learning very difficult. Frequent use can have a negative effect on your fertility.

It is also dangerous to drive after taking cannabis. Mixing it with tobacco is likely to increase the risk of heart disease and lung cancer.

Can cannabis be addictive?

Yes, it is possible to become psychologically dependent on cannabis. And some people do experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking it. For information about coming off drugs, read Drug addiction: getting help. You can also get help cutting down from the FRANK website.

Cocaine (powder cocaine, coke, crack)

What is cocaine?

Powder cocaine (coke), freebase and crack are all types of cocaine, and all are powerful stimulants. Freebase and crack can be smoked, and powder cocaine can be snorted in lines. Both cocaine powder and crack can also be prepared for injecting.

How does cocaine make you feel?

Cocaine gives the user energy, a feeling of happiness and being wide awake, and an overconfidence that can lead to taking risks. The effects are short-lived, so more drug is taken, which is often followed by a nasty "comedown" that makes you feel depressed and unwell, sometimes for several days.

How does cocaine affect your health?

If you take cocaine, it's possible to die of an overdose from overstimulating the heart and nervous system, which can lead to a heart attack. It can be more risky if mixed with alcohol.

Taking cocaine is particularly risky if you have high blood pressure or already have a heart condition. If you're pregnant, cocaine can harm your baby and even cause miscarriage. If you've had previous mental health problems, it can increase the chance of these returning.

If you snort cocaine, it can damage the cartilage of your nose over time. If you inject it, you are at higher risk of dying as the result of an overdose, and your veins and body tissues can be seriously damaged. You put yourself at risk of catching HIV or hepatitis if you share needles.

Can cocaine be addictive?

Yes, cocaine is highly addictive and can cause a very strong psychological dependence. For advice on getting help for cocaine addiction, go to Cocaine: get help. The Cocaine Anonymous website also offers further advice.

Mephedrone (meow meow, m-cat, bubble, meph)

What is mephedrone?

Mephedrone is a strong amphetamine-like stimulant with some effects similar to ecstasy. It was once available to buy on the internet as a "legal" alternative to drugs such as speed or ecstasy.

Mephedrone, and other drugs like it, are now Class B drugs that are illegal to possess or supply to others. It is a fine white or off-white powder that is usually snorted or swallowed wrapped in paper. It's also sometimes injected.

How does mephedrone make you feel?

Mephedrone can make you feel awake, confident and happy. But it can also make you feel paranoid and anxious. It causes vomiting and headaches in some users.

How does mephedrone affect your health?

Mephedrone can overstimulate your heart and nervous system. It can cause periods of insomnia, and its use can lead to fits and agitated and hallucinatory states. It has been identified as the cause of a number of deaths.

Ecstasy (MDMA, pills, crystal, E)

What is ecstasy?

Ecstasy is a "psychedelic" stimulant drug usually sold as tablets, but it's sometimes dabbed on to gums or snorted in its powder form. It's also known as MDMA or "crystal".

How does ecstasy make you feel?

Ecstasy can make you feel alert, affectionate and chatty, and can make music and colours seem more intense. Taking ecstasy can also cause anxiety, confusion, paranoia and even psychosis.

How does ecstasy affect your health?

Long-term use has been linked with memory problems, depression and anxiety. Ecstasy use affects the body's temperature control and can lead to dangerous overheating and dehydration.

But a balance is important as drinking too much fluid can also be very dangerous for the brain, particularly because ecstasy tends to stop your body producing enough urine, so your body retains the fluid. For more information on ecstasy, visit the FRANK website.

Is ecstasy addictive?

Ecstasy can be addictive, as users can develop a psychological dependence on this drug. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to the drug and need to take more and more to get the same effect.

Speed (amphetamine, billy, whizz)

What is speed?

Speed is the street name for drugs based on amphetamine, and is a stimulant drug. It's usually an off-white or pink powder that's either dabbed on to gums, snorted or swallowed in paper.

How does speed make you feel?

Speed can make you feel alert, confident and full of energy, and can reduce appetite. But it can make you agitated and aggressive, and can cause confusion, paranoia and even psychosis. You can also become very depressed and lethargic for hours or days after a period of heavy use.  

How does speed affect your health?

Taking speed can be dangerous for the heart, as it can cause high blood pressure and heart attacks. It can be more risky if mixed with alcohol, or if it's used by people who have blood pressure or heart problems.

Injecting speed is particularly dangerous, as death can occur from overdose. Speed is usually very impure and injecting it can cause damage to veins and tissues, which can also lead to serious infections in the body and bloodstream. Any sharing of injecting equipment adds the risk of catching hepatitis C and HIV. 

Is speed addictive?

Regular use of amphetamines can become highly addictive.

Further information

The following articles provide help and advice if you're concerned about your own or someone else's drug misuse:

Cocaine: risks and recovery from addiction

Cocaine use, even if it's casual, can soon lead to dependence. Two people describe how the drug nearly ruined their lives.

Media last reviewed: 28/05/2015

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The 23 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

chadie said on 24 April 2012

Everything on the list is really really bad for you.
Weed frys your brain, it's done it to mine.
Okay, so im an intelligent 18 year old male, i have been taking various drugs for 2 years ish?
Over the past year my cannabis consumption has reached an altime high. £20 a day?
So when you started smoking alls good right? well you will start to spiral. Weed makes lazy and want to do nothing and if you get used to doing nothing all you want to do is more nothing... see where i am coming from?

Ps those who tell you that weed isn't a gateway drug are either stupid/deluded - it is fact.

I also know somebody who got stimulent induced psychosis for about a week and got stuck in london.

My aunt is schitzophrenic from acid in the 70-80s?

My friend got addicted to pills for 3 months came off them and then tried to kill himself.

Do you want this????????

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molly B said on 15 April 2012

O.K you guys; so you have original thought - those of you who believe that it is purely your Choice; your life; your problem - or not - as the case may be. Think now about your mum, dad, brother, sister all those who love you or have loved you. These people are or have been affected by your existential belief that no-one should dictate to you how you live your lives. These people want you live your lives. I lost my son to lung cancer two years ago: many people have lost their loved ones to illnesses that are untreatable and unpreventable. Those of you who abuse your bodies; restrict your choices always impact upon the lives of those who love you. It is not all about you.

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NR23Derek said on 31 August 2011

Sorry, your cannabis info is wrong. See the NHS document "A summary of the health harms of drugs"

According to your own document

There is "inconsistent and mixed evidence for whether heavy, chronic cannabis use is associated with a persistent ‘amotivational syndrome’ characterised by social withdrawal and apathy”

On mental health "some evidence that use may exacerbate psychotic symptoms and is linked with relapse but it is unknown whether this is a universal risk or due to differences in individual vulnerability” - but no mention of a causal role.

There is "no conclusive evidence that cannabis causes cancer”

See also for a critique

Please update the highly inaccurate information on this page

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holster100 said on 04 October 2010

i am a cannabis smoker and i also have diabetes. i enjoy smoking this drug and do so most of the day everyday but i also work and am a proud homeowner, my partner also smokes it when not working. however it gets me down sometimes that i cant quit, i feel worse when i'm high as wander why i do it and its not cheap. we would be much better off if we never smoked it. i now wish to quit but am finding it hard as its been such a huge part of my life which sounds ridiculous but it really is hard. i get very irritable when i dont have it 4 more then a day...please dont start if you're thinking of doing it, it is great at 1st but will get you down eventually and your cash could go to a much worthier cause ie. looking after yourself or holidays?

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RubixCube101 said on 04 September 2010

i agree with LC, you're 'gambling' with your life and future. i know what drugs can do, having witnessed some people from my school take them. they mess with your mind and body, make you do things you wouldn't normally do. sure, they might give you a high for about 10 minutes, give or take a few. but is that worth your family's pain if they ever found out? this is just my opinion, but before you take that next pill, just think about what you're doing to your family, your friends and yourself.

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confused234 said on 27 February 2010

I'm just wondering if anyone can give me any advice?
I'm 17 and am the only one out of my friends who has never smoked cannibis. This is not becuase i havent want too i just havent had the opportunity too. This summer a lot of us are going to a festival and i know drugs will be involved. It will be very easy for me to smoke cannibis and i want to, just to try it. But i'm scared of the risks. This website says alot of bad stuff but i was just wondering if anyone can give me any advice based on their personal experiences? Thanks.

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extoker said on 19 October 2009

I started smoking skunk when I was 16. Until the age of 33 I had always defended it as a great social substance however I statrted to notice circulation issues then I had to have a tooth out a year ago (my teeth are rubbish due to smoking) I had a infected lymph node which to this day will not return to it's normal size. I am greatly concerned for my future health and wish I had never smoked it or certainly wish I had given it up a long time ago whilst I agree the government does give it an extremely bad press there are definately possible risks it will ruin your body's defences over time give you a high at the expense of your general happiness and possibly wreck your motivation. In short it is just like playing Russian Roulette but over a longer term.

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Tinkerbell34 said on 28 September 2009

i would like to write my opinion which is similar to that of LauraLou88, if you have not taken them then it is a bit out of the question to make a snap judgement. I am not condoning the usage of drugs although i feel as though it is the personal choice of the individual. Hardcore drugs such as heroin are obviously very serious and can have very negative effects. The point is though- You wont know until you've tried it! I have been smoking cannabis from an early age and can honestly say that i am not paranoid and do not see this negatively as i use it as a relaxant of an evening. I am also in college and doing very well which proves that not all drugs are bad!

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screenname2 said on 23 July 2009

A lot of people are saying that these figures should be higher, but I'm not so sure that they should.
Where I live, the majority of people haven't tried drugs. Yes, I do know some people that have, but generally most people at my school haven't, although I can believe that in some areas, the majority have tried them.
I think that it is not the same everywhere, and maybe for your area the statistics are wrong, but over the whole country it will even out. I do think there are some people who for various reasons have not admitted to taking drugs, but not enough to change the statistics radically.

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Jay Leonard said on 13 July 2009

i have somked cannibis on regular occasions. I would like to say that in times of stress, worry, or even physical pain, this has had nothing but a positive outcome on me. I am perfectly healthy, bar my smoking, and I feel that cannibis is so feared merely because it has a recreational effect. Sorry to be cheesy, but the saying "God made grass, man made booze, who do you trust?" actually raises a good point. I think that alcohol is a much more dangerous drug that cannibis, I have never done anything stupid whist under the influance of cannibis, but my scars are innumerable from times of drunken mistakes. i am highly on the "Leagalise Cannibis Front", and one thing which i do not agree with is the way how the governmentwill only ever tell you the dangers of drugs, sex and alcohol, but will never show why people choose to do it in the first place. JT, I'm sorry to seem argumentitive, but your just saying what you have been told. If you are taht anti-drug, i severely doubt you have been in contact with a drug user, so you can't know the effects, but just beleive how it is. My friend is a severe substance misuser, and has taken every drug known to man except for heroin, but if you saw him he would seem happy, helathy and NOT living "a life of Hell". I'm sorry, I get very worked up, feel free to argue a case back, i am willing to be changed

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Ricardo.09. said on 29 June 2009

I actually suffer from mental health issues (which were NOT brought on by cannabis i add!) and i actually found that when i was having a bad time with it, smoking a joint actually helped me through it. Since then I have stopped but that is due to financial reasons and the fact my other half doesn't like it.

I have also seen cannabis being used as a form of pain relief in people who have illnesses such as cancer or where there is near constant pain.

So there is an argument promoting the use of cannabis... But anything stronger than that I wouldnt personnaly touch with a 60ft barge pole!

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blehblah said on 02 March 2009

Seeing as this is a comments page I will try my best to be constructive.

The case study here is a poor and unrealistic depiction of an average persons experience with cannabis. Whilst there are health problems associated with weed millions of people enjoy this drug without going overboard. Going bonkers and ending up being completely covered in blood or having what seems like a severe panic attack and not being able to breathe aren't exactly typical once you have smoked a joint.

More likely, you might find yourself laughing at some jokes your friends tell you or enjoying music a bit more. Heavy use of anything to the point that you are more likely getting high or drunk at home rather than venturing out into the world is a bad idea. But this case study presents an extreme example of overuse and seems in line with the government current heavy-handed approach to cannabis.

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User70746 said on 03 December 2008

this is usefull however you do not give information about a drug called ketermine which is a horse tranquiliser. i know people who snort this regulary and would like to know the long term affects of this drug.

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User54022 said on 19 October 2008

I use/ have used drugs in the past. Don't fall into this trap in which people say because you have used drugs your life becomes a wreck and you become a terrorist and all this nonsense. SOME drugs will ruin your life IF you become an adict. Others wont. Almost every teen in Britatin has tried drugs, now give us the figures of how their lives are going now. I have tried drugs throughout my teens (nothing too crazy) but I recently left Uni with a 1st. Is my life ruined? I think not.
My advice to you. Take responsibility for your actions. Live your Life.

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kerry27 said on 17 August 2008

The best thing to do is not even try it i dont think you hear enough on this drug ive seen this turn a great mother of three who had the patients of a saint turn into a women who couldnt care about anything but getting more of that even if it ment having no foods in the cupboard . I know not all people are the same but when it dose start affecting you mentally the results are very sad

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LC said on 13 August 2008

The amount you take does not dictate the effects they have on you.

You can take one tablet and it can have an adverse affect on you.

Remeber, every time you take a drug you are playing with your life, as you are not entirely sure of what is in it or if it has been tampered with or not.

You are taking a chance!

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Anonymous said on 17 July 2008

dont try drugs, please. it will ruin your life, people die from using drugs dont do it. its bad. very bad. and only stupid people do drugs, dont be one of them.

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JT said on 15 July 2008

I agree with the above statement, anything is fine if you know what you are doing.

They say if you mess with drugs a little, they will mess with your life a little...but if you mess with drugs a lot, they will mess with your life a lot.

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jonny said on 14 July 2008

i disagree you can enjoy the benifits of drugs just be sensible with them and no ur limits!, they dont always ruin lives!.

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jesica said on 02 July 2008

drugs wreck lives and are bad for our health.but once people start, they just cnnot stop-so people must be careful

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cc said on 02 July 2008

not everyone that has taken drugs will tell you if they have or not, so i agree that the figures would be much higher than they are.

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chanel said on 23 June 2008

drugs are terrible they kill people and make there life hell i think the figures are much higher aswell

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JT said on 09 June 2008

i think you will find these figures are really a lot higher than this. noone will admit it though

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