A-Z of Drugs


Cannabis is a naturally occurring drug made from the cannabis plant – it is the most widely used illegal drug in Britain.  It’s a mild sedative often causing a chilled out feeling; it is considered a mild hallucinogen, meaning you might see objects in a distorted way and may even hallucinate.

The Risks- if you’ve only been using for a short time there should be no problem stopping – but regular using will hamper this.  Although not physically addictive, it can be psychologically addictive, and can lead to mental health repercussions.


Heroin is a natural opiate (dulls pain) that is made from morphine.  A small dose of heroin gives the user a feeling of warmth and well-being.  Larger doses can make the user sleepy and very relaxed

The Risks – overdosing on heroin can lead to coma and even death from respiratory failure (breathing is stopped).  The risks of overdosing increase after a period of abstinence from heroin use, as the body’s tolerance for the drug is reduced.  Heroin is also highly addictive and you can become dependent very quickly.


Cocaine comes in the form of powder, and gives a powerful short-lived high.  It is usually snorted up the nose, though can be injected.

The Risks – Peoples tolerances vary, so it is hard to predict people’s reactions.  It can be particularly dangerous when injected, and can become very quickly addictive.  When mixed with alcohol it can become particularly dangerous, as the substances interact in the body and produce a toxic chemical called cocethylene.


A ‘rock’ of crack is usually about the size of a raisin and is usually smoked in a pipe, glass tube, bottle or using foil – crack can also be injected

Crack has the same short lived effect of cocaine, but is much stronger

The Risks – the high can come with hallucinations, mood swings and paranoia and panic attacks.  Sometimes users will inject with a mixture of heroin as well, known as a ‘speedball’, this is particularly dangerous.

Ecstasy (MDMA)

When sold on the street it is normally found in a tablet form but it is increasingly sold as a powder.

Ecstasy causes an energy buzz that makes users feel alert and alive and can make sounds and colours more intense

The Risks- Increased use results in increased tolerance; however fluctuating quality of ecstasy, often cut with other ingredients, means it is very hard to predict the effects on the body, and can result in negative side effects and even lead to death.

Although not physically addictive, users are liable to develop psychological dependence.


LSD is a hallucinogenic drug.  It is a white power, but when prepared as a street drug it is in liquid form or is absorbed into small paper squares.  An LSD ‘trip’ can take from 20 minutes to 1 hour to take effects, and can last for up to 12 hours.  Users can experience visual effects, intensified colours, distorted shapes and movement in stationary objects.

The Risks – it is hard to predict people’s reaction to taking LSD, with no prescribed outcome of taking it. While LSD is not addictive, some people who use LSD often become out of touch with the real world.

Legal but just as dangerous

Just because some drugs are legal does not necessarily make them safe.  You may think some substances are completely innocuous, but in reality they are highly addictive and can control your life in the same way as some illegal drugs.  Others may appear to be legal, but they can just be a chemical formulae away from being an illegal drug, and actually, just as addictive and dangerous. In particular you should watch out for the following substances.

Legal Highs/New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)

Although these substances may be referred to as legal highs, and increasingly as New Psychoactive Substances (NPS), this hides the true, and dangerous nature of these chemicals – NPS can be assumed neither to be safe nor legal.

The Risks – NPS can lead to drowsiness, excited or paranoid states and in more serious cases, coma, seizures and even death.  Additionally, because the chemical ingredients can be changed to avoid detection as banned substances, they can have a number of unpredictable and dangerous side effects.


Anabolic steroids come in tablet and liquid form, with the liquid form being injected.  They are illegal to possess without being prescribed by a pharmacist.

Sports enthusiasts take steroids to help them train harder; combined with exercise, they can help build muscle mass and help recovery from strenuous exercise.

The Risks – steroids can cause various health problems, including mood swings and ultimately long-term depression, paranoia, confusion and sleeping problems and can also contribute to high blood pressure and increase your risk of having a stroke, heart attack or cause liver failure.


Benzodiazepines relieve tension and anxiety, and can make the individual feel calm and relaxed.  They are illegal to possess without being prescribed by a pharmacist.

The Risks – Benzodiazepines and other similar drugs, codeine, diazepam etc, are highly addictive, and although they can be a vital medical intervention initially, you can become addicted in 4 weeks and dependent in as little as 6 weeks.

They are highly addictive and you can face physical and psychological addiction to such drugs, with severe side effects if withdrawal is undertook without specialist help.  Benzodiazepine addiction can often be involuntary as a result of repeat prescriptions by your GP – if this is the case, you can contact One Recovery for more information.

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