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A drug is a chemical that you take into your body, which changes the way you feel and act. Some drugs are prescribed by a doctor for illnesses, but when people talk about drugs they usually mean drugs that are illegal or unsafe.


Why do people take drugs?

There are many reasons why people take drugs. These might include:

  • trying drugs because friends are doing it
  • wanting to escape feelings of sadness or hopelessness
  • to cope with problems at home or at school
  • looking grown up or popular in front of people
  • liking the thought of doing something dangerous
  • enjoying the feelings and thrill from taking drugs
  • being made to try drugs as a dare
  • being forced to take drugs by someone

Are drugs dangerous?

There are always risks involved when taking any kind of drug. Some drugs can be unsafe and could make you very ill.

Illegal drugs may be mixed with other dangerous chemicals so you never know exactly what is in them or how they will affect you.

Some drugs can be addictive, this means it can be hard to stop taking them once you've started - even if you know they're bad for you.

You can talk to ChildLine about drugs or anything else. It's confidential and the counsellors are there to support you.

  • What are the risks of taking drugs?

    - damage to physical and mental health
    - accidents while you are not in control of what you are doing
    - not knowing what the drug will do to you
    - taking too much in one go, also known as overdosing
    - becoming addicted and feeling like you can't cope without drugs
    - spending too much money on drugs
    - falling behind with school work
    - falling out with family and friends
    - getting into trouble with the police
    - getting into dangerous situations
    - being more likely to do risky or unsafe things
    - having a bad experience from what you've taken, also known as a 'bad trip'
    - owing money to drug dealers or gangs who may become violent if you can't pay

  • My friends are pressuring me to take drugs, what can I do?

    It can be hard to say 'no' to your friends, especially when they are all joining in. If they are trying to get you to do something that you don't want to do, this could make you feel scared and alone.

    You could try:
    - being assertive so you can say how you feel without being mean or pushy
    - finding out more about peer pressure and how you can stop it
    - talking to someone you trust or asking an adult for help
    - thinking about what feels right for you and if these friends are your true friends
    - talking to ChildLine for support

  • How do I know if I have a drug problem?

    Different types of drugs affect people differently. If you have a drug problem, you might:

    - worry about when you'll have drugs next
    - depend on drugs to relax or to feel calm
    - use drugs to cope with some situations, for example, exam stress or family problems
    - find it hard to stop taking drugs once you've started
    - often regret or forget things you said or did while you were 'high' from drugs
    - find it hard to remember how much you've taken in one day
    - notice changes in your relationships with friends and family
    - notice big changes in your mood
    - think about drugs a lot, for example, at school or while you're out with friends 
    - plan your social life around drugs by making sure you can take drugs where you'll be, for example, at a party or in the park

    Drugs can have a big impact on your behaviour and how you treat other people.
    If you feel like you're a different person when you've taken drugs you might want to think about what it is about drugs that you like. You could also think of other things you enjoy and what you can do instead of taking drugs. You don't have to deal with things on your own. You can talk a Childline counsellor for help and support.

  • How can I help a friend with a drug problem?

    You could start by letting the person know that you are worried about them. It may be they don't realise they have a drug problem and how their behaviour is affecting you. It may also be embarrassing for them to talk about things. If they don't want to talk to you, you could suggest they talk to someone else. Read our advice about helping a friend.

    You can also think about asking an adult for help or talking to a ChildLine counsellor.
    If you're worried that someone might be in danger or at risk of overdosing, call 999 for urgent help to keep them safe.

  • My parents are using drugs, what I can do?

    Sometimes parents cope with stress or other things in their lives by taking drugs. It can be hard to see your mum or dad with drugs especially if it changes the way they behave. A first step could be letting them know how their behaviour is affecting you. It might be embarrassing or scary to talk about things but it's important that you feel safe at home. You could also try:

    - finding a time to talk to them when they won’t be busy or actually taking drugs
    - suggesting they talk to someone else if they don't feel comfortable talking to you
    - getting support by asking an adult for help, like a teacher or family friend
    - getting support with caring for someone with a drug problem if you're a young carer
    - talking to a ChildLine counsellor at any time for help and support

    If you're worried they might be in danger or at risk of overdosing, call 999 for urgent help to keep them safe.

  • How can I stop taking drugs?

    Drugs can be very addictive and stopping can sometimes be difficult. Different things can help people in different ways.

    You could try:
    - avoiding places or situations where there will be drugs
    - thinking about what makes you take drugs and how it would be to talk about this
    - getting rid of the drugs you have by flushing them down the toilet
    - finding new hobbies and interests to take your mind off drugs
    - finding places in your area that might offer support and treatment
    - talking to someone you trust or asking an adult for help
    - talking to other people on our message boards who may have similar problems
    - talking to a ChildLine counsellor who can support you and help you find ways to stop

  • How can I stop smoking weed?

    Smoking weed (also known as cannabis, dope, marijuana, skunk, pot or ganja) can be addictive and quitting can sometimes be difficult. You might feel relaxed when you smoke but it could also leave you feeling paranoid, panicky and anxious.

    There are different ways to stop smoking weed. You could try:
    - avoiding places or situations where there will be weed
    - finding new hobbies and interests to distract you from smoking
    - thinking about what is important to you and how you'd like things to change
    - looking at how smoking is affecting you or people in your life and talking about this
    - telling your friends that you want to stop and you don't want them to offer you weed
    - talking to someone you trust or asking an adult for help
    - talking to other people on our message boards who may have similar problems
    - talking to a ChildLine counsellor who can support you and help you find ways to stop

    Watch a video about how weed (cannabis) can mess with your mind.

  • Is it illegal to take drugs?

    Some drugs are illegal and others could be very dangerous, for example, alcohol - if you drink too much. The punishment for taking, carrying, sharing or selling drugs depends on the type of drug. If the police caught you with any type of drug you could be arrested and sent to prison. You might also not be allowed to travel to certain countries like the USA or Australia. Illegal drugs are described in different 'classes' depending on how addictive or unsafe they are.

    Class A drugs include heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and crystal meth. If you are caught selling a Class A drug you could be sent to prison for life.
    Class B drugs include cannabis, ketamine and amphetamines.
    Class C drugs include tranquilisers and steroids.

    These drugs are known by many other names - check out Frank to find out more.

    If you are unsure or worried about drugs, you can contact ChildLine in confidence

  • What are the different types of drugs and their effects?

    There are lots of different types of drugs and they can all be harmful.

    Illegal drugs
    These are described in different 'classes' depending on how unsafe they are.

    Class A drugs are the most harmful and dangerous. These include:
    - heroin, also known as gear, smack or horse
    - cocaine, also known as coke, crack, charlie or snow
    - ecstasy, also known as E, pills, mandy, MDMA or XTC
    - crystal meth, also known as glass, tina, meth or ice
    - lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), also known as acid, lucy, mushrooms or trips

    Class B drugs are harmful and addictive. These include:
    - cannabis, also known as marijuana, weed, skunk, dope, pot or ganja
    - ketamine, also known as special k, vitamin k or super k
    - amphetamines, also known as speed, sulph, base or whizz

    Class C drugs can be harmful and unsafe. These include:
    - tranquilisers, also known as roofies, blues, jellies or benzos
    - steroids, also known as roids or juice

    These drugs can make you feel 'high', relaxed, happy, confident and some may give you more energy. The harmful effects include, feeling paranoid, depressed, dizzy, anxious, out of control and vomiting. They can affect mental and physical health. You can never know how your body will react so while one person might be fine, another might end up with a reaction that could harm them. By taking any type of illegal drug you are also at risk of poisoning, overdosing or dying.

    To find out more about different types of drugs and their effects, visit Talk to Frank 

    Prescription drugs
    These are drugs that you can only get from a pharmacist or hospital, with a prescription from your doctor. You may need a prescribed drug for an illness or health problem. If you take more than what your doctor tells you to or if you take them without your doctor knowing, it can be unsafe. You should never take prescription medication that is meant for someone else because it may not be safe for you.

    Over the counter drugs
    These are drugs that can be bought from shops, supermarkets or pharmacies, for example, pills to help with aches, pain, cold and flu. If you take more than what is recommended on the pack or mix them with other drugs, this could be unsafe.

    Performance enhancing drugs
    These are drugs that can help with doing well in sport. Some athletes take them to improve the way they perform but this is usually seen as unfair or illegal. Sports clubs and organisations have banned these drugs and they can have dangerous effects.

    Legal highs
    These are substances which are meant to have similar effects as some illegal drugs. They are often easily available and sold as different names. The laws have changed to make it illegal to sell legal highs.They are made of chemicals that are often unsafe and can be just as dangerous as other illegal drugs. Find out more about legal highs.

    Remember: Taking too much of any type of drug or mixing drugs can cause overdosing or drug poisoning. You can talk to ChildLine if you're worried or need help.

  • I'm taking drugs to change the way I look

    Some people take certain types of drugs to change the way they look, for example:

    To build muscle or look bigger
    There are some drugs that people take to help build muscle and look bigger. The most common are anabolic steroids. They should only be prescribed by a doctor for medical reasons. It can also be dangerous if you take them without your doctor knowing. These drugs are addictive and can cause depression, anxiety and extreme tiredness. The side effects include; hair loss, severe acne, liver problems and heart attacks.

    To lose weight or look smaller
    There are different types of pills and drugs to help people lose weight. Some of these can be illegal or have dangerous effects. If you want to lose weight you should speak to your doctor first. There are other ways to look different that are safer than taking drugs.

    It's important to remember that you can't take these types of drugs forever - they could cause damage to your mental and physical health. You might want to think of other ways to feel better about how you look, like exercising or eating in a healthier way. You could also think about other things in your life that make you happy, like spending time with friends and hobbies or interests.

  • Getting help

    If you take drugs or are worried about someone else who is taking drugs, you can get help. You could try:

    - asking an adult for help, like a teacher, youth worker or family member
    - visiting Talk to Frank to find out more about different types of drugs and to get help
    - visiting NHS for support if you are a young carer for someone who has drug problems
    - dialling 999 for urgent help if you or someone else is feeling ill, scared or unsafe
    - talking to ChildLine by calling free on 0800 1111, 1-2-1 chat online or email

Other sites that can help

Talk to Frank has information about different types of drugs and lets you ask questions online or call their helpline on 0300 123 6600. You can also text a question about drugs to 82111 and get an answer.
Talk to Frank has facts and advice about everything from club drugs and comedowns to addiction and true stories.

Find out about your rights if you are stopped and searched by the police.
SAFE: Stop and search

Online chat

Chat to a ChildLine counsellor online in a 1-2-1 session any time you want. Sign up to start talking.

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Talk about drugs

Thinking of taking drugs? Want to stop? Post a message on the Drugs message board and talk to others in the ChildLine community.

Alcohol, smoking and drugs message board

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