Drug advice for people under 21

When you're in your teens and early 20s it's really likely that you'll come across drugs in one way or another and may be curious about trying them. Before you make a choice, find out more about the risks and how you can keep yourself safe.

What are the risks with drugs?

A lot of people think about trying drugs when they’re in their teenage years and early 20s. While it’s common to experiment with drugs, that doesn’t mean it’s safe. Make sure you know the risks so you can make the choice that’s right for you.

Some risks are:

  • You’re not sure what you’re getting. Drugs vary in strength, quality, and effects. You can buy the same thing from the same dealer and find it varies massively from week-to-week. If you're not sure what you're taking, it's easy to overdose.
  • There are side effects. Depending on what you’re taking, there can be lots of different side effects. See Talk To Frank for detailed information about different drugs and their specific risks.
  • You might make bad choices. Drugs can lower your inhibitions and make you act differently. You might put yourself in a dangerous situation or do something you regret, like having an accident, getting into a fight, or having unsafe sex, or sex you wouldn't want to have if you hadn't taken something. 
  • It can hurt your relationships. If your parents find out you’re using drugs, they might not approve or understand, and it can cause arguments and make things hard at home. Your friends or boyfriend/girlfriend might not like what you are doing either, which can mean that you lose your relationship with them.
  • You could end up in debt or in trouble. Drugs don’t come for free. Costs can add up fast - you might find yourself in debt to your dealer, or thinking about doing something illegal to pay for it. If you’ve got rent and bills to pay, it can also put you at risk of ending up homeless.
  • Drugs are illegal. You can be arrested if you’re caught with them and end up with a criminal record. For a Class B drug like cannabis you can get an unlimited fine and up to five years in prison. For a Class A drug like MDMA, it's an unlimited fine and up to seven years in prison. A criminal record can make it a lot harder to get a job, and you won't be able to travel to some countries.

Safer drug use

If you decide that you want to try drugs, here are some tips to help you stay safer:

  • Do your research. If you are curious to try something, then do as much research as you can into what the effects are and what the risks are. Talk To Frank is a good place to start.
  • Buy from someone you trust. There’s no way to guarantee what you’re buying is safe. But if you’re going to buy drugs, get them from someone that people you know have bought from before (without having any negative effects).
  • Start small. If you’re new to taking something you won’t have any tolerance or any idea how you will react. So start with a little bit and see how you feel. Things you take orally (by mouth) will take a while to kick in. Always wait a few hours before you take more. 
  • Don’t do it alone. Make sure you’re with someone you trust and who you know will take care of you. Tell them what you’ve taken and how much - if you need a doctor this will help them help you.
  • Cut down. If you’re using something regularly and feel like it’s getting out of hand, it might be time to cut down. You could try having a few drug-free days each week where you don’t use, gradually cutting down over time.

Worried about your drug use?

If you’re worried about how much you’re using or feel like you can’t stop, there’s help out there.

Use our service finder to see places that can help near you. They won’t judge you or tell you what to do - just give you the support you need.


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