Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Drugs information for young people

Using drugs and alcohol can seem be a quick solution to many of life’s problems however it can have a serious impact on your development and future. The teenage years can be a tough time and having the right support in place can ease the pressures of growing up. Some young people will be more at risk of engaging in drug using than others, however drugs do not discriminate and anyone from any environment can be affected.

Drugs can be used due to a heightened sense of curiosity, to experiment and try new things, to develop an identity and connect with others.  They can be an attempt to cope with physical or emotional health problems, feelings of isolation, pressure from their peers or difficulties at home.

Drugs information for young people


Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug used by young people in the UK. In 2016-2017, 88% of under-18’s engaging with drug treatment services reported using cannabis. A young person may choose to use cannabis for a variety of different reasons. Some may find it a good way to relax or forget about their problems whilst others may use it to self-medicate due to physical or emotional health problems. However, cannabis use during the teenage years can cause developmental issues, especially within the brain. To explore this further click here.

  • To find out more about cannabis click here.


Ecstasy is a stimulant drug that can come in different forms (Ecstasy tablets/MDMA powder) and is most commonly associated with rave culture. Ecstasy is a long-lasting drug (6-12 hours dependant on strength) that can cause a user to experience increased energy, feelings of euphoria and increased heart beat and body temperature.

  • To find out more about Ecstasy click here.


Cocaine is a stimulant drug that comes in a powder form. The effects of Cocaine are short-lived compared to other stimulant drugs (around 30 minutes) however are similar as it causes increased energy to the user and increased heart rate and body temperature. Cocaine users tend to have increased confidence also and this can cause them to take risks when maybe they wouldn’t otherwise. Cocaine users can also become quite aggressive.

  • To find out more about Cocaine click here.


Diazepam, lorazepam, temapzepam, alprazolam (Xanax) are all in benzodiazepines. They tend to slow the body’s natural systems such as breathing, heart, muscles and thoughts. They act on GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) brain receptors, a neurotransmitter which naturally occurs in a person’s brain and central nervous system nerve cells. This is an inhibitory system and so acts to calm a person’s nerves. Tolerance develops which is when someone needs more of a substance to get the same effect. This is physical dependence and leads to withdrawal symptoms when discontinued or reduced too quickly.

Withdrawal symptoms include; Insomnia, muscle tension, paraesthesia’s or numbness/tingling in the extremities, digestive upset, depression, anxiety, tremors and Seizures which can be life threatening. It is advised that people don’t stop using XANAX without professional help from a qualified practitioner.

  • To find out more around Benzodiazepines click here.

New Psychoactive Substances

NPS (formerly known as legal highs) are synthetic drugs created to mimic existing drugs. The reality is however that the effects of these drugs are far from what they are supposed to be. NPS drugs come in various forms depending on what drug it is designed to mimic and are generally cheaper to buy. Drug dealers are using NPS as they’re highly addictive, however they can lead to extreme withdrawal symptoms.

  • To find out more about NPS drugs click here.

Drug use can impact you and those around you for example;

  • Missing school/college – Feeling low in mood or anxious after using drugs can cause you to lack motivation and not want to face the world.
  • Damaging family relationships – If parents find out you are using drugs this could cause arguments and cause a strain on your relationships.
  • Losing friends – Your friends might not like what you are doing and choose to not hang around with you anymore.
  • Engaging in criminal activity – Drugs don’t come for free (if they do, there’s usually a catch!). Costs can quite quickly rattle up and increase the chances of engaging in criminal activity to source continued funds.
  • Becoming at risk of homelessness – As you get older and have financial responsibilities using your money on drugs rather than paying the bills can have serious consequences.
  • However, help and support is available. 
bike up against wall
Using drugs can impact people around you.

Harm reduction

All substances come with their own risks ad it is important that you take steps to reduce the risks of these if you choose to use drugs. This is for your own safety and the safety of others. These are a few ways in which you can minimise the risks:

  • Do your research. If you are curious to try a certain drug/s then do as much research as you can into what the effects are and what the risks are.
  • Buy from a trusted source. Of course, buying drugs is illegal so this carries its own risks. However, if you are going to buy drugs get them from somewhere you know others have and have not experienced any negative effects.
  • Start off small. If you are new to taking drugs you will have no tolerance to them. Start with a small dosage and see how you feel. Taking too much too soon could be dangerous.
  • Never take them on your own. Try and be with people you trust and who you know will take care of you if you take a bad turn. Tell them what you’ve taken and how much, this information could be very useful if you need the emergency services.

To look more at drug-specific harm reduction advice click here.

Useful websites

  • Talk to Frank - Honest information around drugs and alcohol.
  • Health Talk - Advice for young people around drugs and alcohol.
  • DrugWise – Promoting evidence-based information on drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

Useful apps

  • Breaking Free Online - Companion app to Breaking Free Online, an online substance misuse treatment provider.
  • Drugs Meter - Personalised, anonymous feedback on your drug use.