The Jazz Butcher Etc The ABCs Of Drugs

Drugs and the law
The law on drugs is complicated, and sentencing is even more so. If you need advice or more detailed information, phone Release

The Misuse of Drugs Act divides illegal drugs into three main classes – A, B and C.

Class A
drugs (which include cocaine, crack, ecstasy, heroin, methadone, LSD, 'prepared' magic mushrooms, and amphetamines prepared for injection) can attract a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and/or a fine for possession, and life in prison and/or a fine for supply.

Class B
drugs (which include amphetamines, cannabis and barbiturates) can attract a maximum penalty of five years in prison and/or a fine for possession, and 14 years in prison and/or a fine for supply.

Class C
drugs (which include anabolic steroids and tranquillisers) can attract a maximum of five years in prison and/or a fine for supply. It is not illegal to possess anabolic steroids and tranquillisers (except temazepam, which can attract a maximum penalty of two years in prison and/or a fine).

However, what actually happens to you if you get caught varies according to the quantity of the drug, the attitude of the local police and courts and whether – and how many times – you've been caught before. The following are very broad guidelines.

If you are caught for the first time in possession of small amount of any drug, the police may do nothing, give you a warning, give you a formal caution (which means you'll have a criminal record) or prosecute you. You're more likely to be prosecuted if you're caught with a Class A drug, but if you are prosecuted for a first possession offence, even for a Class A drug, you'll probably only be fined.

Supply and possession with intent to supply are taken much more seriously, and it's important to realise that you can be charged with these offences simply for sharing your drugs or going to collect drugs for a group of friends who have pooled money.

Your rights

If you're arrested, you have the right to talk to a solicitor before answering any questions. In fact, you don't have to answer questions at all, though this might count against you later, and being polite is definitely a good idea. If you don't know a solicitor, you can ask for the duty solicitor or ring the Release helpline

You also have the right to ask the police to let a friend or relative know that you have been arrested.

If you're under 17, the police should not question you in the absence of your parents or guardians.

The police can hold you for a maximum of 24 hours, or 36 hours for a serious offence, at the end of which they must either charge you, let you go, or apply to a court to hold you for longer.

Sources of help and further information


Adfam National
Waterbridge House
32–36 Loman Street
London SE1 0EE
Tel: 0171 928 8900
Fax: 0171 928 8923
Confidential advice, support and information for the families and friends of drug users.

Alcohol Concern
Waterbridge House
32–36 Loman Street
London SE1 0EE
Tel: 0171 928 7377
Fax: 0171 928 4644
Email: alccon[at]
Information about alcohol and services for people with alcohol problems.

Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire
61 Great Dover Street
London SE1 4YF
Tel: 0171 403 0888
E-mail: alanonuk[at]
Support for the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they are still drinking or not. Alateen, a part of Al-Anon, is for young people aged 12–20 who have been affected by someone else's drinking, usually that of a parent.

Alcoholics Anonymous
PO Box 1
Stonebow House
York YO1 7NJ
Tel: 01904 644026
Fax: 01904 629091
Self-help groups for alcohol-dependent people determined to give up.

Cocaine Anonymous
c/o Matey
PO Box 2EY
London W1A 2EY
Tel: 0171 284 1123
Self-help groups for dependent cocaine users determined to give up.

0500 801802
Advice and information about alcohol.

Families Anonymous
Unit 37
Doddington and Rollo Community Association
Charlotte Despard Avenue
London SW11 5JE
Tel: 0171 498 4680
Fax: 0171 498 1990
Self-help groups for the friends and families of drug users.

Cavern Walks
8 Mathew Street
Liverpool L2 6RE
Tel: 0151 227 4012
Fax: 0151 227 4023
E-mail: hit[at]
Good publications for young people, plus library and information service (for Merseyside and Cheshire only).

Health Education Authority (HEA)
Trevelyan House
30 Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2HW
Ordering service: 01304 614731
For a list of the HEA's drug information resources or for multiple orders of their publications. For single orders, ring the National Drugs Helpline.

Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence
32 Loman Street
London SE1 0EE
Tel: 0171 928 1211
Fax: 0171 928 1771
E-mail: services[at]
The national drugs information agency for practitioners and policy makers. Services include a library, publications (including some materials for parents and young people – see Website for details) as well as policy research and consultancy.

101–103 Oldham Street
Manchester M4 1LW
Tel: 0161 834 7160
Parents' helpline: 0800 716701
Fax: 0161 834 5903
E-mail: drughelp[at]
Good publications for young people, plus face-to-face counselling in the Manchester area.

Local drugs services
Check the local phone book, ask in the library or contact your local Citizens' Advice Bureau for details of local confidential drugs services. Or contact the National Drugs Helpline.

National Drugs Helpline
0800 776600
Free and confidential advice, support and information, including details of local services.

Narcotics Anonymous
202 City Road
London EC1V 2PH
Office: 0171 251 4007
Fax: 0171 251 4006
Helpline: 0171 730 0009
Self-help groups for dependent opiate users determined to give up.

0800 002200
Advice and information about smoking.

388 Old Street
London EC1V 9LT
Office: 0171 729 5255
Helpline: (weekdays 10am–6pm) 0171 729 9904: (other times) 0171 603 8645
Drugs in Schools Helpline: 0345 366666
Advice and publications, particularly about drugs and the law, but also more general advice and information.

30a High Street
Staffordshire ST15 8AW
Tel: 01785 817885
Fax: 01785 813205
Advice and information about solvent misuse.

1 Hulme Place
The Crescent
Greater Manchester M5 4QA
Tel: 0161 745 8925
Fax: 0161 745 8923
E-mail: tacade[at]
Health education publications include materials on alcohol and drugs for teachers, children and young people.

Turning Point
New Loom House
101 Back Church Lane
London E1 1LU
Tel: 0171 702 2300
Fax: 0171 702 1456
A network of more than 90 centres offering care, advice and support for people with drug, alcohol or mental health problems.


There is a huge amount of information about drugs on the Web. The following sites are a brief selection. Many include extensive links to other relevant sites.

Alcohol Concern
Includes extensive information about alcohol and its social and personal costs.

Addiction Research Foundation (Canada)
Public information about drugs and alcohol, plus journal and research papers.

Crew 200
Online drugs information service compiled by young volunteers.

Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence
Includes drug information, news, details of publications and good links.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (US)
Contains a variety of scientific and layperson's information about drugs, including factsheets designed for children.

Online newsletter.

The Site
General site for young people. There is extensive drug information plus pages on issues including education, leisure time, housing, sex and money.

Urban 75
Online magazine with good drugs information aimed at young people.


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