Drugs and the law

There are some drugs which are legal such as paracetamols and other tablets available at a pharmacy or prescribed by a doctor. Cigarettes and alcohol are also drugs but there is an age limit of when you can legally buy these, which is 18.

Then there are other drugs which are available and are illegal to both possess and supply.

Below is a list of these illegal drugs and the penalties possession or supply of them can hold. The A, B or C classification is used to categorise the drugs in respect of their dangers, which in turn means stronger penalties.


Possession: Maximum seven years in prison and fine
Supply: Maximum life in prison and fine *


Possession: Maximum five years in prison and fine
Supply: Maximum 14 years in prison and fine *


Possession: Maximum two years in prison and fine
Supply: Maximum 14 years in prison and fine *

A drugs conviction has many consequences and can have a huge effect on every aspect of your life. It could affect your education, your future career plans and could even prevent you from going on holiday to certain countries.

Drugs and studying

Some people think that taking certain drugs enables you to stay awake, and so helps you to cram in hours of studying. In actual fact, most drugs will have an adverse effect and could have an impact on your memory and concentration. Each school, college and university has its own policies and practices about what will happen if you are caught with illegal substances. You will be dealt will appropriately by the establishment and in most cases you could be excluded.

Drugs and future employment

An increasing number of professions automatically exclude individuals with past convictions related to drugs. You could be asked about previous convictions on your application and may also be required to do a drugs test for a job interview or at random intervals during your employment, even if you do not have a record. Lying about something like this could hinder your application.

Drugs and driving

It is an offence to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle when unfit through drugs. If you are found guilty of driving when under the influence of drugs, there’s an obligatory 12 months disqualification and a fine. In cases involving accidents then longer disqualifications, stiffer fines and imprisonment can apply.

Drugs and travelling abroad

You are required to admit past substance use and offences when completing visa forms for travel to certain countries.

With a previous conviction you could be refused entry to certain countries, or even sent back.

You also need to be aware of the different laws around drug use and smuggling in other countries. Some countries have more severe penalties than the UK including the death penalty. Individual embassies can provide you with more information about travelling. Visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for further information.

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