Drugs fall into 3 main categories


Such as caffeine and khat (legal) or cocaine and amphetamines (illegal)

  • increase breathing, heart rate and blood pressure
  • increase confidence and make you talk more
  • reduce hunger, and need for sleep
  • increase alertness
  • cause changes in body temperature and sweating
  • cause paranoia and aggression
  • reduce inhibitions and increase risk taking behaviour
  • induce psychosis and sexual dysfunction


Such as alcohol and diazepam (legal) or heroin and GHB (illegal)

  • reduce breathing, heart rate and blood pressure
  • reduce alertness and coordination
  • reduce inhibitions and increase risk taking behaviour
  • increase risk of overdose when taken with other substances
  • cause sexual dysfunction

Perception altering drugs

such as salvia divinorum (legal) or magic mushrooms and LSD (illegal)

  • cause hallucinations
  • increase self awareness
  • cause euphoria
  • cause anxiety and mood swings
  • cause paranoia
  • decrease or increase inhibitions

cause psychosis

(Adapted from Legal Highs:the facts)

Skunk, smack and 'shrooms.......

How a drug affects an individual will depend on the:

  • amount taken and combination with other substances such as prescribed medication
  • how it's taken (smoking and injecting give a quicker and more intense experience; as a drink or eaten takes longer and lasts longer)
  • purity and exact chemical composition
  • environment where it's taken
  • individual factors such as physiology, general health, mood and expectations

Recreational drug use can easily become problematic and result in damaging effects on a person's health, wealth, performance and personal relationships.

Mixing it

It may be tempting to use a drug to soften the effects of another, such as smoking cannabis after a speed trip. Yet this could increase your paranoia.

Mixing drugs is unpredictable and can be dangerous, for example

  • alcohol and cocaine produces cocaethylene which is highly toxic and vastly increases the risk of sudden death

For more information on combining different drugs, visit the FRANK webpage

You are at greater risk of physical or sexual assault when under the influence of drugs.  

You may appear threatening to others and this will affect their behaviour towards you.

Top tips for staying safe

  • Drugs aren't compulsory.  Know the facts, know yourself and resist pressure.  VisiFRANK for more
  • If you're dancing and under the influence, take regular breaks to chill out and sip non-alcoholic drinks (about a pint per hour)
  • Have a friend looking out for those under the influence who knows what to do in an emergency:
  • put the person in the recovery position.  Follow this link on YouTube
  • call 999 and tell the paramedics what drugs have been taken

If things are getting too much, don't keep it a secret

See your GP who will be able to look at referral to specialist services if appropriate  

The University of Nottingham Counselling Service produced a leaflet, Alcohol and Drugs:stay in control

FRANK is an independent website giving friendly, confidential drugs advice, with a comprehensive drugs A-Z, personal stories, videos and a freephone, text and email service

Getting Help

'Legal highs'


Drugs are substances taken into the body which change the way we feel or act.  They affect the central nervous system and may alter perception, mood, consciousness, personality or behaviour.

Types of Drugs

Staying safe

Effects on the individual

‚Äč‚ÄčThere are hundreds of drugs and even more slang names, so visit the FRANK website for the up to date drugs A-Z, plus information on effects, risks and the law. 

The legal status of drugs is complex and changes all the time.  Visit Thesite.org for more on current law around different drugs and your rights if suspected of possession or possession with intent to supply.

If prosecuted for drugs possession or supply you could face

  • suspension or exclusion from university
  • eviction from your accommodation
  • effects on your future career, particularly in medicine, nursing and law
  • limits on the countries you can travel to

Just because a drug is not technically illegal (yet),  it doesn't mean it is safe.  N.B The government has brought in temporary bans for previously 'legal highs'.

So called 'legal' or 'herbal highs' are designed to mimic class A, B or C drugs such as cocaine or cannabis but may not have been tested for human consumption.

New drugs are constantly being developed and long term effects on the body and brain are unknown.

See  the 
NHS Choices webpage on 'legal highs'.