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Drugs and substance abuse

7 May 2019

Many of us first come into contact with drugs or alcohol whilst still at school.

During this time there is temptation and pressure to experiment. We have provided some information and advice for young people who think that they or a friend may have a problem with substance abuse. These pages also list websites of interest to concerned parents.

For parents 

Advice for young people 

During your time at school you may be tempted, or feel pressured into experimenting with drugs and alcohol. There are important things you should know, and consider, before you do anything you may regret.

Drugs and the law 

  • Cigarettes - The drug that most young people try. It is illegal for shopkeepers to sell tobacco or tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18.
  • Cannabis - You might have heard it called other names such as pot, weed, dope and marijuana. It is a Class B drug and is the most widely used illegal drug in the UK.

To find out more about the law relating to all other types of drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy and heroin see the A - Z of drugs on the Talk to Frank website.

The effects and risks of drugs 

The effects drugs can have on you and the risks involved vary widely depending on the drug. See our Help and Support section for more information and places to get confidential advice. 


The tobacco in cigarettes contains nicotine, which is highly addictive. Smokers are more likely to develop: 

  • coughs

  • chest infections

  • asthma

  • cancer 

People who start smoking cigarettes when they are young often get hooked quickly and find it very difficult to stop later on.


People who smoke cannabis regularly can easily become addicted and find it very hard to give up the drug. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • mood swings

  • difficulty sleeping

  • sweating

  • shaking and diarrhoea

The drug affects people differently, some feel chilled out and relaxed, while others can have hallucinations and feel paranoid. For regular users, there is an increased risk of developing psychotic illnesses, such as schizophrenia.

Other drugs 

Drugs such as heroin are highly addictive and it can be extremely difficult for people to give up. For more information on heroin addiction and other drugs see Talk to Frank.

We offer advice in our Help and Support section for young people who think they may have a drug problem or are worried about someone else.