University College London Union

You are here


Uni is a time for experimenting and exploring new options of expressing yourself. However, drugs don’t provide the answer and will negatively impact on your life be it in terms of your health, your money and even your relationships.

drug abuse

Common drugs and drug abuse

The 2009/10 British Crime Survey estimates that 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds living in England and Wales have tried illegal drugs in the last year.

Among young people, this figure is more than twice as high, with an estimated 20% of 16 to 24 year olds having used illegal drugs in the last year.

For the people who take them, illegal drugs can be a serious problem. They’re responsible for between 1,300 and 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, and destroy thousands of relationships, families and careers.

The most commonly used drugs:

1. Cannabis
As in previous years, cannabis was the drug most likely to be used in England and Wales. The survey found that 6.6% of 16 to 59 year olds (or about 2.2 million people) reported using cannabis in the last year.

Cannabis can cause anxiety, paranoia and loss of motivation. There’s evidence that cannabis use increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia, and can cause a relapse in those with a pre-existing condition. Cannabis, like tobacco, can cause lung disease. Long-term or heavy use may cause cancer.

2. Powder cocaine
Powder cocaine is the second most commonly used drug, with 2.4% of 16 to 59 year olds saying they had taken powder cocaine in the last year.

Cocaine, or coke, is highly addictive. People who are young and healthy can have a fit or heart attack after taking too much coke. It can also cause panic attacks.
Drugs information

3. Ecstasy
The survey revealed that 1.6% of 16 to 59 year olds had taken ecstasy in the last year.

Ecstasy can cause panic attacks or psychotic states. There have been more than 200 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK since 1996. The drug has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems.

4. Amyl nitrite and amphetamine
Levels of amyl nitrite (also called poppers) and amphetamine use were similar (1.1% and 1%, respectively).

Poppers aren’t addictive, but they can make you feel sick, faint or weak and give you an extreme headache. Some men have trouble getting an erection after sniffing poppers.

Amphetamines are very addictive, and the comedown can make you feel depressed. They put a strain on your heart, and users have died from overdosing.

5. Hallucinogens and ketamine
The survey found that 0.5% of 16 to 59 year olds had used hallucinogens (LSD and magic mushrooms). Use of ketamine was also estimated at 0.5%.

The side effects of hallucinogens, which are random and occasionally very frightening, may include flashbacks.

Ketamine can cause panic attacks and depression. High doses can dangerously suppress breathing and heart function, and can lead to unconsciousness.


When the drugs don’t work…

If you have a problem with drugs, there’s a wide range of services that can help.

Some of these services are provided by the NHS, and some are specialist drug facilities run by charities and private organisations.

This guide to getting treatment for a drug problem will steer you through the options, so you can find help that works for you. If you have a problem with drugs, you have the same entitlement to care as anyone coming to the NHS for help with any other health problem.

With the right help and support it’s possible for you to get drug free and stay that way.

Where to start
A good place to start is to visit your GP. Your GP can discuss your concerns with you, assess the nature of your problems and help you choose the most appropriate treatment. Your GP might offer to treat you or might refer you to your local specialist drug service.

Many drug treatment services accept self-referrals so, if you are not comfortable talking to your GP, you might be able to approach your local drug treatment service directly.

You can find your local drug treatment services on the Frank website.

If you’re having trouble finding the right sort of help, call the Frank drugs helpline on 0800 776600. An adviser can talk to you about the different options.

Visit here for more information on the effect of drugs on your body.

Drugs information and support
Call the Frank helpline on 0800 776600 for more information about drugs and the different options available for help and support. The confidential helpline is open every day, 24 hours a day.