Growing up can be tough - always under pressure from your friends and family to do the right thing - look right, sound right and behave right.
But, as a young person, what is the 'right' when it comes to drugs and alcohol - should you take that MDMA powder or neck that ecstasy pill. What's in it, how will it make you feel, what are the risks?
This page provides you with clear, non-judgemental information about some of the most commonly used legal and illegal substances, including:
The final section is called 'staying safe.' It includes information about mixing drugs and alcohol, feeling unwell, and looking after yourselves and your mates.
Remember, new substances are coming out all the time, make sure you do your research before you make a decision. There are numerous websites and forums out there - some bad, some good. Keep up-to-date, stay informed and stay safe.
The amount of alcohol in a drink is measured in units. Different drinks have a different number of units. The number of units in a bottle or can of alcohol is printed on the label or packaging.
Young people, under 16, should not drink alcohol at all as this can damage developing organs. The best advice is not to drink alcohol until you're 18.
When over 18, men & women should drink no more than 14 units a week, spread evenly across a few days with a couple of alcohol-free days.
If you are under 18 it is against the law for you:
Cannabis comes from a plant called Cannabis Sativa.
Cannabis normally comes in a solid brown lump called hash (the resin scraped from the plant), or the dried flowers of the plant, known as grass, weed or Skunk.
The main chemical in cannabis is called THC (Tetra-Hydro-Cannabinol), which is the bit that makes you feel trippy. Different types of cannabis have different levels of THC.
It is normally smoked, rolled with tobacco in cigarette papers, or in a pipe or bong, but it can also be eaten.
There are products which claim to have the same effects as cannabis (Spice, Black Mamba, etc.), but these can also be harmful and are illegal under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.
MDMA usually comes in tablet form, known as 'ecstasy', or powder, known as 'MDMA powder.'
Tablets come in various shapes and colours. MDMA powder usually comes in white or off-white crystals or powder.
Remember, not all tablets claiming to be ecstasy or powder claiming to be MDMA, actually contain any real MDMA.
Ketamine is an anaesthetic that comes in the form of a clear liquid, tablets, or powder ranging in colour from off-white to light brown.
Obviously, if you are having an out-of-body experience and can't move your arms and legs, then you're particularly at risk, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.
Because Ketamine is an anaesthetic and numbs your body, you can't feel pain as much as you would normally, so you can injure yourself without realising.
Mephedrone (4-Methylmethcathinone) also known as Meph, Meow Meow, M-Cat, is a synthetic chemical, similar to amphetamines.
Usually an off-white powder. Normally found in tablets or capsules. It can have a sharp chemical or fishy/bleachy smell.
The main after-effects are tiredness, feeling dizzy and feeling low.
Stimulants can cause you to overheat, especially if you are bouncing around in a nightclub.
There isn't enough information around at the moment to predict if Mephedrone is addictive or will cause long-term damage to your health.
In 2016 the Government brought in a new law, the Psychoactive Substances Act, which made all drugs formerly known as 'legal highs' illegal to produce, import or supply. Legal highs used to be sold in head shops or from websites and were packaged in shiny colourful bags.
They had names like Spice, Mexxy, Benzo etc. They claimed to be 'legal' things like bath salts, research chemicals or plant food and were claimed to have the same effects of illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
It is not illegal to possess a psychoactive substance unless you are in custody, a prison or a young offender institution. It is illegal to possess a psychoactive substance if you intend to supply it to others, or if the substance is covered under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
For possession of a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution, the maximum sentence is 2 years. For other offences, such as production and possession with intent to supply, the maximum sentence is 7 years.
Remember, supply can mean giving them to a mate, and importing can mean ordering them from the internet.
Some drugs that started out as legal highs, like Spice, are now illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Spice is a Class B drug, so having it in your possession will get you into trouble. Although maximum sentences are rarely used, possessing Spice can lead to a maximum sentence of five years. If you are convicted of possession with intent to supply, you could add another 9 years on top of that.
The bottom line is - most drugs that are intended to get you high can also get you into bother with the law.
Solvents come in many forms, such as household products like glues, lighter fluid and aerosol sprays, and are normally inhaled.
A few drinks with your mate to loosen up as you get ready to go out can turn into a session. You are two and a half times more likely to get into a fight or have an accident than people who only start drinking when they go out.
Using drugs is risky in itself, but mixing them with alcohol can make the effects of both very unpredictable and dangerous. Alcohol dehydrates you so mixing it with other drugs that do the same, like cocaine, ecstasy or Mephedrone, or some of the legal highs can be very risky.
It can be tempting, on a night out, to get as hammered as possible, as quickly as possible. This is going to ruin your night! Try to pace yourself. Don't drink on an empty stomach. Have a soft drink or water. You don't have to have an alcoholic drink at every round. Drink lower alcoholic drinks, or drink slower. Sip your drink and then put it down somewhere you can keep an eye on it, holding your drink will mean you drink faster.
Don't take more drugs because you think the ones you have taken are not working. The effects of drugs can vary for lots of reasons, such as the way you feel, where you are, how much you have taken.
Or there may be different amounts of the drug in the substance you have taken. It may even be a completely different substance. Taking more could mean you overdose. Be patient, pace yourself!
Alcohol and drugs reduce our ability to think straight. If you are someone who loses their temper easily, alcohol and drugs can make things worse. If you are on the receiving end of someone giving you grief, walk away. It can be hard to lose face in front of other people, but it has got to be better than being the victim of a serious assault or being locked up for giving someone else a hiding.
Alcohol and drugs increase your self-confidence and make it easier to approach someone you fancy, but if you've been using drugs or alcohol, you can end up going further than you intended.
If you intend to have sex, use a condom. Having sex without a condom can leave you open to sexually transmitted infections (STI's) and unplanned pregnancies. If you are worried, you might have an STI, visit your GP, walk-in centre or visit the GUM clinic at your local hospital
Women can get oral emergency contraception from their GP, Walk-in-centre and most pharmacies. This can be taken 72 hours after unprotected sex and is available to anyone over 16 years of age.
Don't flash your expensive phone around; it could end up stolen. Buy a cheap phone to use when you are going out. Make sure it has credit and is fully charged.
If you are drawing cash from a machine, be aware of who is around and don't let anyone distract you, shield your pin and put your money away quickly. Use a machine in a well-lit public area.
Never accept drinks from a stranger or someone you don't trust. These could be spiked.
If you are going to leave the club or pub with someone you have just met, make sure your friends know what you are doing and where you are going, maybe you could take a pic of your new friend and text it to your friends. If a friend is telling you where they are going and who with, listen to what they are saying.
If someone goes too far and starts to feel unwell, take them somewhere quiet and cool. Keep them sitting up and awake, give them water if they're able to drink. If you are unable to wake them and their breathing is erratic, lie them on their side in the recovery position and get medical help.
Have a plan of how you are going to get home after a night out.
Try to pre-book and pay for a taxi to take you home from a pre-arranged location. Use this location as a meeting point if you get split up from your friends.
If you do end up walking home alone, be aware of your surroundings, stay on well-lit public roads, don't be tempted to take the short-cut across the dark, deserted park because you can't wait to crash into bed.
This webinar will look at how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and other potential causes of trauma can affect an individual's relationship with alcohol and other drugs.
It is relevant for staff and volunteers with specific roles to support substance users as well as youth workers, mental health, criminal justice, housing, homelessness, social care and other workers.