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The effects of drugs

Find out about the most commonly used illegal drugs and the effects they can have on your health.
Getting help

Find out where to get advice and what will happen if you have treatment

• General help
• Cocaine, crack and other stimulants
• Heroin and other opiates

The 2009/10 CRIME SURVEYestimates that 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds living 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 , and destroy thousands of relationships, families and careers.

According to the Crime Survey, the most commonly used drugs in the UK are:

1. Cannabis

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
For more information on the effects and risks of different drugs, see the A-Z of drugs on the Frank website.

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 havetrouble 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.

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