What follows applies to the UK only -- more on each drug’s legal status can be found on its page.
Drugs are grouped into three categories, Class A, B and C, with Class A carrying the heaviest penalties.
Any drug not in Class A, B or C is not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act but may be controlled under the Medicines Act 1968 or other legislation such as consumption of tobacco and alcohol laws.
This covers GHB/ GBL, ketamine, and minor tranquilisers. The law around anabolic steroids is complicated - if you use or possess them without a prescrition you are unlikely to be prosecuted unless they are in a non-medical form. Supplying or selling steroids to someone else is always an offence.
Maximum sentences are usually given to repeat offenders involved in serious offences.
This includes having drugs on you, in your car, your home or in luggage you’re responsible for, even if it’s not with you at the time. If you weren’t aware the drugs were there then you’ve not committed a crime. But you are committing a crime if you know drugs are being kept or used in premises you’re responsible for like your home, vehicle, or business.
‘Possession’ can mean very small amounts of drug – in some countries just a trace on clothing, an amount too small to even use.
If you admit to drug taking in the past you can be charged with ‘past possession’. ‘Joint possession’ is when two or more people own a shared supply or pool together their drugs. If caught with drugs it’s even worse if you say ‘I was just carrying them for a friend’ or ‘they’re not all for me’ as this means you can be charged with supplying as well as possession.
This covers dealing but also giving drugs to friends for free. You can be charged with ‘intent to supply’ if it’s thought you were planning to sell or give the drugs to others later. The law punishes supplying and intending to supply drugs more harshly than just possessing them. Taking drugs into or out of the country carries the heaviest penalties.
Get our advice about arrest on the Drugs and the Police page.
This article was last reviewed on: 28/10/11
Date due for next review: 28/10/13