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If you suspect someone – a friend or family member – is taking drugs it is vital to have some general knowledge which may help keep them safe.

How do you stop someone taking drugs?

It is not always possible to stop a person doing something – even if we know it will not be good for them. This is true of drugs. However, we can try to help them by keeping them away from any situation – such as a pub, nightclub or a mate – which might encourage them to take drugs. Instead encourage other things – a game of football, swimming, cinema or going for a nice meal, for example.

How can you help someone who wants to stop taking drugs?

The best way to help a friend or family member who knows they have a problem is to be there for them. Let them know you available if they want to speak to you about anything. It will help if you know about the dangers of the drug they are taking and the services available to help them quit. Look at the information contained on this site or visit some of the links to find out more.

My friend/child is taking drugs – will they become an addict?

There is no strong evidence to suggest that young people who experiment with drugs will become addicts. Only a few people who use “soft” drugs (such as cannabis) will move onto other drugs.
Know the facts so you can have an informed conversation with your friend/child about the dangers of drugs.

Why are they taking drugs?

There are many reasons why people take drugs. However, a major reason for young people to turn to drugs can be peer pressure and because they think it will help them fit in, look cool or give them confidence. By speaking openly with your friend/child you can suggest ways to boost their confidence to avoid this peer pressure.

The effects and dangers of some of the most widely taken, illegal, drugs in the UK include:


  • Can lead to mental health problems such as schizophrenia
  • Smoking cannabis is more dangerous to your lungs than smoking cigarettes
  • Can make asthma worse
  • Affects blood pressure and increases risk with anyone with a heart problem
  • Long-term use can cause cancer and lung disease
  • Can increase paranoia and anxiety
  • Can reduce a man’s sperm count and suppress ovulation in women


  • Highly addictive
  • Too much can lead to fits or heart attacks – even in the young and healthy
  • Can cause panic attacks
  • Increases mood swings and leads to agitated behaviour
  • You can die from an overdose
  • Increases risk of depression
  • Reduces sexual desire


  • Can cause panic attacks or psychotic states
  • Can increase likelihood of liver, kidney and heart problems
  • Affects body temperature and can increase risk of dehydration
  • But drinking too much can also be dangerous – don’t drink more than a pint of water or non-alcoholic fluid every hour when on Ecstasy to avoid upsetting your body’s salt balance.
  • More than 200 ecstasy-related deaths in the UK since 1996


  • Hallucinogens such as LSD and magic mushrooms are Class A drugs – possession can lead to a seven year jail sentence.
  • Variety of side-effects, such as flashbacks, can be very frightening.
  • People can harm themselves if having a “bad trip”.
  • LSD can have serious implications for someone with a history of mental problems and may also trigger a mental health problem that had previously gone undetected.

Amphetamines (or speed)

  • Very addictive
  • Comedown can make you depressed
  • Put a strain on your heart
  • Overdosing can lead to death


  • Highly addictive
  • The body builds tolerance to heroin meaning users have to take more to get the same effects and eventually more to feel “normal” and avoid a withdrawal state
  • Overdoses can lead to death
  • Mixing heroin with other drugs, including alcohol, increase the risk of overdosing
  • Heroin prevents your cough reflex working properly, increasing the risk of dying from your own vomit
  • Injecting heroin can cause serious damage to your veins and can lead to gangrene (which can lead to the loss of a limb) and tissue infections
  • Sharing needles to inject heroin increases the risk of you contracting infections such as hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS
Link to the Lanarkshire Alcohol and Drug Action Team website - opens in a new browser window