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Substance Misuse

Drugs, New Psychoactive Substances and Solvents

Whatever your view is on drugs, they can be very dangerous to your health and CAN KILL.

The advice of Police Scotland is straightforward – DON’T TAKE DRUGS.

  • There is no ‘safe’ way to take drugs – there is always a risk.
  • The only way of staying safe is to avoid drugs altogether.

How can I keep myself safe?

  • If you think you could be pressurised into taking drugs, plan what you will say and do if you’re offered drugs before it happens.
  • Make an excuse not to be given the drug.
  • If you’re offered or given the drug then don’t take it.
  • Encourage any friend you’re with not to take the drug.
  • If you have taken a drug and feel unwell then seek urgent medical advice.
  • If you are a young person then tell someone responsible about what happened.

If I have a drug conviction will it affect me in later life?

  • Having a drug conviction can prevent you getting a job, especially since employers can now request information about previous convictions.
  • Having a drug conviction can also stop you entering countries such as the USA, Australia, New Zealand and many others.

Can I be charged with being a dealer if I give a controlled drug to my friend?

  • Giving, selling or even sharing any controlled drug, such as an ecstasy tablet or cannabis, to or with a friend or anyone else is classed as supplying an illegal drug and this carries a stiffer penalty.
  • Even though you made no money, you are still supplying drugs.

What are the penalties for drug related offences?

Controlled drugs are classified as A, B or C depending upon how much harm they can cause to the user and to society generally. The most severe penalties relate to dealing or possessing Class A drugs, which includes drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and heroin.

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)– What are they?

Often misleadingly referred to as ‘legal highs’, these substances are designed and produced to mimic the effects of drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and ecstasy but have been created so that their chemical structure is different enough to avoid being controlled under current drug laws.

What should I do if I’m offered a substance like this?

The advice of Police Scotland is again straightforward - DON’T TAKE THESE SUBSTANCES.

  • Just because they are referred to as 'legal' doesn't mean they are safe
  • There is no ‘safe’ way to take NPS – there is always a risk.
  • The only way of staying safe is to avoid NPS altogether.

You don’t know what you’re getting

  • Many NPS are new chemicals and haven’t been tested on humans.
  • Many of these chemicals have been found to contain harmful and toxic contents.
  • As you don’t know what chemical you’re consuming there is no way of knowing what the substance may do to your body. There have been reports of people being hospitalised and even dying after consuming NPS.
  • Analysis of drug related deaths in Scotland in 2013 revealed that NPS were found to be present in the person’s body in 113 cases. NPS was found to have been implicated in the person’s death in 60 of those cases. In 2012, NPS was present in 47 deaths and implicated in 32. Despite drug related deaths falling by 9% over the same period, the involvement of NPS in drug related deaths is increasing. NPS CAN KILL.
  • Many people have reported unpleasant effects to their physical and mental health as a result of taking these substances, such as psychosis, paranoia and seizures.
  • Taking NPS is dangerous in itself. Mixing drugs, including controlled drugs and NPS increases the risks to your health even more. This includes mixing drugs with alcohol. In 55 of the 60 drug deaths occurring in Scotland in 2013 where NPS was implicated, other substances were also found to have been implicated.

What do NPS look like?

  • Generally they are powders, pills, or liquids.
  • These drugs cannot legally be sold for human consumption so are often sold as research chemicals, ‘collector’s item’, bath salts or plant food to get around the law.

Some people call them ‘legal highs’ - are they legal?

The name ‘legal highs’ is misleading because it suggests that these substances are safe and legal.

  • It doesn't mean they are safe!
  • Some have actually been found to contain drugs that are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
  • If you’re found in possession of NPS which tests positive for a controlled drug, then you will be charged with being in possession of a controlled drug, even although you may genuinely have thought you weren’t breaking the law.
  • Hundreds of chemicals, which were initially NPS, have now become controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Therefore a substance believed to be an NPS could have become a controlled drug without your knowledge.
  • Moreover, criminals and Organised Crime Groups are involved in the production and distribution of NPS. They are not interested in the wellbeing of the people who might be prepared to take them. Profit is their bottom line - they just want to make money.

What is meant by Volatile Solvent Abuse?

This includes inhalation of substances such as glue or gas from items such as aerosol canisters, cigarette lighters, plastic bags or tins.

What are the dangers?

  • There are immediate dangers associated with volatile solvent abuse such as suffocation.
  • Sometimes inhaling solvents can cause a person’s heart to stop beating resulting in sudden death. Even if this doesn’t happen, there are serious long term health implications associated with volatile solvent abuse.

Is it against the law to take solvents?

  • Depending on the circumstances it can be an offence.
  • It is an extremely dangerous thing to do, be it gases, glue or aerosol. THEY CAN KILL.

Further Information

If you want to get help or find out more information about substance misuse then get the facts at

If you’re between 11 and 18, get advice about tobacco, alcohol and drug misuse at

To find out more about NPS (New Psychoactive substances), sometimes misleadingly referred to as ‘legal highs’, visit the Angelus Foundation at

For more information about volatile substance abuse, visit

If someone in your family is or has been affected by drug misuse, get help from Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs, at


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