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Knowledge Base » Mental Health » What are Class B Drugs?

What are Class B Drugs?

Last updated on 4th May 2023

In 2018/19 (the latest official figures available) there were 7,376 hospital admissions for drug related mental and behavioural disorders, a 2% increase on 2017/18 (7,258), but 14% less than 3 years ago in 2015/16 (8,621). When considering individual drugs, these NHS statistics found that around one in ten (10.3%) men reported using cannabis, a Class B drug, in 2018/19 compared with one in twenty women (5.0%).

Similar to previous surveys, cannabis was the most commonly used drug by respondents in 2018/19, with 7.6% of adults aged 16 to 59 having used it in that year, equating to around 2.6 million people. There was a long-term decline from a high of 10.7% in 2002/03 to 6.5% in 2009/10, but these figures have shown a one percentage point increase since 2016/17.

Cannabis was also the most commonly used drug by young adults aged 16 to 24, with 17.3% having used it in 2018/19 (around 1.1 million young adults). The long-term decline was more apparent in this age group, falling from 28.2% in 1998 down to 15.1% in the 2013/14 survey. Since then there has been a general upward trend, although the latest 2018/19 estimate is similar to the previous year (16.7% in 2017/18).

What are Class B drugs?

Controlled drugs are classed according to their relative degree of overall harm from misuse. To classify drugs, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) considers scientific evidence on medical and social harms and risks. A drug or other substance is tightly controlled by the Government because it may be abused or cause addiction.

Class B drugs are seen as dangerous substances but perhaps not as harmful as Class A drugs. The most commonly used drug in the Class B category is cannabis which was upgraded from a Class C drug back in January 2009.


What kind of drugs are considered Class B?

Drugs that have been given a Class B classification under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 include:

Amphetamines – A powerful stimulant that keeps people alert, usually sold as an off-white or pinkish powder that sometimes looks like small crystals.

It is also called:

  • Amphetamine Sulphate.
  • Base.
  • Billy.
  • Paste.
  • Speed.
  • Sulph.
  • Whizz.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Feeling alert, energised, wide awake, excited.
  • Amphetamines stop you feeling hungry.
  • Amphetamines can also make users feel agitated, panicked, anxious, aggressive.

Amphetamines put a strain on your heart, so it is definitely not advisable for people with high blood pressure or a heart condition, as users have died from taking too much. Taking a lot of amphetamines, alongside their effects on diet and sleep, can give your immune system a battering, so you could get more colds, flu and sore throats. Depending on how much you have taken, it can be difficult to relax or sleep.

Injecting speed is particularly dangerous, and it is much easier to overdose when injecting. Injecting can also cause damage to veins and arteries, and may cause ulcers and even gangrene. The comedown from amphetamines can last several days, and users often say they feel lethargic and sad after taking it. Regular use of amphetamines can also lead to problems with learning and concentration too. Some people have become psychotic and delusional when on amphetamines, which means seeing or hearing things that aren’t there.

Cannabis – A plant-based drug. It can be smoked, eaten or vaped.

It is also called:

  • Bhang.
  • Bud.
  • Dope.
  • Draw.
  • Ganja.
  • Grass.
  • Hash.
  • Hashish.
  • Herb.
  • Marijuana.
  • Pollen.
  • Pot.
  • Puff.
  • Resin.
  • Sensi.
  • Sinsemilla.
  • Skunk.
  • Weed.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Feeling sick.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Chilled out and happy.
  • Lethargic, unmotivated.
  • Gives you mood swings.
  • Disturbs your sleep and makes you depressed.
  • Feeling drowsy or sleepy.
  • Can make you paranoid, confused, anxious and even aggressive.
  • Can make you hungry, known as having “the munchies”.
  • Can give you the sense that time is slowing down.
  • Can start an addiction to nicotine, the drug in tobacco, if cannabis is smoked.

Cannabis changes how you think, and some people say it gives them a different perspective on things. It does affect your judgement, and people often think conversations or thoughts that they have, whether good or bad, are much deeper or more important when they are “stoned” than they would do normally. People can have problems concentrating and learning new information. This is because studies suggest that cannabis affects the part of the brain we use for learning and remembering things.

Smoking cannabis can make you wheeze and out of breath, cough uncomfortably or painfully, and can make your asthma worse if you have it. It can increase the risk of lung cancer; it can also increase your heart rate and affect your blood pressure, which makes it particularly harmful for people with heart disease.

Cannabis can reduce your sperm count if you are male, or suppress your ovulation if you are female, affecting your ability to have children. It can also increase the risk of your baby being born smaller than expected if you smoke it while pregnant.

Cannabis can cause a serious relapse for people with psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia or it can increase your chances of developing illnesses such as schizophrenia, especially if you have a family background of mental illness and you start smoking in your teenage years. Heavy cannabis users often get cravings and find it hard not to take the drug, even when they know it is causing them physical, mental or social problems.

Codeine – A painkiller used to treat mild to moderate pain that is available as tablets, syrup or as a liquid for injecting. On its own, codeine is a prescription-only opiate painkiller. It is used to treat pain that can’t be stopped by more common painkillers. This means you can’t buy it legally without a prescription. People who take codeine illegally, or abuse their prescription, that is they don’t take it how they should, sometimes crush up the tablets and snort them. Small amounts of codeine are sometimes mixed with other medicines such as paracetamol, ibuprofen and aspirin and these can be bought legally from a chemist or pharmacy.

It is also called:

  • Co-codamol.
  • Codis500.
  • Cough Syrup.
  • Nurofen Plus/Max.
  • Syrup.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Feelings of relaxation, drowsiness, confusion.
  • Nausea, itchiness and constipation, especially if taken in large doses.
  • Lower blood pressure and abnormal breathing, which can lead to respiratory arrest which is when you stop breathing altogether.
  • Kidney failure, liver failure, indigestion or bleeding from the stomach.
  • Fatal side effects if you mix the codeine with other drugs that suppress breathing such as alcohol, benzodiazepines like diazepam (Valium), or other opioid drugs.

Most people who take codeine as a painkiller usually don’t get any side effects, so long as they take the correct amount as prescribed by a doctor. Taking more codeine than prescribed to you by a doctor, or taking illegal codeine, such as from a friend, a dealer or website, increases the risk of overdose and other side effects. As with other opiates, taking very high doses of codeine during pregnancy may lead to withdrawal symptoms in newborn babies.

People sometimes take codeine to help them manage stress and depression. Using any drug to escape bad feelings can increase the risk of becoming dependent on the drug. However, long-term abuse of any mood-altering chemical such as codeine can also contribute to symptoms such as anxiety and depression, so you could be making your mental health worse by taking it. Codeine bought from dealers or online may not have had safety testing, and could be cut with other drugs.

GHB and GBL – GHB (gammahydroxybutrate) and GBL (gammabutyrolactone) look identical. GHB is sometimes referred to as a date rape drug, as rapists use GHB as a weapon. They are sold as colourless oily liquids, capsules (this is rare) or as powder or paste (this is also rare). GHB has a medical use in the treatment of narcolepsy, and GBL is used in stain remover, rust remover, superglue remover, as an alloy cleaner and as a paint stripper. In November 2020 the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMA) advised that GHB should become a Class B drug rather than Class C.

They are also called:

  • 1.
  • 4-Bd.
  • GBH.
  • Geebs.
  • Liquid Ecstasy.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Increased sex drive.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Can make people incoherent.
  • Suffer seizures or convulsions.
  • Disorientation.
  • Stiffening of muscles may occur.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Can stop breathing altogether, and coma and respiratory collapse may follow.

GHB and GBL are depressant drugs which can produce a mild high in smaller doses and sedation in higher doses. They can reduce people’s inhibitions, and some people take the drugs to have more intense sex. It is very easy to overdose on GHB and GBL, which can lead to unconsciousness, coma and death. Dependence can develop fairly quickly, for example after a weekend of severe bingeing on GHB.

Ketamine – Sold as a grainy white or light brown powder. Looks similar to cocaine but is a very different drug. Ketamine is used in medicine as an anaesthetic for humans and animals. It was reclassified from Class C to Class B in June 2014.

It is also called:

  • Donkey Dust.
  • Green.
  • K.
  • Ket.
  • Special K.
  • Super K.
  • Vitamin K.
  • Wonk.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Memory loss.
  • Feeling dream-like and detached.
  • Feeling chilled, relaxed and happy.
  • Being confused and nauseated.
  • Depression.
  • Agitation.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Increases your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Liver damage due to regular, heavy ketamine use.
  • Damage to short- and long-term memory.
  • Numb so you can’t feel pain.

If you take too much ketamine you may lose the ability to move and go into a “k-hole”; this feels like your mind and body have separated and you can’t to do anything about it, which can be a very scary experience. Ketamine can also alter your perception of time and space and make you hallucinate, that is see or hear things that aren’t there. It may also stop you from feeling pain, putting you at risk of hurting yourself and not realising it.

Ketamine can cause serious bladder problems, with the urgent and frequent need to pee. This can be very painful and the pee can be blood-stained. Although stopping using ketamine can help, sometimes the damage can be so serious that the bladder needs surgical repair or even removal. The urinary tract, from the kidneys down to the bladder, can also be affected and incontinence – that is, uncontrolled peeing – may also develop. Abdominal pain, sometimes called “K cramps”, have been reported by people who have taken ketamine for a long time.

Mephedrone – A powerful stimulant that’s often compared to drugs like cocaine and ecstasy.

It is also called:

  • 4-MMC.
  • Bounce.
  • Bubble.
  • Charge.
  • Drone.
  • M-CAT.
  • M-Smack.
  • MC.
  • Meow Meow.
  • Meph.
  • Miow.
  • White Magic.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Faster heartbeat, feeling your heart is racing or not beating properly, heart palpitations.
  • Can make you anxious, agitated or on edge.
  • Feeling very hot or dizzy.
  • Insomnia.
  • Loss of short-term memory.
  • May cause hallucinations, nosebleeds and even fits.

There are several deaths a year in the UK from people taking mephedrone. Some users have reported blue or cold fingers, probably because mephedrone affects the heart and the circulation. There have been reports of people being hospitalised due to the short-term effects of mephedrone. Overheating has been a significant cause of deaths when other amphetamine-type drugs, such as ecstasy, have been used along with mephedrone. Injecting mephedrone is particularly dangerous for several reasons, including the fact that it is easier to overdose from injecting.

Methylphenidate – A stimulant and a medication used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Methylphenidate-based drugs are sold as powders, crystals, pellets and tablets.

It is also called:

  • Banshee dust.
  • Burst.
  • Ching.
  • Ethylphenidate.
  • Evoke.
  • Fake cocaine.
  • Gogaine.
  • Nopaine.
  • Posh.
  • Propylphenidate.
  • Ritalin.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Feeling agitated, panicky and aggressive.
  • Increased heart rate and raised blood pressure.
  • A loss of fine motor control.
  • Bizarre and violent behaviour.

Methylphenidate can cause a psychotic episode. This is a mental state when you can see or hear things which aren’t there and can have delusions, which can lead you to put your own safety at risk. When using a methylphenidate-based drug, you may give your immune system a battering so you might get more colds, flu and sore throats. You may also feel quite low for a while after you’ve stopped using them. Injecting any drug can do nasty damage to your veins and arteries, and has been known to lead to gangrene (death of body tissue, usually a finger, toe or a limb) and to infections. There are also risks involved in sharing needles, syringes and other equipment involved in injecting that are well-known as it puts you, and others, in danger of serious infections like hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.


What is the law around Class B drugs?

The laws controlling drug use are complicated but there are three main statutes regulating the availability of drugs in the UK:

The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) is intended to prevent the non-medical use of certain drugs. For this reason it controls not just medicinal drugs, which will also be in the Medicines Act, but also drugs with no current medical use. Drugs subject to this Act are known as controlled drugs.

The main difference from the Medicines Act is that the Misuse of Drugs Act also prohibits unlawful possession. To enforce this law, the police have the power to stop, detain and search people on reasonable suspicion that they are in possession of a controlled drug.

Most controlled drugs have medical uses, while others may be of scientific interest, so the Act allows the Government to authorise the possession, supply, production and import or export of drugs to meet medical or scientific needs. These exemptions to the general prohibitions are in the form of regulations made under the Act.

Class B drugs are considered by the Government to be less harmful than Class A drugs. Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 can include:

  • Possession of a controlled drug.
  • Possession with intent to supply another person.
  • Production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled drugs.
  • Supplying another person with a controlled drug.
  • Offering to supply another person with a controlled drug.
  • Import or export of controlled drugs.
  • Allowing premises that you occupy or manage to be used for the consumption of certain controlled drugs (smoking of cannabis or opium but not use of other controlled drugs) or supply or production of any controlled drug.

Certain Class B controlled drugs such as codeine can be obtained through a legitimate doctor’s prescription. In such cases their possession is not illegal.

Penalties for possession of Class B drugs

Possession means being caught with drugs, even if they do not belong to the person caught. The police have the power to stop, detain and search people on reasonable suspicion that they are in possession of a controlled drug. If the police stop you and you are in possession of drugs, it is likely that you will be arrested and the drugs found will be seized and destroyed.

The penalty for possession depends on the class and quantity of the drug, and where the person and the drugs were found. If a person is found with drugs near a school, youth facility or location where young people formally meet, the courts will treat this as an aggravating issue and can impose higher penalties. Parliament sets the maximum and sometimes minimum penalty for any offence. When deciding the appropriate sentence, the court must follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, unless it is not in the interests of justice to do so. Before deciding on a sentence, the court will look into any factors that increase the seriousness of the offence such as being in possession whilst on bail. They will also look into factors that may decrease the sentence such as having no convictions or being of good character. The maximum sentence for a person charged with possession of a Class B drug is five years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that it is an offence to administer a substance, such as GHB and GBL, to a person with intent to overpower that person to enable sexual activity with them. This is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Possession with intent to supply. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states that “Where the evidence supports a charge of supplying or possessing controlled drugs of any class with intent to supply, this is to be preferred to a simple possession charge. As with a simple possession charge, a person found in possession of one form of drug but believing it to be another form of drug and intending to supply it to another should be charged with possession with intent of the actual drug. The intent must relate to a future supply of controlled drugs. If the evidence points to past supply, a charge of supplying is more appropriate.”


Penalties for supply and production of Class B drugs

Supply includes dealing or sharing drugs, even if just with friends. It does not require proof of payment or reward. The penalty for supplying drugs depends on the amount of drugs found. Production is committed when a suspect has some identifiable participation in the process of producing an illegal drug, by making it, growing it or any other method.

Supplying or offering to supply a controlled drug, is an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 4(3)). The production of a controlled drug is an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (section 4 (2)(a)). The cultivation of a cannabis plant(s) is an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971(section 6(2)).

There are general sentencing guidelines for the supply and/or production of Class B drugs. The maximum sentence for a person charged with the supply and/or production of a Class B drug is 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both, but the exact sentence a person may receive will depend on the specifics of the case, anything they might choose to plead guilty to and/or what can be proven beyond reasonable doubt by the prosecution. The cultivation of a cannabis plant(s) is taken very seriously by the courts, and can attract long sentences of imprisonment. The court will seek to determine the offender’s role in the production process. They will seek to determine if the offender was in a leading role, for example directing the production; a significant role, for example having a management function within a chain; or a lesser role, for example having little awareness of the scale of the operation. The court will look at the quantity of drugs that have been produced and/or cultivated.

Once the category for the offence is determined the court will look into aggravating factors that increase the seriousness of the offence as well as mitigating circumstances that can reduce the offence.

Final thoughts

For anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s use of Class B drugs, you can call FRANK on 0330 123 6600.

To report Class B drug offences, contact the police on 999 or CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

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Megan Huziej

Megan Huziej

Megan has worked with CPD Online College since August 2020, she is in charge of content production, as well as planning, managing and delegating tasks. Megan works closely with our writers, voice artists, companies and individuals to create the most appropriate and relevant content as well as also using and managing SEO. She gained her Business Administration Level 3 qualification over the duration of being at CPD Online College as well. Outside of work Megan loves to venture to different places and eateries as well as spending quality time with friends and family.

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