Check out the courses we offer
Knowledge Base » Mental Health » What are Class C Drugs?

What are Class C Drugs?

Last updated on 4th May 2023

As part of its statutory duties under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMA) keeps the situation relating to the misuse of drugs under regular review. Drug classification and reclassification forms part of these reviews, and as a consequence of these reviews, some controlled drugs have been reclassified from Class C to Class B, such as GHB and Cannabis. However, a number of substances remain classified as Class C drugs as these are deemed by the ACMA as being the least dangerous, including benzodiazepines, steroids, stimulants and sedatives. By classifying these drugs as Class C, the ACMA is nevertheless acknowledging that there are medical and social harms to some users of these drugs and that there should still be arrests and prosecutions for some cases of possession, and for cases of the illegal supply and production of these drugs.

According to the UK Anti-Doping Agency, there are more than one million, predominantly male (around 98%), steroid users in the UK. They describe the most common type of steroid abuser as a thirty-something, white-collar professional; not elite sportspeople as some may assume. The Agency describe steroid abuse as “now a serious public health issue”, citing that 56% of these users took steroids for improving body image or cosmetic reasons.

There were 538 deaths involving benzodiazepines across England and Wales in 2021, which is a 13% rise since 2020. Similarly, deaths involving benzodiazepine analogues, substances with similar effects to benzos, increased from 62 to 171 in this time period.

What are Class C drugs?

Class C drugs are a category of controlled drugs under the UK Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 that are seen to be the least harmful of substances to people, but still attract long prison sentences if found guilty in court, even for possession.

Some of the most common Class C drugs include but are not limited to:

  • Anabolic steroids, although it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use.
  • Benzodiazepines.
  • Khat.
  • Piperazines.

What kind of drugs are considered Class C?

Some of the most commonly encountered Class C drugs currently controlled under the misuse of drugs legislation – that is, both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA) and the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 (MDR) – include:

Anabolic steroids – Anabolic steroids are available as tablets or as a liquid for injection. In medicine, they can be used to treat anaemia and muscle weakness after surgery. Steroids are drugs that mimic certain natural hormones in the body that regulate and control how the body works and develops. Anabolic steroids tend to be misused, mainly because they are similar to the male hormone testosterone and they can improve endurance and performance and stimulate muscle growth. They are used by some bodybuilders, athletes and other sportspeople because of their performance-enhancing effects, and these users may consume 10 to 100 times the medical dose. Some younger people use them to try and look more attractive, despite risking the negative effects on their looks.

They are also called:

  • Juice.
  • Melanotan.
  • Nootropics.
  • Roids.
  • Sildenafil.
  • Smart drugs.
  • Viagra.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Changes in appearance.
  • Some users feel irritable, hostile.
  • Can induce mood swings.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Increased risk of illness and death due to liver failure, stroke or heart attack.
  • Can interfere with body development in young people.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • May become paranoid.
  • Strong feelings of aggression or even becoming violent.
  • Tendency to lash out or attack family and friends.

For males, regular use can lead to erection problems, growth of breasts, becoming sterile, loss of hair and development of acne. It can also make testicles shrink. For females, they can develop more masculine characteristics with extra facial hair, loss of hair on the head, a deeper voice, shrinking breasts, and an enlarged clitoris, as well as risking acne, an increased risk of menstrual problems and changes in sex drive.

Injecting any drug, including steroids, can damage veins and cause ulcers and gangrene, particularly with dirty needles or poor injecting technique. Sharing needles, syringes and other injecting works can help spread HIV, hepatitis C and other infections. Anabolic steroids are sold on the black market with falsified, substandard and counterfeit anabolic steroids.

People can easily become psychologically dependent on anabolic steroid use, meaning that a person can develop an increased tendency to keep taking the drug even in spite of possible harmful effects. Withdrawal symptoms have been reported soon after stopping the use of anabolic steroids, including headaches, lethargy and depression.

Benzodiazepines – These are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety. Street benzos are illicit drugs that are similar but can be far more dangerous. Benzodiazepines come as tablets, capsules or suppositories. Benzodiazepines often come in blister packs, which can make them look legitimate and safe, but they are not. The tablets are usually sold as diazepam (Valium) or alprazolam (Xanax) but don’t often contain any of the drug they are sold as. Instead, they might contain other dangerous benzodiazepines, their equivalents or other chemicals. Benzodiazepines are often used as chill-out drugs after parties, to help people sleep after taking stimulants. Some people use them to help come down off acid, cocaine, speed or ecstasy after a big night out.

They are also called:

  • Alprazolam.
  • Benzos.
  • Blues.
  • Diazepam.
  • Downers.
  • Etizolam.
  • Rohypnol.
  • Roofies.
  • Temazepam.
  • Valium.
  • Vallies.
  • Xanax.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Can cause short-term memory loss.
  • Can make a user forgetful, drowsy, dizzy and overly sleepy.
  • The risk of suicidal thoughts.
  • Can be highly addictive.
  • Bad withdrawal symptoms, which can include tremors, nausea, vomiting, headaches, anxiety, panic attacks and depression.

Benzodiazepines can cause psychological and physical addiction and, because tolerance increases over time, users may have to keep increasing their dose either to get the same hit, or just to maintain the initial positive medical effect on their anxiety or insomnia.

Benzodiazepine use can negatively affect mental health particularly in young adults and those who are alcohol or opioid dependent. It is dangerous to take benzodiazepines with alcohol and/or other drugs. Alcohol and some drugs depress the central nervous system, which affects breathing. This means that using any combination of these types of drugs with or without alcohol increases the risk of overdose and death.

Khat – This is used mostly in Northeast Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and by expatriate communities from these regions in the UK. Khat is a leafy green plant that people use by chewing the leaves. It contains two main stimulant drugs which speed up the mind and body. Their main effects are similar to, but less powerful than, amphetamine (speed).

It is also called:

  • Chat.
  • Qaad.
  • Ka.
  • Qat.
  • Quat.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • Makes people more alert and talkative.
  • Produces feelings of elation.
  • Suppresses the appetite.
  • Leads to periods of insomnia.
  • Produces a feeling of calm if it’s chewed over a few hours, with some describing it as being ‘blissed out’.
  • Can inflame the mouth and damage the teeth.
  • Can produce high blood pressure, heart palpitations and heart problems with heavy use.
  • Risks of significant liver toxicity from excessive use and significant liver disease, which has the potential to be life threatening.
  • Can develop short-lived states of confusion.
  • Can give feelings of anxiety and aggression.

Khat can make pre-existing mental health problems worse and can cause paranoid and psychotic reactions which may be associated with irritability, anxiety and losing touch with reality. Khat can make a user psychologically dependent, with cravings and a desire to keep using in spite of potential harm. When some users stop using khat they can feel lethargic or mildly depressed and may have a withdrawal period with fine tremors and nightmares.

Piperazines – These are a broad class of chemical compounds which mimic the effects of ecstasy. Piperazines can come in various forms and shapes. Pills can be red, blue, pink, white, off-white, purple, orange, tan and mottled orange-brown. They can carry an impression such as a housefly, crown, heart, butterfly, smiley face, bull’s head, Autobot, bird flying, Mickey Mouse, five-pointed star, Superman and a witch’s hat. Piperazines are also sold as an off-white powder, in capsules and as a liquid.

They are also called:

  • A2.
  • BZP.
  • Benzylpiperazine.
  • Blast.
  • Bolts Extra Strength.
  • Cosmic Kelly.
  • ESP.
  • Euphoria.
  • Exodus.
  • Fast Lane.
  • Frenzy.
  • Happy Pills.
  • Legal E.
  • Legal X.
  • Nemesis.
  • Party Pills.
  • Pep.
  • Pep Love.
  • Pep Stoned.
  • Pep Twisted.
  • Rapture.
  • Silver Bullet.
  • Smileys.
  • The Good Stuff.

Some of the effects on your body include:

  • A hangover-like reaction that can last for up to 24 hours.
  • Can experience agitation.
  • Allergic reactions and fever.
  • Vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhoea.
  • Can bring on fits.
  • Can develop irregular heart rhythms.

As stimulant drugs, piperazines are particularly risky if taken by anyone suffering from high blood pressure or a heart condition; some people may not be aware that they have a pre-existing heart condition. In rare cases, users may suffer from serotonin syndrome, which can cause high blood pressure and can be fatal. Perfectly healthy young people can have a fit or heart attack after taking stimulant drugs. Mixing piperazines with alcohol can be particularly dangerous as the effects of these two substances interact.

What is the law around Class C 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.

Class C drugs are considered by the Government to be less harmful than Class A and Class B 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 C controlled drugs such as, but not limited to, anabolic steroids or Valium can be obtained through a legitimate doctor’s prescription. In such cases their possession is not illegal.


Penalties for possession of Class C drugs

Possession involves knowingly having a controlled substance on your person, for example in your pocket. Possession of Class C drugs can get you up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

It is not an offence to possess anabolic steroids for personal use, as they can only be issued by pharmacists with a prescription. However, it is illegal to possess, import or export anabolic steroids if it is believed that you are supplying or selling them, and this includes giving them to friends. This means that supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

In professional sport, most organisations ban anabolic steroid use and test competitors for banned steroids. If you do test positive, you may be banned from competing professionally.

Benzodiazepines are prescription drugs used to treat anxiety so it is not an offence to possess benzodiazepines for legitimate personal use, as they can only be issued by pharmacists with a prescription. For illicit possession of benzodiazepines, you can get up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

There are concerns that benzodiazepines have been used in sex crimes, where a victim’s drink is spiked with a benzodiazepine, for example flunitrazepam (Rohypnol), making them very drowsy or knocking them out so they are either unaware of, or unable to prevent, a sexual assault. The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that it is an offence to administer a substance, such as Rohypnol, to a person with intent to overpower that person to enable sexual activity with them. This is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £60 on the first two times that someone is found with khat. If someone is found with khat more than twice, they could get a maximum penalty of up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Piperazines are Class C drugs, which means it is illegal to have them for yourself, to give away or to sell them. Possession can get you up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both. If found guilty of possession with intent to supply a Class C drug, a sentence of up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine, or both, can be given.

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.

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.

Penalties for supply and production of Class C 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)).

There are general sentencing guidelines for the supply and/or production of Class C drugs. The maximum sentence for a person charged with the supply and/or production of a Class C 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.

Final thoughts

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

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

Drugs and Alcohol Awareness

Drugs and Alcohol Awareness

Just £20

Study online and gain a full CPD certificate posted out to you the very next working day.

Take a look at this course

About the author

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.

Similar posts