Drug Classifications

Classification of drugs in the UK fall into three main categories. These are Class A, B or C. Class A is the most serious, attracting the most serious punishments and fines.

Designation of a drug as controlled falls under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Allocation to a class is depends on the harm caused by the drug.

Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, it is an offence:

  • to unlawfully possess a controlled drug
  • to possess a controlled drug with intent to supply it
  • to unlawfully supply (sell/give/share) a controlled drug
  • to allow premises you occupy or manage to be used for the smoking or use of drugs

You can get a fine or prison sentence if you take, carry, make or sell drugs or psychoactive substances. The penalties depend on the drug and the amount you have, and whether you’re also dealing or producing the drug.


Types of drugs

The table below shows the penalties for drug possession, supply (dealing) and production. This all depends on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.

ClassDrugPossessionSupply and production
ACrack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth)Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or bothUp to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
BAmphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine)Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or bothUp to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
CAnabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khatUp to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both (except anabolic steroids - it’s not an offence to possess them for personal use)Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Temporary class drugs*Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate, 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivativesNone, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drugUp to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

*The government can ban new drugs for 1 year under a ‘temporary banning order’ while they decide how the drugs should be classified.


Psychoactive substances

You can also get a penalty for ‘psychoactive substances’, eg laughing gas.

Psychoactive substancesPossessionSupply and production
Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with othersNone, unless you’re in prisonUp to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both


More information

UK Government for more information about drug possession.

Talk to FRANK has help, information and advice about drugs.

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