The UK’s Most Dangerous Drugs & Risks Associated With Each

There are hundreds of drugs available on the streets of Britain. Of course, they all pose dangers to some degree, but which ones are the most dangerous? We take a look at the most dangerous drugs on the UK’s streets and take a look just why they are so deadly.


Man drinking alcohol

Alcohol may be legal for those aged 18 and over, but that does not mean it is any less dangerous than illegal drugs. In some ways, it makes it more dangerous. Although alcohol is often associated with parties and having a good time, it is, in fact, a depressant, and one that has a complex effect on the body and its emotions.

As well as reducing your anxiety and inhibitions, it can also exaggerate whatever mood you are in, so start drinking if you are feeling down and it could severely affect your mood in a negative way. Physically, whether you binge drink or drink heavily every day, it can lead to liver problems, heart problems, strokes and cancer. Easily available it may be, but completely safe it certainly isn’t.


Heroin user

Heroin is made from morphine, which is originally extracted from a flower known as the opium poppy. Opium addiction has been around for a long time, and if you read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, you’ll find that Sherlock himself was addicted to Opium, indicating just how popular it was at the time. Now sold as heroin in more modern times, it is effectively a very strong painkiller and is often used by clubbers and partygoers as a drug to chill out to.

Because Heroin is often cut with a variety of different other substances, it can often severely poison and even kill users. This doesn’t mean that pure heroin is any better. In fact, because users are so used to using heroin that has been cut with other substances, pure heroin often results in an overdose.

Crack Cocaine

Device used for crack

Crack is a powerful form of cocaine and, like all other forms, it offers users a short term, powerful stimulant hit. Crack is made in the form of a rock and is then smoked, ensuring that its effects reach the brain very, very quickly, speeding up your mind and body’s operation almost immediately. Highly addictive, crack cocaine can make users feel on top of the world and confident but this can soon turn into arrogance and aggressiveness.

As well as the risks of overdose (which can be deadly) the severe inflation of the ego can lead to users taking excessive risks, which can sometimes be deadly. It can also have a devastating effect on mental health. Don’t think that the more common form of cocaine is any better, it isn’t.

Crystal Meth

Crystal meth equipment

Crystal Meth, also known as methamphetamine has been around since the 19th century, when soldiers used it as a stimulant. Then, in the 1950s, it was used in the treatment of obesity due to its appetite suppressing qualities. Basically, a stronger and more powerful version of amphetamine, it makes users feel very awake and alert, but this can soon turn into agitation, confusion, paranoia, and confusion. Long-term use can cause severe brain damage, and a general degeneration of the body.


Close-up of Cigarettes

Tobacco and tobacco related diseases kill 100,000 people every year in the UK. Can you imagine what would happen if a new drug came onto the scene and caused this many deaths? But the fact is tobacco is a highly addictive killer drug and it is available in almost every newsagent and convenience store. Perhaps the biggest killer in terms of numbers on here, unlike many of the other drugs chances are it won’t kill you quickly. Instead, tobacco related diseases kill you slowly and painfully.



Also known as speed, amphetamines are used medicinally as treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and were also used as appetite suppressants in the past. The drug is taken illegally though for the feelings of energy and confidence that it can give. Although the drug isn’t strictly addictive, there can be a degree of psychological addiction with amphetamines. Users risk heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems as well as long lasting psychological issues.



Is cannabis dangerous? It’s a controversial topic. As the most used illegal drug in the UK, it’s incredibly popular, although recent statistics indicate that cannabis use is declining across much of the UK. Cannabis, in many of its forms is a completely natural drug, with its active ingredient being tetrahydrocannabinol (or THC for short). This is the ingredient that makes you feel happy, relaxed and chilled out when taking cannabis. THC, however, isn’t always responsible for positive feelings. It can also cause hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia, and can have effects on the mental health of some people.

Indeed, some studies have found links between cannabis use amongst younger users and schizophrenia. Often, this is found more in stronger varieties of cannabis such as skunk. Skunk, a genetically modified version of the drug has much stronger quantities of THC and, therefore, both the positive and negative effects are magnified.


Date rape drug

GHB is also known as liquid ecstasy and is closely related to a very similar drug called GBL. Both of these drugs are popular with clubbers and produce feelings of euphoria, joy, and the reduction of personal inhibitions. Once taken, the drug can start to take effect in just ten-minutes and can last for up to about eight or nine hours. Like most illegal drugs, there are significant risks involved which can include unconsciousness and even death. Because it can have heavy sedative qualities, it has also been linked to several date rape cases.



Never heard of these? You will have, but only under other names. Valium, Rohypnol, Diazepam, and Temazepam are all Benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines are essentially minor tranquilisers that when taken, can help users feel calm. They are prescription only drugs and are generally prescribed for people with anxiety problems, depression and insomnia.

However, despite being given out by doctors, they can be highly addictive, so should only be taken under medical supervision and for short periods of time. Physical and psychological effects of long term abuse of such drugs can include vomiting, short term memory loss, tremors, headaches, depression, and panic attacks.


Ketamine on Warning Road Sign

Best known as a horse tranquilizer, it was originally developed for human use and was designed as a PCP replacement anaesthetic. However, because of certain side effects, including hallucinations, it is very rarely used in human medicine today. However, it is its side effects that have led it to becoming a popular illegal drug, despite the risks involved.

It is very easy to get the dosage of ketamine wrong and ketamine overdoses are potentially lethal, as there is no effective antidote. However, as well as the physical risks, perhaps the biggest dangers are psychological. Users can become so spaced out and detached from their normal surroundings that they face a significantly increased risk of hurting themselves or even killing themselves.


Blackboard with the chemical formula of Methadone

Methadone is known as the drug that is prescribed to people who are addicted to heroin to help them get off the drug. Having similar effects to heroin, it doesn’t deliver them quite as strongly or with as much impact.

Methadone, like heroin is an opiate, but it is one that has been manufactured artificially. Effectively a painkiller, it slows the body and reduces pain both physically and psychologically. Patients who are heroin addicts are often prescribed methadone and will have their dose withdrawn gradually over time. It is a drug that is especially popular when the supply of heroin is low (known as a ‘drought’).


Drug dealer

Mephedrone is one of the more recent drugs to come along, and is commonly known as ‘meow meow’. Closely related to ecstasy and speed, because of its relevantly recent appearance on the market, not too much is known about its long-term health effects, both physically and mentally. The effects of taking Mephedrone include euphoria and affection, but these can soon turn into sorrow, paranoia and anxiety. Because it is a stimulant, it can lead to heart problems, fits, and damage to the body’s central nervous system.


an aerosol can

Butane mouse isn’t talked about much these days but it remains relatively common activity across the UK. Basically, butane is found in a wide variety of aerosols, which users breathe in and get a feeling of dizziness and occasionally euphoria.

Butane can be lethal, even if taking it for the first time. In fact, there is a syndrome known as Sudden Sniffing Death, which shows just how dangerous taking butane can be. Like cigarettes and alcohol, it is one of the most dangerous drugs but one that is legal and highly accessible in nearly every convenience shop and supermarket in the UK.


Man selling Khat
Dmitry Chulov /

Have you heard of Khat? One of the lesser-known illegal drugs used in the UK, it is growing popularity. Khat is a plant that contains stimulant properties that speed up both your body and mind. With effects that are similar to speed, it is mainly used by communities in the UK that hail from North East Africa and Arab regions of the Middle East. Although it can make users more talkative and sociable, it has been linked with problems with the liver and can have negative effects on people with existing mental health problems.


Man on steroids

Steroids are one of the fastest growing drugs used in the UK. A glance around any gym (or even any high street) will show that today’s young men are so much bigger than previous generations, all full of rippling muscles and washboard stomachs. Just as in the 90s skinny was the look the have, today’s youth want to look big, and steroids offer an easy way to get there.

Steroids enable people to train longer, harder and more effectively and promote muscle growth. Although men (and indeed women) may see results quickly, they risk a number of health issues, from acne, and high blood pressure, to liver problems and high cholesterol. There are also well-reported links with steroids causing ‘roid rage’ – a condition where users of steroids are unable to control their temper.


Ecstacy pill

Inextricably linked with the 80s and 90s and the summer of love, Ecstasy, also known as MDMA is a dance drug that helps users feel energised, happy and ‘loved up’. Once taken, the effects can take about half an hour to kick in and will then last for about 5-6 hours, followed by a comedown.

Sometimes users can experience negative effects, such as anxiety and panic, which can in turn lead to delusions, paranoia and even psychosis. Because there is no way of telling what is in an ecstasy tablet in a club, there are inherent dangers of taking it. Often cut with other substances, these can sometimes be very damaging to your health. Ecstasy is not the safe drug that many people think it is with 670 deaths in the UK between 1996 and 2014.



Lysergic acid diethylamide, also known as LSD, is perhaps the world’s most famous hallucinogenic drug. Used by pop stars for generations as the inspiration for songs (such as The Beatles Rubber Soul and the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake), it is still a popular drug across the UK today. Taken on a small tab of paper, users see an unreal view of reality, distorted and often seeing things that may not be there.

These experiences, known as ‘trips’, can be good, but can often be unsettling – also known as ‘bad trips’. The main dangers of LSD are the risks of harming yourself when taking it. For example, you could end up believing you can fly and dropping out of a sixth story window. Not many bad long-term effects have been found, but that doesn’t mean that LSD does not pose long-term risks to your health, both mentally and physically.