UK Illegal Drug Classification

What is meant by ‘drugs’?

A drug is a natural or synthetic substance which affects the functioning or structure of a human body, including the mind. Medicines that are used and prescribed by the medical profession, for instance, are drugs. However, the use and supply of many drugs is illegal under UK law.

Illegal drugs are dealt with under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 which was introduced to prevent the non-medical use of certain drugs. Drugs subject to the Act are known as ‘controlled’ drugs and are split into different classifications. Many controlled drugs are also governed by the Medicines Act 1968.

What are the different drug classifications?

Under the 1971 Act, controlled drugs are split into three distinct classes – Class A being considered the most dangerous. All of these drugs are illegal.

Class A

Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, and methamphetamine (crystal meth).

Class B

Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine).

Class C

Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khat.

Temporary class drugs

The Government can ban new drugs for up to a year under a temporary banning order. During that time, it decides how the drug concerned should be correctly classified. As at November 2016, the following drugs are illegal under temporary bans:

Some methylphenidate substances (ethylphenidate), 3,4-dichloromethylphenidate (3,4-DCMP), methylnaphthidate (HDMP-28), isopropylphenidate (IPP or IPPD), 4-methylmethylphenidate, ethylnaphthidate, propylphenidate) and their simple derivatives.

What are the offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act?

Offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act include:

  • Possession of a controlled substance.
  • Possession with intent to supply.
  • Production, cultivation or manufacture of controlled substances.
  • Supplying another person with a controlled substance.
  • Offering to supply another person with a controlled substance.
  • Import or export of controlled drugs.
  • Allowing premises you occupy or manage to be used for the consumption of certain controlled substances. This includes only the smoking of cannabis or opium and does not extend to the use of other controlled substances.
  • Allowing premises you occupy or manage to be used for the supply or production of any controlled substance or substances.

Unlock this article now!


For more information on:

  • What is meant by ‘Possession’?
  • What is meant by ‘Supply’?
  • What is meant by Possession with Intent to supply?
  • What is meant by Production of a controlled substance?
  • Will I get a prison sentence?
  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C
  • Temporary Class Drugs
  • Psychoactive drugs