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 maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (dealing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.

Class Drug Possession Supply and production
A Crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone, methamphetamine (crystal meth) Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to life in prison, an unlimited fine or both
B Amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine, ketamine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), synthetic cannabinoids, synthetic cathinones (eg mephedrone, methoxetamine) Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
C Anabolic steroids, benzodiazepines (diazepam), gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), gamma-butyrolactone (GBL), piperazines (BZP), khat Up 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 derivatives None, but police can take away a suspected temporary class drug Up 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 substances Possession Supply and production
Things that cause hallucinations, drowsiness or changes in alertness, perception of time and space, mood or empathy with others None, unless you’re in prison Up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Food, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medicine and the types of drugs listed above don’t count as psychoactive substances.

Possessing drugs

You may be charged with possessing an illegal substance if you’re caught with drugs, whether they’re yours or not.

If you’re under 18, the police are allowed to tell your parent, guardian or carer that you’ve been caught with drugs.

Your penalty will depend on:

  • the class and quantity of drug
  • where you and the drugs were found
  • your personal history (previous crimes, including any previous drug offences)
  • other aggravating or mitigating factors

Cannabis

Police can issue a warning or an on-the-spot fine of £90 if you’re found with cannabis.

Khat

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

Dealing or supplying drugs

The penalty is likely to be more severe if you are found to be supplying or dealing drugs. Sharing drugs is also considered supplying.

The police will probably charge you if they suspect you of supplying drugs. The amount of drugs found and whether you have a criminal record will affect your penalty.

More information

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