Substance Misuse

New Psychoactive Substances (NPS - formerly known as 'legal' highs)


'Choices for Life’ is a Police Scotland initiative aimed at raising awareness amongst young people aged 11-18, about the dangers of smoking, alcohol and drugs as well as online safety and advice on how to deal with negative peer pressure.

Click HERE for information on substance misuse and staying safe and on the image above.

Substance Misuse Lesson 1

Smoking Lesson 1


There are 4 main categories of drugs. These are:

  • Depressants :  Depressants reduce the activity of the brain. These can make you feel sleepy and reduce anxiety, however high doses can lead to addiction. Depressants include alcohol, solvents and sleeping pills.

  • Stimulants: Stimulants generally increase the activity of the brain. This can make you feel more alert and awake leading to higher energy levels. However stimulants can also cause unpredictable change in personality. Stimulants include caffeine, cocaine and nicotine.

  • Hallucinogens: Hallucinogens are drugs that can cause you to see or hear things that are not real – these can be exciting or terrifying. It is easy to have accidents or overheat when you hallucinating. Hallucinogens include magic mushroom and LSD.

  • Painkillers: Painkillers reduce pain and cause the feeling of numbness. However, painkillers can be very addictive. These include prescription drugs such as aspirin, paracetamol and illegal drugs such as heroin.

People can become addicted to drugs. This means they develop a physical and mental need for the drug. People can have an overdose. An overdose is when someone takes too much of a drug. This can lead to death or serious illness.
Some drugs are legal, such as tobacco and alcohol. Others are illegal, or must only be prescribed by a doctor. Some prescription drugs are mistreated and taken for recreational use, rather than for medical reasons. They become illegal under these circumstances.
Illegal drugs are classified from Class A to Class C. Class A drugs are the most dangerous, with the most serious penalties for possession or dealing. Class C are the least dangerous, with the lightest penalties, but this does not mean they are safe to use. 
Class A: For example, ecstasy, LSD, heroin and cocaine. Penalty for possession: Up to 7 years in prison or unlimited fine or both. Penalty for dealing: Up to life in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Class B: For example amphetamines or cannabis. Penalty for possession: Up to 5 years in prison or unlimited fine or both. Penalty for dealing: Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.
Class C: For example, tranquilisers or painkillers. Penalty for possession: Up to 2 years in prison or unlimited fine or both. Penalty for dealing: Up to 14 years in prison or an unlimited fine or both.

NPS are substances which are designed to mimic the same or similar effects as drugs such as cannabis, heroin, cocaine and ecstasy. They contain dangerous and fatal chemicals. These chemicals are produced in China and the drugs are packaged in a way to encourage young people to believe they are innocent.  After years of campaigning, so-called ‘legal highs’ became illegal in the UK in May 2016.
The UK Psychoactive Substances Act came into effect on the 26 May 2016, which banned NPS. This legislation makes it an offence to produce, supply, offer to supply, possess with intent to supply, import or export (including over the internet) any psychoactive substances. Supplying New Psychotic Substances to someone else, including your friends, or buying them from internet sites based abroad to be delivered here, can mean you can get a prison sentence and/or a fine. The maximum custodial sentence available in a solemn prosecution under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 is 7 years.
Remember: Our bodies are all different and at different stages of development. How you react to a drug will never be the same as your friend or a family member who shares the same genes will react. It only takes one drug, just the one time to kill you.


Click on the images below for further information and advice about substance misuse


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The alcohol in alcoholic drinks - such as wines, beers and spirits - is called ethanol. It is a depressant. This means that it slows down signals in the nerves and brain. There are legal limits to the level of alcohol that drivers and pilots can have in the body. This is because alcohol impairs the ability of people to control their vehicles properly.
Short term effects of alcohol include: Sleepiness, impaired judgment, loss of balance and muscle control, blurred  speech and vision, increased chance of violence and the occurrence of vasodilation (blood vessels in the skin carry more blood - leading to heat loss).
Long term effects of alcohol include: Damage to the liver and brain. Moderate drinking can lead to a loss of brain cells which can cause impairment of abilities like memory and problem solving. The liver removes alcohol from the bloodstream, as it is a toxic chemical. Over time, alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage - cirrhosis.

How many units of alcohol should a man or a woman drink?

Current guidelines state that men and women should not drink more than 14 units a week on a frequent basis. Click on the Drinkaware image above for information on what a unit of alcohol looks like.

What are the risks involved in underage drinking?

•Alcohol poisoning
•Accidents and injuries
•Appearance and side effects
•Brain development and education
•Liver damage
•Use of other substances
•Mental health

Is underage drinking dangerous?

A young persons body cannot cope with alcohol the same way an adults can. Drinking is more harmful to teens than adults because their brains are still developing throughout adolescence and well into young adulthood.

Girls are nearly as likely as boys to experiment with drinking. Underage and binge drinking is risky and can lead to car accidents, violent behaviour, alcohol poisoning, and other health problems. Drinking at a young age greatly increases the risk of developing alcohol problems later in life.


Click HERE to access the 'See Through the Illusion' website which helps young people find out how the tobacco industry works, from how tobacco is produced, child labour, to the ways it is marketed, despite advertising restricitions, the role the media plays in this, as well as considering the impact that tobacco has around the world.


• Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 chemicals and poisons. Many of these are found in common household products that you would never consume. These include methane, arsenic, lighter fluid, paint, nicotine and ammonia (toilet cleaner).
• Look at some of the food in your kitchen cupboards, you will find a list of ingredients on them all, but this is not the case with a packet of cigarettes. In fact, until recently the ingredients in cigarettes were not widely known.
Smoking increases your risk of more than 50 serious health conditions. Some may be fatal and other can cause irreversible long-term damage to your health. Smoking is one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. You can become ill:
1.If you smoke yourself
2.Through other people’s smoke (known as second hand smoke)
Smoking causes about 90% of lung cancers. It also causes cancer in many other parts of the body, such as the mouth, throat, bladder and kidneys. 
Smoking damages to your heart and blood circulation, increasing the risk of conditions such as:
•Coronary heart disease
•Heart attack
•Damaged blood vessels
•Damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain


Are e-cigarettes safe?

NO!!!  E-cigarettes do not break the habits associated with smoking. They include an anti-freeze substance which is poisonous to humans.
Currently, e-cigarettes are unregulated; this means that different brands contain different levels of nicotine and different chemicals, not to mention differences in quality of materials that are used to make them. Large Tobacco companies now own almost all the different companies that make e-cigarettes and e-cigarette brands are sponsoring football clubs & adverts have started airing on UK television.
As over 97% of 13 year olds now choose not to smoke, the tobacco companies are trying to  replace “lost” smokers with e-cigarette users. The more young people they can get addicted to nicotine by using e-cigarettes the more they can keep up their profits. Lots of e-cigarette brands are now available in an assortment of flavours – possibly to entice young people to try them. We don’t know exactly what is in them yet – or the long term effects of using them.

Is second hand smoke dangerous?

Second hand smoke is extremely dangerous. It contains more than 7,000 chemical, 69 of which cause cancer. 85% of second hand smoke is invisible and odourless.
People who breathe in second hand smoke are at risk of the same health conditions as smokers, particularly lung cancer and heart disease. For example, breathing in second hand smoke increases a non-smokers risk of lung cancer by 24% and heart disease by 25%. Children are particularly affected by second hand smoke because their bodies are still developing. For example, children under five have an increased risk of chest infections, and babies are at greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death.
From the 5th December 2016, smoking in a vehicle with anyone under the age of 18 is illegal. This law applies to all vehicles (including convertibles with the roof open) in a public place, whether they are stationary or not. The smoker is the person who is fined between £100-£1000. The law allows people to smoke in a car in a private driveway.  22% of 13 and 15 year olds in Scotland were exposed to second hand smoke in cars in 2013.

What happens when you stop smoking?

If you stop smoking your body will begin to repair the damage almost immediately and the beneficial changes will continue for years:
•20 minutes after stopping, your blood pressure and pulse rate will return to normal; circulation improves in hands and feet, making them warmer.
•8 hours after stopping, nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in the blood will reduce by half and oxygen levels will return to normal.
•24 hours after stopping, carbon monoxide will be cleared from your body and your lungs will start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.
•48 hours after stopping, your body is free of nicotine and your sense of smell and taste improves.
•72 hours after stopping, you should be breathing more easily. Airway passages in the lungs begin to relax. Energy levels increase.
•After 2 – 12 weeks, your circulation improves and you’ll feel fitter.
•After 3 – 9 months, lung function is better. Coughs and wheezing are reduced.
•After 1 year, risk of heart attack falls to about half of that of a smoker.
•After 10 years, risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.
•After 15 years, risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked.