Drug Classifications

Published by John Gillen | Last updated: 30th January 2023 | All Sources

While drug abuse is commonly recognised under the same stereotype and category, there are many differences between drug consumption, the experiences that they cause and the threats that they influence.

One of those differences is the classifications of drugs, which ultimately subcategories substances down to the effects that they influence, along with the risks that their presence poses for users.

Drug classifications are very important to know for that reason, as certain substances carry similar chemical effects, which can heighten broader adoption rates for some users.

It’s also important to categorise drugs to provide recognition of their effects on the body and mind, as a wide range of addictive and toxic substances are now abused and available.

Through drug classifications, greater clarity is present for users and for those who offer support through withdrawal and potential side effects.

Each country will usually have a different drug classification system, which is in fact legal, carrying medical requirements for certain drugs, while highlighting penalties for the manufacturing, distribution, dealing and consumption of others.

Here in the UK, you may have heard of drugs being described as class A, B or C. But do you know what this means? Here’s all you need to know about drug classifications, from the effects that drugs carry, to examples of each classification.


What does classification mean for drugs?

Classifications are a way of systemising drugs based on a number of different characteristics. Drug classifications are usually created and updated to provide full clarity over the effects of drugs, along with the common consequences of consuming, distributing and manufacturing such substances.

They are also available to provide medical guidance for those of a prescription nature.

Understanding what drug classifications are and why they are used is an important step towards staying clean. Drug classifications usually include substances that carry similar chemical effects, meaning similar physical and psychological influences, as a result of consumption.

For recovering addicts, this information is important to know, like many drugs, while branded differently do in fact have similar addictive traits, increasing the risk of adoption.

Drug classifications were defined in the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. This act covers offences such as the possession and supply of controlled substances.

It also placed controlled substances into one of 3 categories, depending on potential harm to either the individual or to the society.

Down to fluctuating adoption and legal views across the world, it’s very common for each country to have an independent drug classifications system.

Which category a drug belongs to can change over the years as new research becomes available. Yet currently, below are UK drug classifications to consider if you’re abusing or hoping to withdraw and recover.


Drug classifications

Here in the UK, we currently have 3 classifications of drugs, known as A, B and C. Class A drugs are those which carry the greatest risks, which also bear the firmest legal implications for possession and supply.

While Class C drugs may be perceived as less harmful, on a substantial level, this isn’t the case, still carrying legal implications and still posing risks to physical and psychological health, and the development of addictive habits.


Class A drugs 

Classified as the most dangerous available substances and in fact, the most popular when considering addiction rates include:

  • Heroin
  • Cocaine (including crack)
  • MDMA (ecstasy)
  • Methamphetamine (crystal meth)
  • LSD
  • Magic mushrooms

For possessing Class, A drugs, a prison sentence of up to 7 years is likely and/or an unlimited fine, which fully reflects the severity of higher drug classifications in the UK.


Class B drugs 

Carrying the risk of up to 5 years in prison for possession and/or an unlimited fine, Class B drugs include:

  • Cannabis
  • Amphetamines
  • Codeine
  • Mephedrone
  • Speed


    Class C drugs 

    Considered to be the least dangerous of controlled substances, Class C drugs are in fact harmful and can impose up to 2 years in prison for possession, and/or an unlimited fine. Drug classifications of the C category include:

    • Prescription painkillers
    • GHB
    • Ketamine
    • Anabolic steroids

    Some of the above drugs which are on the controlled list are useful and highly utilised in certain situations, especially when considering medical prescriptions, requiring a license.

    However, if misused or illegally distributed are harmful and are dangerous, either impacting health and/or quality of life.

    Deviating from the above drug classifications, there are other dangerous substances that are not on the controlled list, such as tobacco and alcohol.

    This doesn’t mean that they aren’t harmful to your health. They can in fact be just as harmful as Class A drugs, for example, if misused, causing life-threatening impacts and addictive influences.


    For a full list of UK drug classifications, click here.


    Getting help, no matter the drug

    Drugs are dangerous, no matter their classification. If misused or abused, drugs can result in dire consequences, with a focus on physical and mental health, on livelihoods and on the capabilities to lead a normal life moving forward.

    In tandem with your health, drug abuse and the possession of can result in legal implications, which can also damage your life in many ways.

    Down to the concerns attached to drug abuse, along with the addictive likelihoods of their misuse, we urge you to consider your consumption and behavioural habits.

    If you are struggling with drug abuse or even the signs of addiction, getting help should be your next step. Drug classifications of course provide insight into their effects.

    However, all of the above drugs can result in addiction if consumption is enabled for the long-term/excessively.

    We at Cassiobury Court can help you through this battle, by truly seeing the dangers of drug abuse and possession, along with working towards getting clean.

    Reach out for our support, where you can expect confidential and free guidance, personal recovery recommendations and the facilitation of drug rehabilitation.

    Knowing where you stand with addictive, toxic and life-altering drugs is very important, whether that’s for your health or your legal liabilities.

    Do so by understanding drug classifications, their meanings and how their presence in your life can result in significant damage.

    John Gillen

    John Gillen - Author Last updated: 30th January 2023

    John Gillen is a leading addiction treatment expert with over 15 years of experience providing evidence-based treatment methods for individuals throughout the UK. John also co-authors the book, The Secret Disease of Addiction, which delves into how the addictive mind works and what treatment techniques work best.