Although some powerful drugs are available in most Western cultures on a commercial basis (like alcohol, for example), most societies prohibit and control the availability of other substances that they believe to be harmful and/or addictive. In the UK, the main law that regulates the availability of such non-medicinal substances, and also attempts to prevent the spread of drug addiction is the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971.

The Misuse of Drugs Act classifies drugs into three categories – Class A (for example cocaine and the cocaine-derivative, crack, LSD, ecstasy, heroin, magic mushrooms); Class B (cannabis, barbiturates, amphetamines) and Class C (minor tranquillisers and anabolic steroids).

The law penalises the possession and distribution of these “controlled” drugs differentially, with the more severe penalties generally reserved for the drugs considered to be the most harmful -Class A. Generally, in the UK it is an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act to be in possession of a controlled substance and/ or to intend to supply it to another person; to produce, cultivate or manufacture a controlled substance; to offer another person a controlled drug, or to import or export such a substance. You are also not permitted to use your premises for the consumption of some controlled drugs, although smoking cannabis or opium are exempt from this prohibition.

Class A drugs are considered the most dangerous and most likely to lead to drug addiction. People who have reached this stage usually require a carefully managed drug rehabilitation programme because self-cure is notoriously difficult.