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Alcohol and drugs


Nitrous oxide is a colourless gas, also known as ‘laughing gas’. 
Nitrous oxide is a Class C drug and it is an offence to possess it unless it can be shown it was possessed for one of the legitimate statutory exemptions. Nitrous oxide has widespread legitimate uses, including in medical, dental, and veterinary settings and those with a legitimate reason for possessing the substance will be exempt from the ban.
However, possession with the intent to wrongfully inhale the substance or to supply to another person for it’s wrongful inhalation is an offence. ‘Wrongful inhalation’ means inhalation for purposes other than medical or dental purposes or of nitrous oxide that has been released into the atmosphere. It includes inhalation for the substances psychological effects and the offence is designed to prevent people recreationally inhaling the substance for this reason. 
The consequences for the offence of unlawful possession could include an unlimited fine, a visible community punishment, a caution and for repeat serious offenders, a prison sentence.
It is also an offence to import, export, produce or supply nitrous oxide where a person intends to wrongfully inhale the substance or where the individual knows, or is reckless as to whether, it is likely that another person will wrongfully inhale it.
There are serious health risks associated with the use of nitrous oxide, heavy use can result in neurological damage and even death due to the risk of falling unconscious and/or suffocating from the lack of oxygen.


Addiction can happen at any age and it is important to talk to a medical professional about it. As such, we would advise that visiting your local GP should be your first step. They will be able to recommend recovery centres and organisations who can offer further help and support.

It is not only illegal drugs that people can become addicted to, some medication such as pain killers and anti-depressants are addictive too.

Please see the following websites in Related Information for further guidance.


'County lines' is a term used to describe networks of gangs and organised crime groups, who use children, young people and vulnerable adults to carry out illegal activity on their behalf.

This criminal exploitation is known as 'county lines' as young children travel across counties and use dedicated mobile phone 'lines' to supply drugs.

As well as the storage and supply of drugs, gangs also use children for the movement of cash proceeds (money mules) and to secure the use of dwellings (commonly referred to as 'cuckooing').

Criminal gangs groom children into trafficking their drugs for them with promises of money, friendship and status. Once they've been drawn in, children are often controlled using threats, violence and sexual abuse. These children can then become trapped in criminal exploitation and feel as if they have no choice but to continue doing what the criminals want.

What are signs of criminal exploitation and county lines?

  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work.
  • Going missing from home, staying out late and travelling for unexplained reasons.
  • In a relationship or hanging out with someone older than them.
  • Being angry, aggressive or violent.
  • Being isolated or withdrawn.
  • Having unexplained money and buying new things.
  • Wearing clothes or accessories in gang colours or getting tattoos.
  • Using new slang words.
  • Spending more time on social media and being secretive about time online.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • Carrying weapons.
  • Making more calls or sending more texts, possibly on a new phone or phones.
  • Taking drugs / abusing alcohol.
  • Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places.

The police work collaboratively with other forces and regional organised crime units to build intelligence, tackle the demand for drugs, ensure disruption of county lines activity, protect the vulnerable and carry out enforcement activity.

What to do if you have concerns

  • If you have information you wish to share with the police, contact your local police force.
  • If you believe a young person you know could be in immediate danger, call 999.
  • If you are a young person who is worried about your involvement, or a friend's involvement in county lines, speak to a family member or trusted adult about your concerns.


The only safe limit of alcohol to have in your blood and drive is zero!

It is not advisable to even have one drink and drive as alcohol impairs your judgement and lessens your reflexes. The official amount of alcohol is 35 microgrammes per 100ml of breath reading, this cannot be translated into an exact amount of units as it depends on many factors, height and weight, the time when last drink was consumed etc, so the best advice is not to drink at all or to order a taxi.


Many people go out on a weekend and drink more than half the weekly recommended units of alcohol in one night, this is a phenomenon known as 'binge drinking'. If you go out on a weekend and drink for drinking's sake or consume lots of alcohol in a short space of time then you could be a binge drinker.

In the UK, binge drinking is drinking more than:

  • 8 units of alcohol in a single session for men
  • 6 units of alcohol in a single session for women

Apart from the obvious risks to your health, it does not automatically follow that you have a problem with alcohol if you binge drink, although statistics do show that some binge drinkers go on to be chronic binge drinkers and develop a serious problem with alcohol.

However, you should be aware of the dangers of too much alcohol, not only to your health but also to your personal safety. When under the influence of alcohol you are more likely:

  • to have unprotected sex;
  • to be injured in accidents;
  • to be more vulnerable to violent crime (both as a victim and an offender).

Alcoholics Anonymous have a very good phrase, 'If alcohol is costing you more than money, then you have a problem'.


It is an offence to sell cigarettes, tobacco and cigarette papers to a person under the age of 18 years old. There are also further penalties for those who persistently sell cigarettes to persons under the age of 18. The magistrates can prohibit them from selling cigarettes from certain premises for up to one year.

There is no law relating to a minimum age that prevents a person who works in shop from selling cigarettes.

In addition to the above, the police and park keepers in uniform have the power to seize and dispose of tobacco products from a person under 16 years who is smoking in any street or public place.

If you are aware of a shop selling cigarettes, alcohol or age restricted products to underage persons, you can report this to your local police force  or Trading Standards Office.

There are rules relating to selling cigarettes and tobacco products in the UK. If you are a seller or distributer of these products you must follow these rules. Please see website in Related Information for further details. 


It is an offence to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18. If you know an off-licence that is selling alcohol to a person under the age of 18, you should contact your local police force or Trading Standards Office who will take the details. The person that is selling the alcohol to those under 18 could face a fine.


If you have spotted signs that your child/friend is drinking too much, there are several organisations that can provide help and support. Details of these organisations can be found in the Related Information.

GP's may also advise on the options available and signpost you to local support services, both for immediate help and long term support.


Whilst not recommended, children aged 5 to 16 are allowed to drink alcohol at home or on other private premises. Although there may be no offence of supplying alcohol, there may be issues relating to child protection.

It is advisable to contact the parents of the children involved to inform them of the situation. If you are concerned, you can also contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or you can report it directly to them via the following link: NSPCC Helpline


Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 specifies the drugs which are classified as Class 'B' drugs.  Cannabis and cannabis resin are Class ‘B’ Drugs (controlled drugs).  It is an offence to possess, supply or produce these controlled drugs.  
In England and Wales, a first offence for possession of cannabis could attract a warning or a penalty notice for disorder, however, any aggravating factors are likely to lead to an arrest and prosecution.
The maximum sentence on conviction for possession in a magistrates' court is a penalty of three months imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding £2,500. In a Crown Court, the maximum sentence is five years imprisonment and/or a fine. A conviction of production and/or supply of the drug can carry a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
It is worth noting that these are only proposed penalties. It does not necessarily mean that a first offence for possession will certainly be met with a warning. The Crown Prosecution Service could, depending on the circumstances, decide to prosecute a first time offender for possession of a small amount of the drug.
For information on ‘cannabis-based medicinal products’, please see FAQ What is a ‘cannabis-based medicinal product’?


In the first instance it might be worth speaking to your friend/child in a calm and understanding manner. There is often not a lot that a parent or friend can do without professional help unless the person themselves is willing to admit that they have a problem. The organisations listed in the Related Information will be able to offer support and help you take the right approach.


Please contact your local authority who will have the facilities required to dispose of the needles safely. If there are a large amount of needles appearing on a regular basis, please contact your local police force who will pass the information onto their drugs team.

Do not pick any needles up yourself as you may be injured and at risk of infection.

See the website in Related Information to find your local authority.

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