Substance misuse

ru-ok? is a Brighton based service that works alongside under 18s whose lives are affected by substance misuse in Brighton & Hove. The service offers free, confidential, expert advice and support.

The service produces regular briefing notes for Brighton & Hove Children’s Services and this latest one contains lots of helpful information that will be relevant to our readers. Thank you ru-ok for allowing us to share it.

Briefing note by Luci Hammond | ru-ok | Brighton & Hove City Council | November 2015

Health Warnings

Prescription / Over The Counter (OTC) Drugs:

Although prescription / OTC drugs have always been part of the scene for some young people, we are seeing a rise in reported use of such substances as Diazepam, Solpadol, Oxycodone, Co-codamol and Tramadol. We are also aware of experimentation with heart and thyroid medication. We suspect that some young people may be buying powders or pills, believing them to be “recreational drugs” whilst actually purchasing prescribed / OTC medication. The risks of this are varied, ranging from harmless to fatal. Anecdotally we have heard of people finding or stealing these substances from friends’ relatives, before using or selling them. Users seem to be unaware of the risks involved, believing that, as they are medicines, they are safe. For example, a service user informed me about a friend’s daily use of Solpadol, being unaware of the related risks of overdose and dependence. As with all drugs, mixing substances in a session increases the risks. Using an opioid or benzodiazepine (such as Solpadol or Diazepam) with alcohol makes the risk of overdose greater still. If you work with anyone regularly using drugs not prescribed to them, please contact – or refer to – our service.

Current Trends and Names:

Speed, also known as whizz, Billy, base, amphetamine, amphet. This currently seems to be a staple item on dealers’ menus. Users are describing a white/off-white powder, which is usually amphetamine sulphate. Base is usually a putty and is stronger at roughly 50 per cent purity or more, but so far, ru- ok? has not seen this.

Drugscope says of amphetamines: ‘The purity of street powders is less than 15 per cent, with most deals having only 10% amphetamine and the rest other powders like glucose, vitamin C, laxative, dried baby milk baby, caffeine, or other drugs such as paracetamol or aspirin.’


The cannabis plant is made up of numerous chemical compounds. Those unique to the plant are called cannabinoids. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the two cannabinoids of most interest. Cannabinoids affect the user by interacting with specific receptors within the brain. The effects experienced depend on the levels of THC and CBD and the areas of the brain in which the cannabinoids interact. Mood, motivation, memory, cognition, perception, and psychomotor performance are most affected, as they have the most receptors for cannabinoids.

Essentially, THC is known to have strong psychoactive properties – it is THC which gives the ‘high’ feeling and the reason most people use cannabis. CBD on the other hand, is believed to have an anti- psychoactive effect which appears to moderate the ‘high’ and some of the other negative effects experienced with THC, particularly on anxiety and psychosis.

Cannabis is known to provoke feelings of anxiety and paranoia in some people, especially when used in high doses or by inexperienced users. This effect can be attributed to THC. CBD has been shown to alleviate the anxiety caused by THC, and may even reduce anxiety when administered on its own. Evidence suggests a link between the use of cannabis and the onset and exacerbation of psychosis, and again it seems THC is responsible for triggering these adverse symptoms. CBD appears to have anti-psychotic properties, meaning this cannabinoid may be protective against the psychosis-like effects of THC. As a result, CBD is currently being investigated as an antipsychotic treatment for patients with schizophrenia.

THC has been shown to have acute and long-term adverse effects on the parts of the brain that are important for learning and memory. A growing body of research has indicated CBD may be neuro- protective, reducing the cognitive and memory impairments caused by THC.

Cannabis is a complex drug. The opposing effects of the two main cannabinoids, THC and CBD, may explain why people sometimes experience different effects when using different strains or types. The level of THC vs. CBD (potency) in cannabis is greatly variable, but these days cannabis plants have generally been bred to have high THC levels and low (to no) CBD. This increasingly common form of high-THC/low-CBD cannabis is thought to be responsible for the reported rise in cannabis use disorders, links to mental health conditions, and cognitive impairments seen among users.” (From NCPIC)

Cro (local term for skunk) is bred to have high THC levels and low to no CBD and, most recently, has been the most available type of cannabis. However, we have noticed more young people choosing to smoke hash (solid/resin) instead, as it is cheaper, they feel safer mentally and they feel more alert the next day. Hash usually has a lower THC level and higher CBD.

For more information about cannabis and huge range of tools and worksheets, go to the following website: National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre

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