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Health and Wellbeing
A Health and Well-being Wales Partner

People abuse many types of substances for lots of different reasons.

Prolonged substance abuse can have an enormous impact, not only on your life, but on the lives of those who care about you.

Not everyone who uses a legal or illegal substance will experience negative effects – or become an addict – but if you are susceptible, the problems associated with substance misuse might include:

Some of the common types of substance abuse are:


There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink or two, even several times a week; however, if you are regularly drinking more than three–four units a day (men) or two–three units a day (women) you are likely to be consuming more alcohol than is good for you. Health experts recommend two alcohol-free days a week to give our bodies a break.

NHS 111 Wales has compiled a list of questions for anyone who thinks they may be drinking more than they should.

Alcohol Change UK offers lots of thought-provoking information about alcohol consumption, including how it affects the body, the calorie content of popular drinks, myths about drinking and a drinks calculator.


Help Me Quit is a stop smoking service that offers a six-week programme of behavioural support sessions which focus on your feelings about giving up smoking, the benefits of not smoking, how to stay motivated, and how to deal with temptation and cravings. Weekly group sessions and 1:1 support are available across Wales alongside access to 12 weeks of free stop smoking medications. To find out more visit, call 0800 085 2219 or text HMQ to 80818.

Prescription and over-the-counter drugs

Most legal drug abuse involves painkillers, sedatives and stimulants. Just because the drug is legal it does not mean there are no risks associated with it, especially when you use it differently from the way it was intended.

DAN 24/7 is a free and confidential alcohol and drugs helpline.

(Previously) legal highs and other psychoactive substances

Despite the risks and potentially unpleasant side effects, so-called legal highs with names like Black Mamba, Exodus and Clockwork Orange have been widely available.

Solvents like aerosol deodorant or cigarette light refill gave a fast-acting high from a legal and readily available substance.

The law changed on April 2016, and it is now an offence to supply or offer to supply any psychoactive substance – including legal highs and solvents – if the person supplying or offering to supply it knows or is likely to know that it is going to be consumed for its psychoactive effects.

Illegal drugs

Illegal drugs are those that are banned under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Illegal drugs fall into one of three classes – A, B or C – broadly reflecting the potential harm they can do to you or the wider society if misused.

Class A drugs include: cocaine (including crack), heroin, LSD, magic mushrooms, methadone and ecstasy (MDMA).

Class B drugs include: amphetamines, codeine, cannibis, cathinones and ketamine.

Class C drugs include: tranquilisers, GHB/GBL and anabolic steroids.

The penalties for being caught in possession of, or supplying or producing illegal drugs are tough, with Class A drugs attracting the maximum penalty.

Last updated: 29/06/2023