What is a drug?


Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs:
"it can be argued that the ACMD has a remit to consider alcohol, tobacco and caffeine".

UK Government's drug education website 'Talk to Frank':
"Alcohol can play a major part in many people's social lives. That's why it's easy to forget that it's actually a very powerful drug".
"Tobacco comes from the leaves of the tobacco plant. It contains a drug called nicotine which is highly addictive".
"What are drugs? There are distinctions to be made between legal and illegal drugs, differing levels of classification and harm, not to mention issues of use and misuse.
Legal drugs: Broadly speaking, 'drugs' refers to any substance that affects how we think or feel. This includes legal substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine. It also includes a myriad of prescription medicines that are intended to improve people's health and make them feel better. However, legal drugs also carry risks of dependency and damage, and can be 'misused' in the same way that illegal drugs can.
Illegal drugs: In the UK, The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 is the principle piece of legislation for the control and classification of drugs. It places restrictions upon the possession and supply, production, import and export of any controlled substance. The Misuse of Drugs Act lists the drugs that are subject to control and classifies them according to the level of harm associated with their misuse.
What is substance misuse? Recreational drug use is drug use that is controlled and occasional and that does not necessarily impact too significantly on the user's ability to cope with everyday life. Substance misuse is the use of illegal drugs and the inappropriate use of legal drugs, including alcohol, prescription medicines and substances such as solvents. 'Misuse' refers to use that is problematic or harmful, either for the individual or those around them."
"Most people regularly enjoy an alcoholic drink or two. Which one of these statements about alcohol isn't true? Answer: Alcohol is legal because it's less harmful than illegal drugs".
Frank Action Update, Frank at Work

United Nations International Drug Control Programme:
"What are drugs?
A very basic question but one that needs to be clarified. For, if we start thinking of drugs as just the substances that cause problems or are abused by people we know, then we are likely to ignore other substances that, for one reason or another, are not thought of as drugs by our immediate communities. A psychoactive substance is any substance people take to change either the way they feel, think, or behave. This description covers alcohol and tobacco as well as other natural and manufactured drugs".

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime:
"A psychoactive substance is any substance that people take to change either the way they feel, think, or behave. This includes alcohol and tobacco as well as natural and manufactured drugs".

Home Office/DPAS, p.40, 'Let's Get Real - communicating with the public about drugs':
"in the interests of encouraging a rational debate and combating knee-jerk prejudice, we need to continue referring to alcohol, tobacco and caffeine as drugs".

Department for Education and Skills - Drugs: Guidance for schools:
"1.3 Terminology The definition of a drug given by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is: A substance people take to change the way they feel, think or behave.
The term ‘drugs’ and ‘drug education’, unless otherwise stated, is used throughout this document to refer to all drugs:
- all illegal drugs (those controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971)
- all legal drugs, including alcohol, tobacco".

British Pharmacological Society:
"What is a drug?
The word 'drug' has a range of meanings. Not only does it refer to medicines with beneficial therapeutic effects such as paracetamol, penicillin and insulin, it can also mean everyday substances such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Drugs also include illegal substances, such as cannabis, heroin and cocaine".


Scientific Committee on Tobacco and Health First Report [1998]:
"1.30  Over the past decade there has been increasing recognition that underlying smoking behaviour and its remarkable intractability to change is addiction to the drug nicotine".

"Nicotine - a drug that stimulates the brain".

BBC Newsround:
"What are drugs?
A drug is something that affects your body.
Not all drugs are illegal. Drugs like cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine are illegal. Other drugs which are against the law include speed, heroin, LSD and magic mushrooms.
But many are legal like alcohol, headache tablets, cigarettes and glue".


"The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs defines substance misuse as
"a condition which may cause an individual to experience social, psychological, physical or legal problems related to intoxication and / or regular excessive consumption, and / or dependence, as a consequence of their use of drugs or other chemical substances".
This definition covers all types of substance misuse whether related to addiction or one-off use, and is focused on problems rather than types of drugs. It’s worth remembering that drugs such as alcohol and tobacco can fit into this definition quite readily!"

The Science Museum:
"What is a drug?
A drug is any chemical you take that affects the way your body works. Alcohol, caffeine, aspirin and nicotine are all drugs".

School Science:
"What is drug abuse?
A drug is any substance that has a biological effect when taken into the body. Drugs like alcohol and tobacco are legal in the United Kingdom while the possession, use or supply of others such ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis are against the law.