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University Toolkit: Smoking and drugs

Learn about the impact of smoking and recreational drugs on type 1 diabetes and find free support and resources to help.
Content last reviewed and updated: 18.10.2023

A student with type 1 diabetes who is lighting and smoking a cigarette

Smoking is discouraged for everyone but particularly people with type 1 diabetes due to the long-term consequences on your health, such as heart and lung disease. Smoking will also increase the chance of colds and chest infections.

Smoking support and resources

If you would like help quitting smoking, please contact your GP or use the sources below:

SMOKEFREE 0800 022 4332 /

Giving Up Smoking 0800 169 0169/

Action on Smoking and Health 0207 739 5902 /

Recreational drugs

It is important to remember that all recreational drugs are illegal. Buying them online is even riskier – there are always elements of unknown. What is in it, how will it react with me? The effects that drugs have on your type 1 aren’t well understood, so they’re even more dangerous. However, if you have been trying recreational drugs then please get in contact with your healthcare team. They will be able to offer you confidential advice in a non-judgmental setting.

Drugs are not a good idea for people with diabetes – there are risks associated with any legal or illegal drug you take:

  • Downers – also called depressants. Drugs like alcohol, sleeping pills, heroin, tranquilisers and painkillers slow the body down reducing heart rate and breathing and there is a danger of addiction. Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium) affect your judgement, so you might not recognise a hypo or forget to take your insulin
  • Uppers – also called stimulants. Speed, ecstasy, cocaine and tobacco speed the heart up and are extremely dangerous. Amphetamine and ecstasy may cause dehydration and suppress appetite so can cause severe hypoglycaemia. You may also miss hypo signals. Opiates/heroin can change eating habits and alter perception
    Hallucinogenics – such as cannabis, LSD and magic mushrooms alter the way people see, hear and feel things. Cannabis will impair your judgment, causes problems with memory, can impair glucose tolerance and increases appetite
  • Smart drugs or nootrophics – such as Modafinil,  Adderall , Ritalin and Dexedrine can give adverse effects on appetite, mood stability, cardiac function, stress levels and possibly many other unwanted effects
  • Don’t ever mix alcohol with drugs and remember that any drug you use may decrease your ability to recognise a hypo. Make sure others know you have diabetes and what to do. Make sure you wear a MedicAlert ID or are carrying your diabetes ID card.

Drugs helplines

National Drugs Helpline / Talk to Frank 0800 776600 /

Fast Forward 0131 5544300 /

In partnership with:

Diabetes UK, NHS England and NHS Norwich and Norfolk University Hospitals partner logos