Police Issue Warning On Spread Of Crystal Meth

Methamphetamine, or crystal meth, the highly addictive drug prevalent across the US and Australia, is present in almost every town and city in England and Wales, according to an internal police report.

The study, for the Association of Chief Police Officers, has found that the drug, which was upgraded to a class A substance last week, is being produced, sold or used in every area of the UK except Scotland.

It also found increasing levels of crystal meth turning up in other drugs – notably heroin and cocaine – meaning some people were taking it without knowing.

Victoria Machin, secretary to Acpo’s national methamphetamine working group, which produced the study, said: “We have found clear evidence of meth production, distribution or use right across the country.”

She said the numbers involved remained small, although she added that it was difficult to get an accurate picture as some people did not realise they were taking the drug. “Drug users who are thinking ‘This crack is good’ are sometimes taking crystal meth; that’s the information we are getting off the street and that seems to be the way it is creeping into the system.”

The drug produces a high similar to crack cocaine, although it can last up to 12 hours when it is smoked or injected. Experts say its physical and psychological effects are more damaging. It was once confined to the gay club scene and regular users of other hard drugs, but there are fears it is becoming more mainstream.

Crystal meth’s other street names include ice and Nazi crank, based on reports that Hitler was a user. In parts of the US it is now more popular than heroin or cocaine – the number of illegal “meth labs” went from 3,800 in 1998 to 10,200 in 2003.

In March last year the United Nations’ drug control agency, the International Narcotics Control Board, said crystal meth was becoming a global problem. It said the extent of the drug’s use in Britain had been obscured by the fact that statistics on seizures and arrests were lumped in with amphetamines. The two drugs are related, but crystal meth is more potent and is made easily in small labs with over-the-counter drugs and household products.

Metropolitan police commander Simon Bray, who leads Acpo’s work on methamphetamine, said: “What we are finding now is that crystal meth is being found in people who think they are taking cocaine or heroin … In a pilot scheme recently where those arrested were tested for the substance 4% were found to be positive.

“We approached one [police] force who assured us they did not have a crystal meth problem in their area. After we had given them more information about the drug it emerged that there were in fact two or three towns where crystal meth was readily available.”