Crystal meth: Britain's deadliest drug problem

Britain is under threat from a highly addictive drug, known as crystal meth or "ice", which has the potential to rival crack cocaine as the country's most dangerous drug, police chiefs are warning.

d The stimulant, methamphetamine, also known as "Nazi crank", has begun to spread throughout the UK and is available in almost every city in Britain, according to police intelligence. It is becoming increasingly popular among clubbers and is starting to enter mainstream drug use.

Police chiefs have been alarmed by its rapid growth in the United States - where 12 million people are thought to have tried it - Australia and New Zealand, and fear that Britain will be next.

The growth in British laboratories making the drug puts people at risk of death or injury from explosions and toxic fumes, a police conference will hear today.

While the number of seizures of the drug are currently low, police are starting to uncover a growing number of makeshift laboratories manufacturing it. Last month a crystal meth factory was discovered on an industrial unit in a Derbyshire village, Stoney Middleton. Laboratories have also been found in London and the Isle of Wight.

The threat posed by crystal meth, a synthetic drug that can be smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected, will be highlighted at the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) drugs conference in Manchester today.

Commander Simon Bray, an Acpo spokesman, said: "It could become as popular as crack unless we recognise the potential danger is poses and take action to prevent its spread. There is increasing intelligence about methamphetamine which shows its presence in this country is growing. You can find it in Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, London - in almost every county. If people want to get hold of the drug they can find it."

He added: "We have not had many incidents yet, but if you look at the experience in the United States, New Zealand and Australia it started out with one or two laboratories which rapidly turned to hundreds. It is a bit like crack cocaine which suddenly appeared to take off - we want to make sure it does not get to that stage."

The number of illegal laboratories producing it grew in the US from 3,800 in 1998 to 8,500 in 2001, peaking at 10,200 in 2003. An estimated 12.3 million Americans had tried the drug by 2003. It is now more popular than cocaine or heroin in parts of America, and is considered by some to be more dangerous.

The American singer Rufus Wainwight is among several celebrities who have admitted overcoming an addiction to crystal meth, which increases sexual arousal.

Earlier this year the United Nations drug control agency warned that crystal meth was becoming a global problem and called for tougher restrictions on chemicals used to make it.

Police intelligence has shown that although still relatively rare in the UK, the drug is becoming increasingly popular among clubbers, and is being used by heroin addicts and rough sleepers.

Police are also concerned that the manufacture of the drug - the chemicals and instructions on how to use them are readily available on the internet - will lead to deaths and injuries from explosions and poisonous fumes produced during the cooking process. Mr Bray said: "The chemicals used to make the drug include iodine and drain cleaner - the substances are akin to nerve agents. They can result in explosions and toxic waste.

"In America quite a lot of children have been affected by the chemicals, and anyone responding to an incident [such as a fire] can be in danger. It can take months to decontaminate a site."

A gram of meth costs about £50, enough for several "hits". Its effects include psychosis and paranoia, and it has a particularly addictive nature that can be compared to crack cocaine and heroin.

The police believe that as well as being manufactured in Britain it is also being imported into the UK by a Filipino criminal network.

The police and Home Office are so concerned about the potential growth in the drug that in January they are due to upgrade the drug from a Class B to a Class A substance. This would mean those caught dealing it could receive a life sentence while those in possession could face up to seven years.

Key facts
by Geneviève Roberts

* Crystal meth (methamphetamine) is a class A drug, reclassified from class B in June this year.

* When smoked, snorted or injected it gives a "rush" similar to that produced by crack cocaine and is highly addictive.

* 10 per cent of gay men in London have used crystal meth. In London, half a gram costs £25.

* It causes cardiovascular problems and increased blood pressure. An overdose can cause overheating and convulsions.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 2 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 3 Teachers needed for supply roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week