A dance and sex drug
which is more addictive than crack cocaine is
becoming a global problem, the United Nations' drug
control agency warned today.
Narcotics Control Board said it was concerned about
rising use of methamphetamine, or crystal meth.
The board called on
governments across the world to introduce tougher
restrictions on chemicals used in the manufacture of
the drug, which is also known in varying forms as
"ice", "meth", "Tina" and "Nazi crank".
The drug's use has increased exponentially in the
past decade, particularly in the US where it is
considered to be a major problem. The American
singer Rufus Wainwright is among several celebrities
who have admitted overcoming an addiction to crystal
meth, which allows users to stay awake for days and
increases sexual arousal.
The INCB president,
Hamid Ghodse, said the use of methamphetamine was
"If I want to pick on
one major drug problem pandemic today, it is
methamphetamine," Professor Ghodse said. "It has not
yet affected that much of western European countries
and the UK but, as we know, as drug misuse occurs in
North America, sooner or later it gets here."
He added: "We are
trying to encourage governments to focus on the
precursor chemicals used in the drug's manufacture,
so that we can try to prevent any wider abuse of
Crystal meth was now
regarded as the No 1 problem drug in North America,
Prof Ghodse said.
But the extent of its
use in Britain is obscured by the fact that seizures
and arrests are lumped in with amphetamines, meaning
no statistics are collected specifically on crystal
Police chiefs and the
government have commissioned separate studies into
methamphetamine to see if the use of crystal meth is
spreading. The home secretary, Charles Clarke, has
ordered that drug deaths be monitored to see if they
are linked to the drug.
Customs will send all
seizures of odourless white powders to forensic labs
for analysis and new mental health patients with
drug problems will be tested to see if they have
taken crystal meth.
However, in November,
the government's Advisory Council on Drugs Misuse
advised against reclassifying crystal meth from a
class B drug to class A because it could have the
"unintended consequence of engendering interest
among potential users".
Meth is a synthetic
drug that can be snorted, smoked, injected or eaten,
and is relatively simple to make from household
products using a basic school chemistry set. The
highly volatile mix of chemicals has caused several
explosions in the US. Canada recently introduced
life sentences for its manufacture.
annual report also said governments should
screen all incoming and outgoing mail to combat
"drugs by post" scams. Drug dealers were
increasingly using the postal system to move the
substances across borders, Prof Ghodse said.
Each country should
set up regular and thorough searches of mail -
including private carriers - and limit the points of
entry for parcels, the report said.
Meanwhile, a report
commissioned by MPs today raised questions over the
way the government classified illegal drugs.
The study for the
all-party science and technology select committee
said that including magic mushrooms in the same
category as heroin and crack cocaine did not appear
to reflect scientific evidence.
It concluded that
drugs were not put in class A, B or C according to
the harm they caused; instead varying criteria had
been applied from drug to drug. The report did not,
however, come to any conclusions about the
effectiveness of current drug classifications.
In January, Mr Clarke
announced plans for a complete overhaul of the way
illegal drugs were categorised and prohibited.
Today's report, by
consultants Rand Europe, said: "Classification is
not based upon a set of standards for harm caused by
a drug, it varied depending upon the drug in
On magic mushrooms
being in the most serious category, where supplying
the drugs carries life imprisonment, it added: "The
positioning of them in class A does not seem to
reflect any scientific evidence that they are of
equivalent harm to other class A drugs."
The theory that
cannabis use acted as a "gateway" to more serious
drugs had not been proven despite extensive
research, the report added.
It supported the
government's decision to downgrade cannabis two
years ago from class B to class C, saying that the
evidence to do so was "conclusive" at the time.