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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 15:57 GMT
Crystal meth made class A drug
The effects of crystal meth on a woman
Photographs from the US show the effects of smoking crystal meth
The "euphoric" sex and dance-culture drug crystal meth is being reclassified as a class A substance in the UK in an attempt to clamp down on its use.

People who use methamphetamine - its proper name - now face up to seven years in jail and an unlimited fine, while dealers could be jailed for life.

It can lead to paranoia, kidney failure, violence, internal bleeding and less inhibited sexual behaviour.

Drug charity DrugScope has welcomed the "sensible precautionary move".

Other risks associated with the synthetic stimulant, which can be smoked or injected, include depression, dental problems and tooth decay.

Although DrugScope supports the move, it has now called for additional resources and training for "frontline" drug and healthcare workers.

I believe tougher penalties send a strong message that dealing and making crystal meth will not be tolerated
Home Office minister Vernon Coaker

Martin Barnes, DrugScope's chief executive, said: "Services for stimulant users have improved considerably over the last five years but, as there is no viable substitute drug, services rely on specialist talking therapies for clients.

"Significant investment is needed to ensure that there are appropriate services for people using the whole range of stimulants such as amphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine and crystal meth, right across the UK."

Moving the drug to class A, alongside heroin and cocaine, means the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency will make tackling it an even higher priority.

The Home Office has released photographs showing the drug's effects on two women in the United States, which demonstrate how crystal meth smoking can lead to rapid ageing and to "meth mouth", a chronic rotting of teeth and gums.

'Tougher penalties'

Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "We know from the experiences of other countries that it has the potential to ruin the lives of individuals and their families.

The effects of crystal meth on the mouth
Smoking the drug can lead to the rotting of teeth and gums

"Crystal meth would be an awful drug were it to take root in this country, it would have a devastating impact on individuals, it would have a devastating impact on communities.

"We know it hasn't happened yet, we want to keep it that way.

"Reclassification is a precautionary measure that helps to ensure crystal meth does not gain a foothold in the UK.

"I believe tougher penalties send a strong message that dealing and making crystal meth will not be tolerated."

Other street names for the drug include ice, crazy medicine and go-fast.

It is also known as Nazi crank - after an apocryphal story that Adolf Hitler injected the substance twice daily.

'A global problem'

American singer Rufus Wainwright is among the celebrities who have admitted former addictions to the synthetic drug.

Graph showing most commonly used drugs by 16-59-year-olds

Simon Bray, Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman and commander in the Metropolitan Police, said: "Reclassifying the drug gives us some important new tools with which to clamp down on those who might be tempted to import methamphetamine or produce it locally."

Director general of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) Bill Hughes also welcomed the move, which was first announced last June.

Use of crystal meth is already a major concern in several countries including the US, Australia, Thailand and Japan.

In March last year, the United Nations' drug control agency - the International Narcotics Control Board - said crystal meth was becoming a global problem.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The effects of crystal meth on users



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