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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 June 2006, 21:57 GMT 22:57 UK
Crystal meth to be class A drug
Crystal Meth
Methamphetamine comes in crystal, powder and pill form
Crystal meth is to be reclassified as one of the UK's most dangerous drugs alongside cocaine and heroin, the government has announced.

Drugs Minister Vernon Coaker said the drug, also known as methamphetamine, is to move from class B to class A.

Crystal meth is a highly-addictive stimulant which is thought to be most commonly used by gay clubbers.

Police wanted the drug reclassified. Mr Coaker said it could be very damaging to people, families and communities.

Jail threat

The decision to reclassify came after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended moving crystal meth to class A.

Mr Coaker told MPs on the Commons science and technology committee that police had raised concerns about a "low number of illicit laboratories synthesising the substance".

Ranking the drug as among the most dangerous in the UK means higher penalties for people found in possession or trying to supply crystal meth.

Possession of class A drugs can carry sentences of up to seven years in prison or an unlimited fine.

Judges can sentence class A dealers to life in prison or give them an unlimited fine.

Reports that the UK is on the verge of a crystal meth explosion have been repeated for some years
Vernon Coaker

Mr Coaker said: "Methylamphetamine is a very substantial problem in many countries outside the European Union but not within it.

"Reports that the UK is on the verge of a crystal meth explosion have been repeated for some years but to date there has been no reliable evidence to support this.

"However, international experience shows it has the potential to be extremely damaging."

The government move was immediately welcomed by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Bray, who leads Acpo's work on the drug, said: "The serious and well documented dangers associated with production and use of this drug in all its forms will now be substantially easier to combat as a result of this reclassification.

"It will also become possible to close down, for long periods, premises used as illicit 'meth' laboratories (a power available for class A drugs only)."

Mr Bray said there were signs that the UK was now echoing the early stages of the very serious problems seen with the drug in the USA, Australia and other countries.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said reclassifying crystal meth was a "sensible precautionary measure".

But he said use of the drug in the UK was low and suggestions of an approaching crystal meth "epidemic" would be "without foundation and alarmist".


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