"Crystal meth" joins list of most serious drugs
London - Crystal meth, an addictive form of amphetamine used on the fringes of the gay nightclub scene, is to be ranked with heroin in the country's most dangerous group of illegal drugs, the government said on Wednesday.
Methylamphetamine is being reclassified because it poses a risk of "serious social problems," Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said.
"International experience shows it has the potential to be extremely damaging to individuals, families and communities," he added. "Chronic use can lead to psychotic behaviour, characterised by paranoia and hallucinations and violent behaviour."
The drug stimulates the central nervous system, giving a euphoric "rush" which makes users more alert and dulls their appetite.
Health experts say they risk brain damage, heart attacks, depression and a range of other problems.
Police welcomed the move from the legal category "Class B" to "Class A" and said it would allow them to use greater powers to tackle dealers and manufacturers.
"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," said London police commander Simon Bray, who leads the Association of Chief Police Officers' fight against the drug.
Drug education charity DrugScope said there was no evidence Britain is on the verge of a crystal meth epidemic, but called the reclassification a sensible precaution.
"Use of the drug in the UK is low and there is no evidence that it is increasing," said DrugScope Chief Executive Martin Barnes. "International evidence shows that the drug can cause serious health and social harms."
Anyone convicted of possessing crystal meth or other Class A drugs can be jailed for up to seven years or face an unlimited fine. Dealers can be jailed for life.