Crystal meth the new drug pandemic

According to a U.N. narcotics watchdog the synthetic drug methamphetamine is a bigger problem in the United States and other countries than either heroin or cocaine.

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says the addictive dance and sex drug is rapidly becoming a global problem.

In its annual report, the INCB has voiced concern about the increasing use of methamphetamine, also called crystal meth.

Methamphetamine is sold on the street and is also known as meth, speed, ice, Tina and Nazi crank.

The drug has spread from Southeast Asia to parts of the world where it was virtually unknown until recently.

The spread to Africa and eastern Europe is fuelled by the ability of traffickers to obtain legally two chemicals needed to make it, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, the INCB said in its 2005 report.

Hamid Ghodse, the board's president, says methamphetamine is now a pandemic drug problem in the U.S. and although as yet it has not affected European countries and the United Kingdom it will eventually reach there.

He believes the extent of its use in Britain is obscured by the fact that seizures and arrests are all included in amphetamines abuse.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration brain damage and psychotic behaviour are just two of the possible effects of methamphetamine use.

NCB Secretary Koli Kouame says a growing phenomenon is the shipping of methamphetamine ingredients to labs by post; unlicensed Internet pharmacies apparently sell billions of doses of medicines illegally each year and deliver them by post.

The INCB says drugs such as cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, legal pharmaceutical drugs, some stronger than morphine, are also shipped by post without prescriptions particularly in America.

They estimate the value of such pharmaceutical drugs smuggled via the postal system to be in hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars.

The INCB has recommended that the number of entry points for parcels into countries be limited and scanning equipment introduced at these points.

The INCB says the use of cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy is falling in the U.S.

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