Brits over-react to threat of crystal meth

In order to prevent the illegal production of the highly addictive drug, crystal meth, authorities in Britain are considering making some cold medicines available on a prescription-only basis.

There has been increasing concern from police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency that criminals are using the ingredients pseudoephedrine and ephedrine, contained in certain flu remedies to manufacture methylamphetamine -- crystal meth -- in illegal laboratories.

The crack-like drug, crystal meth was reclassified last January as a Class A drug; it is a highly addictive substance which affects the central nervous system and can cause serious physical and psychological harm.

Crystal meth, also known as ice, Nazi crank and yabba, when it is smoked in its crystalline form, produces effects similar to, but more intense than cocaine and research has found that sustained use can lead to psychosis, including paranoia and violent behaviour.

The white odourless and bitter-tasting powder is smoked, injected, snorted or taken orally and withdrawal symptoms can include depression, anxiety and a craving for the drug.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is now considering restricting the pack size of medicines and making those which contain pseudoephedrine and ephedrine prescription-only.

However drugs manufacturers have viewed the proposed restrictions as an over-reaction saying they are not justified as there was little evidence that the drug is illegally manufactured in Britain.

The government is eager to nip the problem in the bud and prevent crystal meth use growing to the serious levels seen in other countries.

The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), the branded medicine makers trade body, also says the proposed restrictions are excessive as pseudoephedrine has been used safely for treating colds and sinus problems in the UK for over 40 years.

The PAGB says disproportionate measures such as reducing pack size and limiting purchase to one per sale to control pseudoephedrine would affect legitimate usage and consumer needs.

Even in countries where crystal meth addiction, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, is a very real problem, pseudoephedrine has not been made a prescription-only medication.

The proposed restriction would affect medicines such as Benylin, Lemsip, Meltus and Sudafed, which are only sold in chemists and are kept behind the counter.

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