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"Nazi Crank" (Feebase Methamphetamine)

Dear Gisela (Stuart MP) Please excuse this e-mail from a non-constituent, but I must congratulate you on being the first MP in the Commons to raise last week the disturbing matter of 'crank'.

This drug, which in the USA is made in kitchens from household chemicals and over the counter remedies, is actually methamphetamine (Class B drug), seizures of which used to be recorded in the annual statistics throughout the 1970s. The difference from amphetamine sulphate powder is that the drug is smokeable, providing an instant 'hit' analogous to the difference between crack cocaine and cocaine hydrochoride powder. I am aware of a false 'ecstasy' pill from East Anglia being found to contain methamphetamine when sent for analysis, but the number of methamphetamine seizures is not currently published separately from amphetamine.

Given the potential for increased seizures of this drug over the next few years, it might be prudent to ask the Home Office how many seizures have occurred in recent years, and to suggest these be more closely monitored in the future. How to deal with the problem? The danger is that by publicising the popularity of this drug in the USA, and its dangers, a new demand will be created where none currently exists, and existing amphetamine users (the second largest illicit drug-using group after cannabis) may be tempted to switch, with potentially disastrous consequences. Removing access to precursor chemicals could be impractical and have major economic consequences, if popular household and health-care products were to be withdrawn or made available only on prescription. As midwest states in the US have found, it is almost impossible to detect synthesis of this drug using the usual precursor-intelligence methods.

The situation may not be as bleak as your worst fears. Since the 1960s, many drugs popular in the USA (e.g. quaaludes (methaqualone) and 'angel dust' (phencyclidine)) have never crossed the Atlantic to become a serious problem in the UK and Europe. Even cocaine and crack never taken root as a widely-used drug of abuse to the same degree as America, probably due to abundant supplies of amphetamine - both cheaper and with longer-lasting stimulant effects - in Europe. There are a number of steps which could be taken by the government to minimise the potential risks of posed by this drug.

  • 1. Alert police forces, customs and the Forensic Science Service to the potential, in order to monitor seizures centrally.
  • 2. Provide an information briefing to drugs agency workers & hospital departments who may come into contact with users
  • 3. Prepare public information leaflets for use in the event of increased usage posing a significant problem
  • 4. Above all - Keep a low profile - discourage sensationalist press reports and avoid any publicity until or unless the drug poses a significant problem.

Incidentally, the drug is also known as 'ice' or 'crystal meth', the 'Nazi' derives from use of methamphetamine (a German patent) by Luftwaffe pilots during WWII, whereas allied aircrew used dexamphetamine (dexedrine - US patent) to keep awake.

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