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Ian Burrell's article in todays IOS (10-1-99) may be alarming, but misses the point, and is unfortunately riddled with inaccuracies.

1. 'Base' or 'paste' amphetamine is nothing new, it merely represents higher purity material asmanufactured or imported into the UK, which is sold at retail or wholesale level instead of being 'cut' to street purities. It has formed a significant propotion of seizures for many years.

2. Paste may simply be wet powder, and is no guarantee of higher purity material, most 'pastes' fall in the potency range of 15-40%, although higher purities can occur.

3. Base amphetamine is either sold at higher unit prices than street powder, or may be cut to street purity levels. Most street powders fall in the range of 1% to 15%. The 2% 'street' purity figure quoted is unusual today, although more common in the early 1990s - the average purity has been rising for the past 5-6 years, the latest figures indicate a 3-fold increase in average purity of police seizures between 1993 (4%) and 1997 (14%). The customs average (purity at importation) has remained fairly stable at around 35-40% purity.

4. Most users of amphetamine would adjust the quantity used when taking 'base', using perhaps 1 gram at a time rather than several, and would be most attractive to intravenous users.

The article and possibly the NCIS source 'missed the point', because in the USA base meth-amphetamine (also known as 'ice', 'crank' or 'crystal meth') is now commonly used. This is a smokeable form analogous to crack cocaine, and is frequently manufactured in makeshift kitchen or outdoor 'labs' from household chemicals and over-the counter medicines. This is rarely found in the UK at present, but which soon will no-doubt receive the type of sensationalist coverage, also imported from the USA, similar to that which successfully advertised 'crack' to UK drug users.

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