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A drug that is so easy to manufacture it can be done in your household bathroom is set to cause an epidemic in the UK, with the potential for devastating effects. Crystal Meth, the common name for methamphetamine is currently causing carnage in the US and Australia and is potentially more dangerous than crack or heroin. As of yet the UK does not have a serious meth problem, but with unemployment rates up and disposable income down, circumstances could conspire to create the perfect marketplace for this deadly drug.

Unlike crack or heroin, crystal meth dealers do not have to overcome the difficulty of trafficking their product as meth can be made relatively easily here in the UK. Imagine how much heroin would be on the streets if criminal gangs could synthesize the drug themselves using instructions which are widely available on the internet and ingredients which can be purchased without breaching a single law? One of the key components is Pseudoephedrine, which is available over the counter in your local pharmacy as a cure for coughs and colds. Domestic meth labs are so easy to set up that is simply impossible for police to keep track of them.

A recent internal police report claims that meth is present is nearly every town in England and Wales with the latest meth lab being found in Manchester in November 2011. More often than not the police only become aware of these labs when an amateur chemist inadvertently blows himself up, an occupational hazard of ‘cooking meth’. A lab has the ability to produce 50kg of meth in a single production run and in 2007 meth was reclassified as a class A drug in the UK.

Chris Thrall left the Royal Marines to find fortune in Hong Kong but a year later was suffering from drug induced psychosis resulting from his crystal meth addiction. He became homeless, lost his sanity and almost his life after becoming addicted to the deadly drug, also known as ’ice’.

Chris, from Plymouth, joined the Marines at 18 and served 7 years. He got an opportunity to get involved in a new business venture, left the Forces and moved to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the venture failed, he was in debt and jobless. He found a job in marketing for a Hong Kong firm, a few months after starting he walked in on a colleague in the toilets smoking meth. Chris accepted the offer to try some, the next day he wanted more...

His life went out of control and in an attempt to get straight; he went from a day job to working as nightclub doorman with the intention that if he worked at night he wouldn’t be able to take drugs. But his addiction was life consuming; he was on it constantly, hallucinating and became psychotic. He got sacked and several other jobs followed, he was living on the streets and believed he was part of a global underground conspiracy. He put his life at risk deciding to climb a huge construction crane ‘for a laugh’. 13 months after arriving in Hong Kong Chris booked a return flight to the UK paid for by his worried family. He was ravaged, 4 stone lighter, wild-eyed and gaunt. He returned to Plymouth and even though he was ashamed of the addiction he continued to score the drug and carried on using for another 18 months. Crystal meth wasn’t hard to find. One day looked in the mirror and didn’t know himself anymore; after a long battle and several attempts, he slowly started his recovery. He has now been clean for over 10 years.

Alistair Mordey, head counsellor at The Cabin Chiang Mai, a state of the art treatment centre in Thailand, has over a decade of experience working with addicts and users in London. He sees a steady stream of crystal meth addicts, mainly from the US and Australia, and warns that England is ill-equipped to cope with a meth epidemic,

“The US was not prepared for the speed at which crystal meth has grown in popularity in the last decade and is now faced with a meth problem which is spiralling out of control. I don’t think treatment centres in the UK are ready either, at The Cabin we have a good rate of success with helping clients whose lives have been destroyed by meth use but the methods and techniques which we employ here are still not being practiced in the UK".

Breaking The Cycle of Addiction - Mordey and his team try to change the actual thought processes and behavioural patterns of their patients in order to ensure that once they have broken free from the cycle of addiction they are able to resist the temptation to relapse. This is particularly important for meth users because, as Mordey outlines, where this highly addictive drug is concerned it is much easier to get started then it is to stop.

“Meth creates pleasure in a user by mimicking the chemicals that send pleasurable impulses to the brain. The resulting 'high' that is obtained becomes hardwired into an individual's memory and following regular meth use, the brain becomes more and more reliant on the pleasure impulses sent by the drug. As the brain adapts to the meth very quickly, more and more meth is required to achieve the same high.”

The physical recovery period from meth addiction is also much lengthier than with other drugs and Mordey warns that it will take a long time for life to return to normal after a period of extended meth use, “The brain's natural pleasure transporters effectively cease to work and more evidence suggests this can take several months or even years to return to normal. Long term meth users often suffer from anhedonia, which literally means an inability to experience pleasure, which is why relapse rates are traditionally so high.”

The UK does not have a serious meth problem yet, but with current economic problems, the devastation which meth is causing across the US could well be coming soon to a town near you.

Editor's Notes:

• ‘Eating Smoke’ by Chris Thrall (Maverick House £9.99)
• Alastair Mordey (BA hons, RDAP, ADAP) is the Programme Director at The Cabin Chiang Mai, an addiction treatment centre based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is a certified and accredited addiction counsellor with over 10 years’ experience working in treatment services.
• The Cabin Chiang Mai is Asia’s most respected Drug and Alcohol treatment centre. Established in 2009, with two facilities and a secondary treatment Sober House located in Chiang Mai, the Cabin has treated over 300 men and women from around the world with a programme completion rate of 96% and a recovery rate amongst the highest in the world.
• The unique programme at The Cabin combines CBT, the 12 Steps, Mind Mapping, Mindfulness therapy and physical exercise therapy.
• A fully inclusive 28 day programme at The Cabin Chiang Mai costs £7,700,
about a third of the cost of private rehabs in the UK.

To interview Alastair or Chris, or to use this story, please contact Teresa Quinlan on 0203 3551 3970 or email

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