A report from the Association of Chief Police Officers predicts a rise in the number of people taking methamphetamine, commonly known as crystal meth.

An ACPO spokesman told the BBC that at present it is still a “relatively minor” problem in the UK but there has been a “gradual rise in the reporting of the use and manufacturing of the drug.”

Research published in July 2006 claimed that up to 20% of gay men questioned at sexual health clinics and gyms in London had taken the drug.

When smoked or injected, crystal meth leads to a high similar to crack cocaine but longer lasting and more damaging.

It can quickly become addictive and lead to depression, paranoia, violent behaviour, kidney failure and internal bleeding.

Crystal meth smoking can also ruin a person’s appearance through “meth mouth”, which is characterised by chronic rotting of teeth and gums.

Gay men who use crystal meth were between two and three times more likely to have unsafe sex as those who do not use the drug.

However, use of this highly dangerous substance does not seem to be as widespread in the wider gay population.

The Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2005 showed that fewer than 3% of gay men had used crystal meth in the previous 12 months and 0.3% of men used crystal once or more a week.

In London, just over 6% of gay men had used crystal in the previous year, and the vast majority of men who had used crystal had done so less than once a month.

The Home Office decided to reclassify it from a Class B to a Class A substance in 2006.

Those who take it can face up to seven years in jail for possession, and up to life for those who manufacture or deal it.

As a Class A drug, it is now the focus of more intelligence-led operations to thwart supply and bust laboratories.