A leading academic has warned that the influence of the hit TV series, Breaking Bad, has resulted in a concerning increase in the use of crystal meth across the UK and Europe.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has indicated that sections of the EU are becoming flooded with methamphetamine.
Germany has experienced the highest increase of usage of the class A drug at 51%.
UK border patrols have seen a surge in the attempts to smuggle the drug into the country. The number of incidents has risen by 400% in the past year.
The Government released figures during January which indicate that seizures of the drug by police authorities have increased four-fold over the past five-year period.
An author on media and celebrity culture from Staffordshire University, Professor Ellis Cashmore, said the massive global success of the hit TV show could be to blame for this surge in usage. He said that although the show does not intend to glamorise the drug, the fact that it is included boosts interest in the substance.
One of the main characters of the show, Jessie, played by Aaron Paul, takes on the role of a drug addict. Since this role, he has become a Hollywood A-lister and sex symbol.
Cashmore stated the fact that the character we grow to love is taking crystal meth would instantly make everyone curious. He said we live in a hedonistic generation where people are constantly search for pleasure from various sources and these can often be found in the most illegal forms.
He said that even if the harmful effects of this drug are shown, people could still be pulled in and it will always appeal to someone.
He added that showing viewers the terrible effects of crystal meth could actually result in a boomerang effect as some people may become curious and think that it must be good to take it.
He stated that he is not at all surprised that there has been an increase in the use of the drug. The fact that millions of people have faithfully watched the show and found it entertaining has glamorised its content, whether this was deliberate or not.
Prague has become the centre of the crystal meth industry and is said to be the source of an unbelievable 95% of all the batches consumed across Europe.
During the TV show, one episode places focus on a scheme to export the drug to the Czech Republic from New Mexico.
The police say that in reality, this may also be due to a more sophisticated production and distribution network which is controlled by Vietnamese gangs within the Czech Republic. According to the head of the team trying to break the trade, Colonel Jackub Frydrych from the Czech Republic Police, this is a booming market. In an example offered by him, he said that in Japan there is a massive mark up of around £435 per gram of crystal meth. This means that from the angle of profits, it is an extremely dynamic market.
Figures from the Home Office reveal that the problem has reached closer to home with about 17000 people believed to have made use of crystal meth during 2013.
The drug was seized about 252 times by the border police during last year, which is an increase from the 61 seizures during 2011/2012.
A number of ‘meth labs’ have been discovered in Britain, however it is believed that most of the stock in the country has been smuggled in.
Officers based in England and Wales have recorded 110 seizures of the drug in the non-injectable form during the past year, compared to 55 seizures during 2010/11. There were only 24 seizures during 2008/2009.
Image Credit: Doug Kline