Children, 11, taking crystal meth
UPDATE: School pupils as young as 11 are taking crystal meth, according to a study commissioned by Germany's health ministry published this week.
School pupils, office workers and university students are among a growing number of groups outside the typical drug scene found to be regularly using crystal meth, according to the study commissioned by the health ministry.
It found that the average age of crystal meth users was 20, but around a fifth of those asked were younger than 15 when they first took the drug - the youngest user was aged 11.
The majority of drug takers first used crystal meth between the ages of 16 and 20, the research found.
Sascha Milin, one of the the authors of the 94-page report, said: "Young people in some areas have easy access to the drug. In these regions more education would be sensible."
In the first government commissioned survey of its kind, scientists from the Hamburg Interdisciplinary Centre for Addiction Research asked crystal meth users to list their reasons for taking the drug.
Beyond the "pleasant effects of the substance," half of those asked listed stress caused by their jobs or studies as the reason for using it, Spiegel news magazine said.
One third of participants said "school and studies" were a motive for using it. Stressed parents were also at risk of sliding into drug addiction, the study said.
The highly-addictive synthetic stimulant is known to cause serious, long-term health problems and can have devastating effects on regular users' physical appearance.
The drug, the use of which several studies have indicated is becoming more widespread in Germany, attacks the nervous system.
Long term, it can lead to nerve damage, memory and concentration problems as well as heart problems and psychosis.
"We need more information [on use of the drug]," Marlene Mortler, the government's commissioner for drug related issues told Spiegel.
There is "evidence that the drug has spread from the German-Czech border into other regions, especially larger German cities," she added.
Figures indicate growing numbers of crystal users in Germany in the past few years, with 2,556 new users coming to the attention of authorities in 2012 – a 51 percent increase on the year before according to Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) numbers.