The facts about "ice"

Wednesday, January 17, 2007
What is "ice"?
"Ice" is a street name for crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a powerful, synthetic stimulant drug.

Ice often appears as large, transparent and "sheet-like" crystals but may also be coloured (often pink, blue or green). Other street names for ice include "meth", "crystal meth", "shabu" and "glass".

  • In 2004, 3.2 percent of Australians aged 14 years and older had used amphetamines for nonmedical purposes in the previous year and over 38 percent of this group reported the type of amphetamine they used was ice.
  • Ice use among injecting drug users increased from 15 per cent in 2000 to 52 per cent in 2004.
  • In 2004, 63 per cent of a sample of people who used ecstasy had tried ice at least once and 45 per cent had used ice in the past 6 months.

How is it used?
Like other methamphetamines, ice is usually snorted, swallowed or inserted anally. It is also smoked or injected, producing a rapid onset of the drug's effects. Smoking or inhaling ice has become more common in Australia in recent times. Smokers use a glass pipe, while others heat the ice on aluminium foil and inhale it ("chasing"). Ice is usually sold in "points" (0.1 gram), due to its high purity.

What are the effects of ice?
The effects of any drug (including ice) vary from person to person, depending on the individual's size, weight and health, how much and how the drug is taken, whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken. Effects also depend on the environment in which the drug is used - such as whether the person is alone, with others or at a party.

Ice is a potent stimulant drug, which speeds up the activity of the central nervous system. Although few deaths have been reported in Australia as a direct result of using ice, it is considered more addictive and is associated with more significant physical, emotional and social harms than other types of amphetamines.

The physical effects of ice may include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Severe headache
  • Tremors of the hands and fingers
  • Nausea
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Rapid and irregular heartbeat
  • Permanent damage to blood vessels in the brain, usually associated with very high doses (in extreme cases death may occur).

Ice can also affect a person's behaviour, including:

  • Increase in physical activity
  • Restlessness and anxiety
  • Aggression, hostility and violence
  • Elevated mood and feelings of euphoria and wellbeing
  • Talkativeness and repeating simple acts or tasks
  • Impaired judgments making the user impulsive and leading to chronic insomnia
  • Abrupt shifts in thought and speech, which can make someone using ice difficult to comprehend
  • Paranoia or panic attacks associated with hallucinations
  • "Amphetamine psychosis", which users of very high doses may suffer, with symptoms resembling paranoid schizophrenia.

Longer term use of ice may result in:

  • Severe depression
  • Paranoia
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Heart-related complications (heart attack and heart failure have been associated with chronic use)
  • Decreased appetite leading to possible malnutrition and rapid weight loss
  • Lung and kidney disorders that may prove fatal
  • Dental problems (from grinding teeth)

Some people experience withdrawal symptoms once they have stopped using ice. These symptoms may include:

  • Severe depression
  • Apathy
  • Long periods of sleep
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased energy
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • The limited ability to experience pleasure
  • Extreme exhaustion can follow binge use of methamphetamine thus creating an overpowering need to use more of the drug.

Source: The DrugInfo Clearinghouse

Village RoadshowIt's not just magic: How Harry Potter is good for our health Getty ImagesTruth bomb: Punishing kids for lying won't make them truth-tellers Getty ImagesGas stovetops could be increasing your child's risk of asthma: study Getty ImagesParacetamol overdose leading cause of liver failure in Aussie and NZ kids