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Last updated : May 29, 2017

What is ice?

Crystal methamphetamine (‘ice’) is a stimulant drug, which means it speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the body. It’s stronger, more addictive and therefore has more harmful side effects than the powder form of methamphetamine known as speed.1

Ice usually comes as small chunky clear crystals that look like ice. It can also come as white or brownish crystal-like powder with a strong smell and bitter taste.1

Other names

Crystal meth, shabu, crystal, glass, shard, P.2

How is it used?

Ice is generally smoked or injected and the effects can be felt in 3 to 7 seconds. It is sometimes swallowed (15 to 30 minutes to feel the effects) or snorted (3 to 5 minutes to feel the effects).3

Effects of ice

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

The effects of ice can last for around 6 hours, but it might be hard to sleep for a few days after using the drug.

Ice affects everyone differently, but effects may include:

  • Feelings of pleasure and confidence
  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Repeating simple things like itching and scratching
  • Enlarged pupils and dry mouth
  • Teeth grinding and excessive sweating
  • Fast heart rate and breathing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased sex drive3,4,5

Injecting ice and sharing needles can increase the risk of:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV and AIDS

Snorting ice can damage the nasal passage and cause nose bleeds.

Overdose

If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. If you have any of the symptoms below, call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police.

  • Racing heartbeat and chest pain
  • Breathing problems
  • Fits or uncontrolled jerking
  • Extreme agitation, confusion, clumsiness
  • Sudden, severe headache
  • Unconsciousness
  • Stroke, heart attack or death4,5,8

Coming down

It can take several days to come down from using ice. The following effects may be experienced during this time:

  • Difficulty sleeping and exhaustion
  • Headaches, dizziness and blurred vision
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and confusion
  • Irritability and feeling ‘down’5,7

Using a depressant drug such as alcohol, benzodiazepines or cannabis to help with the come-down effects may result in a cycle of dependence on both types of drugs.

Long-term effects

With regular use, ice may eventually cause:

  • Extreme weight loss due to reduced appetite
  • Restless sleep
  • Dry mouth and dental problems
  • Regular colds or flu
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Breathlessness
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Anxiety, paranoia and violence
  • Depression
  • Heart and kidney problems
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect
  • Dependence on ice
  • Financial, work or social problems4

Ice psychosis

High doses of ice and frequent use may cause ‘ice psychosis’. This condition is characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using ice.4

Dependence

People who regularly use ice can quickly become dependent on the drug. They may feel they need ice to go about their normal activities like working, studying and socialising, or just to get through the day.8

Mental health problems

Some people who regularly use ice may start to feel less enjoyment of everyday activities. They can get stressed easily and their moods can go up and down quite quickly. These changes can lead to longer-term problems with anxiety and depression. People may feel these effects for at least several weeks or months after they give up ice.9

Mixing ice with other drugs

The effects of taking ice with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:

  • Ice + speed or ecstasy: enormous strain on the heart and other parts of the body, which can lead to stroke.5
  • Ice + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: enormous strain on the body, and more likely to overdose. The stimulant effects of ice may mask the effects of depressant drugs like benzodiazepines and can increase the risk of overdose.6

Withdrawal

Giving up ice after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms generally settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. Symptoms can include:

  • Cravings for ice
  • Increased appetite
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Aches and pains
  • Exhaustion
  • Restless sleep and nightmares
  • Anxiety, depression and paranoia7
Ice and the law

Use of methamphetamine (ice) is against the law. Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making, selling, importing or exporting, or driving under the influence of methamphetamine. The importation or exportation and the procuring of precursor drugs (such as pseudoephedrine) with the intention of manufacturing a controlled drug, is also against the law. Laws have been introduced that prevent the sale and possession of ice pipes in some states and territories.

Ice statistics

National

  • 7.0% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used meth/amphetamines one or more times in their life.9
  • 2.1% of Australians aged 14 years and over have used meth/amphetamines in the previous 12 months. Of these people, 50.4% report crystal or ice as main form of the drug used.9

Young people

  • Young Australians (aged 14–24) first try meth/amphetamines at 18.6 years on average.9
  • 2.9% of 12-17 year olds have tried amphetamines.1
References
  1. Campbell, A. (2000). The Australian Illicit Drug Guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
  2. National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). (n.d.) Ice fact sheet.
  3. Cook, C., Jeffcoat, A., Hill, J., Pugh, D., Patetta, P., Sadler, B., White, W. & Perez-Reyes, M. (1993). Pharmacokinetics of methamphetamine self-administered to human subjects by Smoking S-(+)-methamphetamine hydrochloride. Drug Metabolism and Disposition. 21(4), 717-723.
  4. Leonard, W., Dowsett, G., Slavin, S., Mitchell, A. & Pitts, M. (2008). Crystal clear: The social determinants of gay men’s use of crystal methamphetamine in Victoria.
  5. Richards, J. (2013). Methamphetamine toxicity.
  6. Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. (2013). Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs.
  7. NSW Health. (2015). Crystalline Methamphetamine Background Paper – NSW Data, September 2015 (revised).
  8. Roxburgh, A. & Burns, L. (2012). Cocaine and methamphetamine related drug-induced deaths in Australia, 2008.
  9. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2014). National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Canberra: AIHW.
  10. White, V., & Bariola, E. (2012). Australian secondary school students’ use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011. Melbourne: The Cancer Council, Victoria.

Effects

confidence, dilated pupils, dry mouth, excessive sweating, fast breathing, fast heart rate, feeling energetic, increased sex drive, reduced appetite, teeth grinding.

AKA

crystal, crystal meth, glass, shabu, shard.