What is Methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine, also known as Ice and is a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages to and from the brain.   It is a highly addictive and potent drug that is manmade and is illegal in Australia. It is usually made in backyard labs and homes containing poisons that are often found around the house.  Ice is a crystallised substance that is clear, giving the impression that it is pure.

Street Names

Ice, Meth, Crystal Meth, Crystal, Speed, Poor man’s coke,

How is it used?

Ice is a crystallised substance that looks like ‘ice’ or ‘glass’. It is usually sold in points (.01 gram) and is smoked, injected or swallowed.

Effects of Ice

Ice is a stimulant drug which means it speeds up the messages to and from the brain.  Ice releases a number of chemicals in the brain including dopamine and noradrenaline. Dopamine is the natural pleasure chemical in the brain that we all feel when we are happy. Ice releases an overdose of dopamine making people feel pleasure, excited, energetic, happy and talkative. Noradrenaline is also a chemical that is released when Ice is used. Noradrenaline is the ‘fight or flight’ chemical in the brain, speeding up the heart rate and making people alert and on ‘edge’.  People using ice will often feel paranoid and suspicious which makes them want to flee a situation or stay and fight. Aggression and violence is often associated with people using ice.

Immediate Effects

People usually experience the following effects of ice soon after it is taken:

  • Increased energy
  • Increased confidence
  • Increased need to talk
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaw clenching
  • Sleeplessness
  • Paranoia/psychosis
  • Aggression/violence
  • Meth bugs

Long-term Effects

  • Mood disorders/and other mental health issues
  • Drug induced psychosis
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Dental issues
  • Aggression/violence
  • Changes in the brain/cognitive damage
  • Financial difficulties
  • Family and relationship issues
  • Criminal justice issues
  • dependant

Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are often associated with ice use. There is no clear indication about how much or when this may occur and this generally depends on a person’s history, previous mental health issues and tolerance. Drug induced ice psychosis is a common mental health issue and people can become paranoid, experience auditory and visual hallucinations and paranoid delusions. This is a scary experience for people and they can often become aggressive and violent. Police contact and hospital admission are usually the form of intervention for people experiencing psychosis.

Coming Down

It usually takes people several days to feel back to normal again when they have used ice. This is because most people have not eaten for days and have had little or no sleep.  People may experience that following:

  • exhaustion
  • headaches or dizziness
  • difficulty sleeping or sleeping for days
  • feeling down, moodiness, irritability
  • depression
  • suicidal thoughts

Treatment Options

A number of drug treatment options are available in Australia. While abstinence may be a suitable treatment aim for some people, many programs recognise that for others this may not be possible or realistic. Most programs adopt strategies that have the overall aim of reducing the harms and risks related to the person’s drug use.

Some treatment options include counselling, withdrawal (detoxification) and pharmacotherapy. Residential and “out-patient” programs are available.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

There are no safe risks when using ice and it is certainly not encouraged while being pregnant or breastfeeding. There are significant risk and complications to the baby when mothers choose to use.

Most drugs cross the placenta, and therefore have some effect on the foetus. It is possible that miscarriage can result from using ice. Ice during pregnancy has also been associated with delayed development and subtle abnormalities in the newborn.

It is possible that if a mother uses ice while breastfeeding the drug will be present in her milk and may have adverse effects on the baby.

Check with your doctor or other health professional if you are taking or planning to take any substances during pregnancy or while breastfeeding, including prescribed and over-the-counter medications.

Reducing the Risks

Australian drug policy is based on harm minimisation. This is about reducing drug-related harm to both the community and individual drug users.

Harm-minimisation strategies range from encouraging “non-use” through to providing the means for people who use drugs to use them with reduced risks.

What to do in a crisis

If someone overdoses or has an adverse reaction while using ice, it is very important that they receive professional help as soon as possible. A quick responses can save their life.

  • Call an ambulance. Dial 000. Don’t delay because you think you or your friend might get into trouble. Ambulance officers are not obliged to involve the police.
  • Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives. Find out if anyone at the scene knows mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Ensure the person has adequate air, by keeping crowds back and opening windows. Loosen tight clothing.
  • If the person is unconscious, don’t leave them on their back — they could choke. Turn them on their side and into the recovery position. Gently tilt their head back so their tongue does not block the airway.
  • If breathing has stopped, give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If there is no pulse, apply CPR.
  • Provide the ambulance officers with as much information as you can—what drugs were taken, how long ago, and any pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Before using ice, make sure you and your friends know what to do in a crisis.