Summary

  • Ice is a drug that stimulates the brain and nervous system, and it is highly addictive.
  • Dependence on ice means that you need the drug to help you go about your everyday activities.
  • Using other drugs to cope with ‘coming down’ from using ice can lead to dependence on those drugs too.
  • Victoria has treatment options to support people with ice dependence including residential and community-based services.


Ice is a drug that stimulates the brain and nervous system. It is a type of amphetamine that is crystalline in appearance and is also known as crystal methamphetamine, crystal meth, glass, shards and puff. Compared to other forms such as speed or base, ice is the strongest form of methamphetamine.

Ice is manufactured from a range of base products, including common pharmaceutical drugs and household chemicals. Because of its illegal status, ice is made in uncontrolled ways and may include unknown and/or harmful ingredients.

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

Ice is highly addictive and can cause ‘ice psychosis’ in some people, which can lead to unpredictable and violent behaviour. There is no safe level of ice use.

Short-term effects of ice use

Ice affects people differently but the drug acts rapidly and produces effects such as:

  • enlarged pupils and dry mouth
  • excessive sweating
  • feelings of pleasure and confidence
  • grinding of teeth
  • increased energy
  • increased sex drive
  • itching and scratching
  • rapid heart rate and breathing
  • reduced appetite
  • feelings of agitation.

 As with many drugs, injecting ice increases your risk of becoming infected with hepatitis C and B and HIV/AIDs.

‘Coming down’ from ice can take several days and effects include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • exhaustion
  • feeling down or low
  • irritability
  • paranoia, hallucinations and confusion.

Using other drugs to cope with coming down from ice use may cause a cycle of dependence for all drugs used.

Ice overdose

If someone takes a strong batch, uses a large amount of ice or mixes ice with other drugs, they could have a drug overdose. A drug overdose is a medical emergency. A person does not have to have all of the symptoms of ice overdose to be in danger. Symptoms may include:

  • racing heart and chest pain
  • difficulty breathing
  • fits or uncontrolled jerking
  • agitation and confusion
  • severe headache
  • passing out – unconscious and unable to be awakened.

Ice overdose can lead to stroke, heart attack and death. Fast action could save their life.

Emergency responses for a suspected drug overdose are:

  • Always dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance in a medical emergency.
  • Stay with the person until the ambulance arrives.
  • Place the person on their side in the recovery position – they could be at risk of choking on their own vomit.
  • If the person starts vomiting, make sure they can still breathe – keep their airway clear.
  • Give the ambulance officers as much information as you can, including information about what drugs they have taken and how much. If the drug came in a packet, give it to the ambulance officers.

Long-term effects of ice use

Long-term use of ice can cause symptoms such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty concentrating
  • problems with your teeth and gums
  • regular viral infections – colds or flu
  • restless sleep
  • stiff muscles
  • weight loss.

Long-term use can increase your risk of:

  • depression and anxiety
  • drug dependence
  • financial, work and relationship problems
  • heart and kidney problems
  • ice psychosis – paranoia, hallucinations and unpredictable or violent behaviour
  • stroke.

If you become dependent on ice, you may need to take more to get the same effect and you may need ice just to get through everyday activities such as work, study or socialising.

 

Withdrawal and recovery from ice

If you have been using ice for a long time, giving up can be difficult. Your body and mind will need to adjust to getting by and living your life without the drug. You may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms but these will decrease over the first week and mostly disappear after four weeks. Symptoms of ice withdrawal include:

  • aches and pains
  • confusion and irritability
  • depression and anxiety
  • exhaustion
  • increased appetite
  • intense cravings for ice
  • paranoia
  • restless sleep and nightmares.

Recovery is possible, but it is important to know that symptoms can persist for over twelve months. This is why relapse (returning to use) is common, as people can take a long time to feel ‘normal’ again.

Victoria has a number of treatment options to support people with ice dependence including residential and community-based services. Drug support services available in rural and regional areas of Victoria offer therapeutic day rehabilitation so you can work on your drug use problem while still being a part of your community. If you are concerned about your use of ice and you need support withdrawing and recovering, call the ice help line for more information.

Where to get help

  • In an emergency, always call triple zero (000)
  • Your doctor
  • Emergency department of your nearest hospital
  • Tel. 1800 ICE ADVICE ice helpline (1800 423 238) – for people concerned about their own ice use and for families struggling to cope
  • DirectLine Tel. 1800 888 236 – for 24-hour confidential drug and alcohol telephone counselling, information and referral
  • NURSE-ON-CALL Tel. 1300 60 60 24 – for expert health information and advice (24 hours, 7 days)
  • Alcohol and Drug Foundation Tel. (03) 9611 6100
  • DrugInfo Line Tel. 1300 858 584
  • Counselling Online Tel. 1800 888 236 – free drug and alcohol counselling 24/7
  • Family Drug Helpline Tel. 1300 660 068 – for family and friends
  • Kids Helpline Tel. 1800 55 1800
  • SuicideLine Tel. 1300 651 251
  • Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) – for people aged between 12 and 21 years who are experiencing problems related to alcohol and other drugs Tel. 1800 458 685
  • Youth drugs and alcohol advice (YoDAA) Tel. 1800 458 685 – for young people with drug and alcohol issues.

 

References

More information

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Last updated: October 2016

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.