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This pamphlet is part of the “How Drugs Affect You” series. It aims to provide the facts about “ice” (crystal methamphetamine) for anyone interested in understanding more about this drug. It has been written for the general public, including employees, employers, health professionals and their clients.

Other titles in this series include alcohol, amphetamines, analgesics, benzodiazepines, caffeine, cannabis, cocaine, drugs and their effects, ecstasy, GHB, hallucinogens, heroin, inhalants, ketamine and tobacco.


What is ice? “Ice” is a common name for crystal methamphetamine. It is more potent than other forms of amphetamine, including the powder form that is sometimes referred to as “speed”. This means that ice generally has a stronger effect that lasts for longer than other forms of amphetamine. It also has stronger side effects and a worse “comedown”. Amphetamines, including crystal methamphetamine, belong to a group of drugs called stimulants. They speed up the messages going between the brain and the body. Other names Crystal, meth, crystal meth, shabu, tina, shard and glass.

What it looks like Ice appears in a crystalline form that can range from large, clear-coloured, “sheet-like” crystals through to a crystalline powder. It can also appear in a range of colours.

How is it used? Ice is usually smoked or injected. It is also snorted or swallowed.

Ice in Australia According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey1, in 2013:

»» 2.1 per cent of Australians aged over 14 years

had used amphetamines in the previous 12 months

»» 50.4 per cent of these had used ice.

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2014 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Key Findings, Canberra: AIHW.


Effects of ice The effects of any drug (including ice) vary from person to person. How ice affects a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, whether the person is used to taking it, and whether other drugs are taken around the same time. The effects of any drug also depend on the amount taken. This can be very hard to judge as the quality and strength of illicit drugs can vary greatly from one batch to another.

Immediate effects Depending on how ice is taken, the effects may be felt immediately (through injecting or smoking), within 30 minutes (snorting), or within approximately 20–30 minutes (if swallowed). Low to moderate doses Some of the effects that may be experienced after taking ice include:

See diagram

Higher doses A high dose of ice can cause a person to overdose. This means that a person has taken more ice than their body can cope with. The risk of overdose increases if the strength or purity of the ice is not known. Injecting ice increases the risk of overdose due to large amounts of the drug entering the blood stream and quickly travelling to the brain.

High doses of ice can intensify some of the effects listed in the diagram. People may also experience:

»» blurred vision »» tremors »» irregular breathing »» loss of coordination »» passing out

»» rapid pounding heart »» violent or aggressive behaviour

»» hallucinations.

Stomach » reduced appetite » stomach cramps » stomach irritation (if swallowed)

Mouth dry mouth

Psychological effects » feelings of euphoria, excitement and a sense of wellbeing » feelings of confidence and motivation » feelings of power and superiority over others » increased talkativeness » increased libido » restlessness and repeating simple acts » nervousness, anxiety, agitation and panic » paranoia » hallucinations » irritability, hostility and aggression » feelings of increased strength

Body » feeling more energetic » faster reaction times » itching, picking » increased sweating and scratching » increased body temperature

Lungs » increased breathing rate » shortness of breath (from smoking it)

Heart » increased heart rate and blood pressure » irregular heartbeat » chest pain

Eyes enlarged (dilated) pupils

Brain » headaches and dizziness » feeling more awake and alert, reduced need for sleep and difficulty sleeping » abrupt shifts in thought and speech

Low to moderate doses

Coming down As the effects of ice begin to wear off, a person may experience a range of effects. These effects may last several days and may include:

»» feeling restless,

irritable and anxious »» paranoia »» depression »» radical mood swings

»» lethargy »» exhaustion »» increased sleep »» aggression, that may lead to violence.

Long-term effects If ice is used regularly, it may eventually cause:

»» chronic sleeping problems »» reduced immunity and increased susceptibility

to infections due to not sleeping or eating properly

»» cracked teeth and other dental problems from clenching the jaw, grinding the teeth, dry mouth and poor hygiene

»» high blood pressure and rapid and irregular heartbeat,

which places stress on the heart and can increase the risk of heart-related complications such as heart attack and heart failure »» trouble concentrating »» increased strain on the kidneys, which can result in kidney failure »» increased risk of stroke »» depression, anxiety, tension and paranoia »» extreme weight loss due to reduced appetite »» breathlessness »» muscle stiffness. High doses and frequent heavy use can also cause an “ice psychosis”, characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after a person stops using ice.

Tolerance and dependence People who use ice regularly can become dependent on it. They may also develop a tolerance to it, which means they need to take larger amounts of ice to get the same effect.

Dependence on ice can be psychological, physical, or both. People who are dependent on ice find that using the drug becomes far more important than other activities in their life. They crave the drug and find it very difficult to stop using it. People who are psychologically dependent on ice may find they feel an urge to use it when they are in specific surroundings or socialising with friends. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body adapts to ice and gets used to functioning with the ice present. Withdrawal Giving up ice after using if for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms should settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month.

Withdrawal symptoms vary from person to person. Some of the withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced include:

»» cravings for ice »» confusion and poor

»» paranoia »» extreme fatigue

»» irritability »» depression, anxiety

»» aches and pains »» hunger and increased


and panic

and exhaustion


»» disturbed and restless

sleep, often interrupted by nightmares.

Ice and driving It is dangerous to drive after using ice. The effects of ice, such as feeling overconfident and invincible, can affect driving ability. People with reduced inhibitions may take more risks when driving which increases the chance of an accident. The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to drive safely.

Ice and the workplace Under occupational health and safety legislation, all employees have a responsibility to make sure they look after their own and their co-workers’ safety. Many workplaces are introducing alcohol and drug policies, so employees need to be aware of the potential consequences of their drug use. The effects of ice such as blurred vision and tremors can affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively. The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding Many drugs can cross the placenta and affect an unborn child. In general, using drugs when pregnant can increase the chances of going into labour early. This can mean that babies are born below the normal birth weight. If a mother uses ice while breastfeeding, the drug may be present in her breast milk. This may have an effect on the health of the baby.

Ice and other drugs The effects of mixing ice with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable. Mixing ice with other stimulant drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy increases the stimulant effects and places enormous pressure on the heart and body, which can lead to stroke. Combining ice with depressant drugs such as alcohol, cannabis, heroin or benzodiazepines also places the body under great stress.

Ice and social problems All areas of a person’s life can be affected by drug use.

»» Disagreements and frustration over drug use can cause family arguments and affect personal relationships.

»» Legal and health problems can also add to the strain on personal, financial and work relationships.

Ice and the law Ice is illegal in Australia. Federal and state laws provide penalties for possessing, using, making, selling or driving under the influence of ice. There are also laws that prevent the sale and possession of ice pipes in some states and territories. Penalties can include fines, imprisonment and disqualification from driving. Some states and territories have programs that refer people with a drug problem to treatment and/or education programs where they can receive help rather than going through the criminal justice system. For more information contact a legal aid service in your state or territory.

Treatment options In Australia, there are many different treatment options for drug problems. Some aim to help a person to stop using a drug, while others aim to reduce the risks and harm related to their drug use. Treatment is more effective if adapted to suit each person’s situation. Some of the different options include individual counselling, group therapy, medication (pharmacotherapy), residential therapy and supervised/home withdrawal.

Preventing and reducing harms Many Australians take at least one psychoactive drug on a regular basis—they might take medication (i.e. over-the-counter or via a prescription), drink alcohol, smoke tobacco or use an illegal drug. All drugs have the potential to cause harm. As use increases, so does the potential for harm. Australia’s national drug policy is based on harm minimisation. Strategies to minimise harm include encouraging people to avoid using a drug through to helping them to reduce the risk of harm if they do use a drug. It aims to reduce all types of drug-related harm to both the individual and the community.

Ice, hepatitis and HIV Sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment can greatly increase the risk of contracting blood borne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus—the virus that causes AIDS). The alcohol and drug service in your state or territory can provide information on where to obtain clean needles and syringes. Their telephone numbers are listed on the back of this pamphlet.

There is no safe level of drug use Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

What to do if you are concerned about someone’s drug use If you are concerned about someone’s drug use, there is confidential help available. Contact the alcohol and drug information service in your state or territory. The telephone numbers are listed on the back of this pamphlet.

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 response can save their life.

»» Dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance. 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 cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

»» Ensure that 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, apply CPR. »» Provide the ambulance officers with as much information as you can—such as how much ice was taken, how long ago and any pre-existing medical conditions. For further tips on how to reduce the risks of using ice, call the alcohol and drug information service in your state or territory. The telephone numbers are listed on the back of this pamphlet.

For information, counselling or other assistance, contact the alcohol and other drug service in your state or territory.

ACT (02) 6207 9977

Tas. 1800 811 994

NSW (02) 9361 8000 (Sydney) 1800 422 599 (NSW)

Vic. 1300 85 85 84 (information)

NT 1800 131 350

QLD 1800 177 833 SA

1300 131 340

1800 888 236 (counselling)

WA (08) 9442 5000 (Perth) 1800 198 024 (WA)

Produced by the Australian Drug Foundation Š 2014. Celebrating more than 50 years of service to the community, the Australian Drug Foundation is Australia’s leading body committed to preventing alcohol and other drug problems in communities around the nation. For further copies of this pamphlet: Post: PO Box 818, North Melbourne, VIC 3051 Street: Level 12, 607 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC Email: Web:

Ice: How Drugs Affect You  

Comprehensive and easy to read summary of how ice affect your body and life.

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