Mental Health Effects of Ice
To understand the mental health effects of ice it’s important to understand how it affects brain chemistry.
Ice use leads to an overproduction of dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure. It creates feelings of elation, high alertness and euphoria.
It also affects levels of noradrenalin, which regulates arousal, and serotonin, which regulates mood, sleep and appetite. People “high” on ice are often hypersexual, won’t sleep for days and feel no need to eat.
Ice does not only cause an overproduction of these three chemicals, it also prevents the brain to reabsorb them. Which means a shortage will occur once the effects of the drug wear off.
It can take up to three days until normal levels of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin are re-established; and during this shortage a user is likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If a person uses ice frequently or over an extended period of time, it becomes harder and harder for the body to replenish its neurotransmitters – in fact, it can take months for dopamine levels to normalise after a regular user stops consuming ice – and the come-down effects often serve to increase cravings.
Mental health disorders associated with ice use
The three most common mental health effects of ice are:
- Psychotic disorders (i.e. paranoia and schizophrenia)
The low episodes experienced during come-down periods will leave a user feeling depleted, exhausted, irritable and unable to find enjoyment; all of which are also symptoms of depression.
While experiencing a high, feelings of euphoria can quickly change to mimic symptoms of anxiety and potentially lead to a panic attack. A user high on ice can experience restlessness, trembling, dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, muscle aches, headaches, nausea or vomiting; all effects commonly attributed to acute anxiety.
The main culprit for symptoms of psychoses is the disturbance of serotonin levels. As serotonin plays a vital role in regulating our cognitive processes, irregularities can warp a person’s view of reality. Sudden feelings of fear and paranoia often occur during both the high and the come-down and can lead to erratic and often violent behaviour in the user.
Who’s at risk?
Even if a person does only consume ice once, they are at risk to experience any number of these effects. For one-time users the symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychosis are likely to wear off within a couple of days.
If ice is used regularly and/or over an extended period of time, the accompanying symptoms of mental health disorders will become more and more persistent.
In extreme cases, ice use can cause irreversible damage to a person’s brain chemistry, meaning they will be dependent on mood stabilising medication to help them regulate their neurotransmitters.
Treatment for the mental health effects of ice
In most cases integrated dual diagnosis addiction treatment addressing both the ice abuse and its co-occurring mental health disorders can equip users with the tools they need to stay clean and stop the mental health effects of ice use.
What is Ice?
Ice is crystal methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, crystal, shard, glass or shabu. It is one of the most potent and addictive stimulant drugs.
Methamphetamine is an “upper”, meaning it speeds up communications between the brain and the body, resulting in a state of hyper-alertness and increased energy.
As ice is a crystalised form of methamphetamine its effects are more immediate and extreme than any other form of methamphetamine, including speed (powdered methamphetamine).
According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF) over 6% of Australians have used methamphetamine once or more times in their lives.
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