What is Ice, and What Effect Can It Have?
Out of the three main types of methamphetamines – ice, speed and base – ice has become the most widely used in Australia; 6% of Australians admit to having used ice once or multiple times and 1 in 70 Australians will use ice once or more in any given year.
It is most commonly consumed by smoking or injection. It can also be swallowed or snorted. The immediacy of the effect depends on the method of ingestion.
Ice is a synthetic stimulant drug, meaning it is entirely man-made and often contains highly toxic household chemicals. Drain cleaner, bleach and anti-freeze are common additives to ice and responsible for many of the devastating side effects it has on the body and mind.
Ice is considered highly addictive, as even a single use can lead to debilitating cravings during the come-down period (also referred to as ‘crash’).
What are the Risks?
The immediate risks of taking ice, even if it is a once-off use, can be quite dramatic; largely because it is impossible to know what exactly each batch contains and which harmful toxins the user is ingesting. Even first-time users are at risk of heart failure, stroke or seizures, depending on the dosage and potency of the drug.
Furthermore, persons high on ice are likely to engage in impulsive and risk-taking behaviours while high, putting themselves and others in harm’s way. This can mean getting into physical fights, engaging in unsafe sexual behaviours, self-harming or sharing needles when injecting ice.
When ice is used over a sustained period of time, users are at risk of experiencing devastating health problems. Ice use affects the kidneys, heart and lungs; can ruin users’ teeth (a phenomenon known as ‘meth-mouth’) and lead to permanent impairment of memory and concentration.
How does Ice affect me?
Ice is an upper, which means it speeds up the messages between the brain and the body; as well as sending the body’s production of ‘happy chemicals’ into overdrive.
Ice wreaks absolute havoc with the users’ brain chemistry. It increases the production of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenalin by up to 1000 times the normal level.
- Dopamine controls the brains pleasure centre. Increased dopamine levels cause the euphoria associated with the ice high
- Serotonin regulates our mood, appetite and sleep patterns. Increased serotonin levels explain the mood swings, loss of appetite and insomnia frequently caused by ice consumption
- Noradrenalin regulates arousal, meaning persons high on ice often feel hypersexual and may exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour due to increased noradrenalin levels.
As a result of this overproduction, persons high on ice are likely to experience:
- Feelings of euphoria
- Increased energy levels to the point of hyperactivity
- Heightened states of sexual arousal
- Increased levels of confidence
- Illusions of great mental clarity
- Loss of appetite
Ice can also have a huge variety of unpleasant side effects – for both first-time and regular users. Side-effects of taking ice may include:
- Psychotic episodes (commonly referred to as ‘Ice Psychosis’)
- Uncontrollable trembling (the shakes)
- Stomach cramps
- Dry mouth
- Increased heart palpitations
- Headaches and dizziness
- Nausea to the point of vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Mood swings
Depending on how it is ingested, an ice high can come on instantly or take up to fifteen minutes to take effect. The high itself can last up to twelve hours; however, it takes much longer for the last traces to leave the body and even longer for the body’s natural chemistry to normalise. First-time users will need about three days before their system is back to normal; regular use over a sustained period means a recovery period of roughly nine months until the user is completely ice-free.
What Happens During Come Down and Withdrawal?
Ice does not only increase the production of the ‘happy chemicals’, it also disables the brain’s ability to reabsorb them; so, once the users’ brains are depleted, they are in for a horrendous crash.
Depending on how much ice a person has taken and how frequently the drug is used, the comedown can start within 12 or even 24 hours of using. Symptoms most commonly include:
- Feelings of depression
- Inability to sleep despite feeling exhausted
- Severe headaches
- Inability to concentrate
- Extreme irritability
- Physical pain (often described as being similar to severe flu symptoms)
The comedown period lasts until the active components of the drug have left the user’s system; which is when the withdrawal sets in. The acute withdrawal period can last up to 14 days. During withdrawal ice addicts are likely to experience:
- Intense cravings for ice
- Severe lack of energy
- Increased appetite
- Inability to focus or think clearly
- Physical pain
- Broken sleep
It is important to understand that the withdrawal symptoms – the cravings for the drug and the mood swings – can continue for up to 18 months in cases of extreme habitual use. This is known as chronic withdrawal and can make the recovery process extremely challenging, which is why professional help is crucial if a user wants to kick the habit for good.
Read more about ice addiction here.
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