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Helping someone with ice addiction

3-minute read

Helping someone with an ice addiction can be challenging, but recognising the symptoms, knowing where to go for support and knowing how to look after yourself will help.

What is ice?

Ice is a methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth. It is usually small, colourless crystals, but can be coarse white or brownish powder with a bitter taste and strong smell.

People using ice usually smoke or inject it. Using it regularly can lead to addiction.

Ice speeds up messages to the brain. Someone who has recently taken ice might:

  • talk a lot
  • be restless and scratch like they are itchy
  • be nervous, agitated and aggressive
  • breathe fast, sweat, grind their teeth and have shaky hands

Effects of ice on mental and physical health

Ice can alter moods and sometimes makes people violent. It can also trigger mental health problems like depression, anxiety and psychosis. Users can alienate friends and family, and have work and financial problems.

Overdose can lead to a racing heart, breathing problems, headaches, fits, confusion, unconsciousness, heart attack, stroke or death.

Call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if someone has an overdose.

Ice and psychosis

High doses of ice can lead to psychosis lasting for several days. Symptoms include strange, aggressive and violent behaviour, and hallucinations.

How to help a person with ice addiction

Many services can help someone addicted to ice, but they must be ready to seek help and rehabilitation.

Listen to their concerns, set boundaries and encourage them to access a doctor (search for a doctor in your region), or 24-hour drug and alcohol service like Counselling Online.

Overcoming ice addiction can be difficult. People can experience withdrawal symptoms — exhaustion, dizziness, blurred vision, aches, nightmares, irritability, anxiety, paranoia and feeling ‘down’. These problems usually ease after a week.

People with addictions can relapse. This is part of the withdrawal process. Read about helping someone with a drug problem.

Help for you as a carer

Being around someone on ice is stressful. You may feel desperate, anxious, helpless and frustrated. It is important to know that you are not alone.

Make sure you look after yourself when caring for someone with addiction. You should eat healthy food and sleep well, exercise, see friends and take a break. You also need to set boundaries for yourself and decide what you will do and what you won’t do.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has a factsheet that may help when a family member is using ice.

If you are in danger, stay calm, get to a safe place and call the police on triple zero (000).

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Last reviewed: November 2019

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