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Ice (crystal meth)

6-minute read

What is ice?

Ice (crystal meth) is a methamphetamine, a member of the amphetamine family of drugs. It is very addictive and is linked to chronic physical and mental health problems.

Ice is a central nervous system stimulant. It causes high levels of dopamine (a brain chemical associated with pleasure and reward) to be released. It is purer and more powerful than other types of methamphetamine, such as speed.

It comes as little crystals that look like ice, or as a white-to-brownish, crystal-like powder. It has a strong smell and bitter taste. It can be injected, smoked, snorted or swallowed.

It is also known as crystal meth, shabu, crystal, glass, Tina and shard.

What are the effects of taking ice?

Ice produces an intense rush that can make a person feel confident and energetic. They may have increased sex drive, itching and scratching, enlarged pupils, fast heartbeat or dry mouth. The person may grind their teeth or sweat excessively. The effects can last for up to 12 hours.

It can be hard to sleep for a few days after taking ice. People who are 'coming down' may have difficulty sleeping, headaches, paranoia or hallucinations, or feel very irritable and sad.

Ice can affect people differently based on:

  • how much they take
  • how strong it is
  • the person's size, height and weight
  • whether they are used to taking it
  • whether they take other drugs at the same time

Find out more about how drugs and alcohol can impact your health, including where to find help and support.

What can go wrong with ice?

People who use ice can suffer from paranoia, hallucinations, memory loss and difficulty sleeping. Frequent high doses can cause ‘ice psychosis’ with paranoid delusions, hallucinations and unusual, aggressive or violent behaviours. This can last a few days.

People who take a large amount or a strong batch are at risk of overdose. The signs of overdose include:

An overdose can lead to a cardiac arrest, unconsciousness or death. If you suspect someone has overdosed on ice, call triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. The ambulance officers don’t have to call the police.

Can ice cause long-term problems?

People who use ice repeatedly can develop physical problems including extreme weight loss, poor sleep, dental problems, regular colds, trouble concentrating, stiff muscles, heart problems, kidney problems, depression or stroke.

People who use ice regularly may look much older than they should. They can find everyday activities less enjoyable, have rapid mood swings and become depressed and easily stressed. They are also susceptible to social, work and financial problems.

Snorting the ice can cause nosebleeds, sinus problems and damage to the nose. Sharing needles increases the risk of tetanus, infections, vein damage, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV.

See 'What are the effects of taking drugs?' on the Department of Health website for more information.

What if I use other drugs or alcohol together with ice?

Using ice along with drugs like speed or ecstasy increases the risk of a stroke. Using it with alcohol, cannabis (marijuana) or benzodiazepines increases the risk of an overdose.

Can I become dependent on ice?

People quickly need larger doses of ice to produce the same effect, making ice highly addictive. Some users feel they need the drug just to get through the day.

Withdrawal can be difficult and can lead to cravings, increased appetite, confusion, irritability, aches and pains, exhaustion, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and paranoia.

Resources and support

  • You can reduce the risk of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis B and C, through needle and syringe programs (NSPs). These provide clean needles or syringes to people who inject drugs and is sometimes referred to as ‘needle exchange’. Find an NSP in your state or territory here.

  • Go to the Cracks in the Ice website for evidence-based information and resources about ice/crystal methamphetamine for the Australian community.

  • Find information about ice on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website or by calling DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84.

  • Find help on the Drug Help website or by calling the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015. You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

  • If you, or someone you know, are finding it difficult to manage issues as a result of drug use, use healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek professional help.

Help and support in your state or territory:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2021

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