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9-minute read

Key facts

  • Speed is a form of methamphetamine that is less potent (less strong) than ice.
  • It is an illegal drug that affects the messages sent between your body and your brain.
  • Speed can make a user feel happy, but can also cause unwanted effects, such as aggression.
  • Overdosing on speed can be fatal.
  • If you want to stop using speed, you can speak to your doctor.

What is speed?

Speed is a type of amphetamine. It is a central nervous system stimulant that affects the way your brain works and how your body functions.

There are different types of amphetamines. Doctors prescribe some amphetamines to treat medical conditions such as narcolepsy (an uncontrollable urge to sleep) or ADHD. Others are produced and sold illegally. The main forms of illicit methamphetamine are:

Ice is the most potent (strongest) form.

Speed powder can range in colour from white to brown. It may contain traces of grey or pink. It has a strong smell and bitter taste. It can also come as pills. Speed can be:

  • swallowed
  • injected
  • smoked
  • snorted

Speed is also known as:

  • up
  • uppers
  • louee
  • goey
  • whiz
  • rack

What are the effects of taking speed?

The effects of speed are felt immediately if the drug is injected or smoked. If snorted or swallowed, the effects can take half an hour to appear. They last up to 6 hours, depending on the dose.

Speed can make people feel ‘pumped’ and happy. They may:

  • have an energy boost
  • feel more alert
  • be more talkative

It can also cause unwanted side effects, such as:

  • fast heart rate and breathing
  • increased blood pressure
  • loss of appetite
  • increased sex drive
  • jaw clenching and teeth grinding
  • large pupils
  • nausea and vomiting
  • a dry mouth
  • nervousness, anxiety and paranoia

Speed can affect people differently based on:

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

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

What can go wrong with speed?

Coming down from speed can take days. You might experience:

It’s possible to overdose on speed if you have a large amount or a strong dose. A person may have overdosed if they:

  • have a racing heartbeat
  • are having fits, convulsions or seizures
  • pass out or struggle to breathe
  • have chills or fever
  • arch their back
  • are restless or agitated
  • are panicked or having hallucinations or showing signs of paranoid thoughts
  • are vomiting

An overdose can cause:

These can lead to death. If you think someone has overdosed on speed, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. Ambulance officers don’t have to call the police.

High doses and frequent use of speed can cause amphetamine-induced or stimulant psychosis. It’s very similar to schizophrenia, with symptoms of:

Psychosis symptoms usually go away when the person stops taking speed.

Can speed cause long-term problems?

People who take speed for long periods can:

There are lots of mental health issues linked to using speed. Most of them are associated with coming down after taking speed, or long-term use. They include:

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

Taking speed with:

Taking other drugs to help with the side effects of speed can lead to dependence on several drugs at once.

Can I become dependent on speed?

Over time it is possible to become tolerant to speed. This is when a user needs more of the drug to achieve the same effects.

People can also become addicted to speed. This is when they spend a lot of time thinking about the drug and trying to get it. Some users may even feel like they need the drug just to get through the day. This can impact their:

  • life
  • work
  • relationships

People can become dependent on speed. They may find it difficult to stop using speed or control how much they use. This is often due to withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • cravings for speed
  • an increased appetite
  • feeling confused and irritable
  • feeling exhausted and having difficulty sleeping
  • having vivid dreams and nightmares
  • feeling anxious, depressed and paranoid
  • having aches and pains

Most withdrawal symptoms settle down after a week then gradually disappear.

How can I stop using speed?

Getting off speed can be difficult. If you are struggling with withdrawal, speak to your doctor. They can help you manage withdrawal symptoms, and advise you on treatment options, such as:

  • participation in support groups
  • counselling and therapy
  • referral to an addiction specialist
  • inpatient detox and rehabilitation

Resources and support

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

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

You or someone you know may be finding it hard to manage issues related to drug use. You can try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare step for you. This could be:

  • self-care
  • talking to a health professional
  • going to a hospital
  • calling triple zero (000)

You can find support and more information about speed through:

Support for injecting behaviour

If you inject speed, you can reduce your risk of blood-borne disease by attending a Needle and Syringe Program (NSP).

Needle and Syringe Programs provide clean needles or syringes to people who inject drugs. It’s sometimes referred to as ‘needle exchange’.

The types of Needle and Syringe Programs vary, from pharmacies to vending machines.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — You can also find a local Needle and Syringe Program using the healthdirect Service Finder. Select ‘By name’ and type ‘needle’ into the search bar.

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

Last reviewed: April 2023

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