Crystal methamphetamine ('ice') is a stimulant drug, which means it speeds up the messages travelling between the brain and the body. It's stronger, more addictive and therefore has more harmful side effects than the powder form of methamphetamine known as speed.1
Ice usually comes as small chunky clear crystals that look like ice. It can also come as white or brownish crystal-like powder with a strong smell and bitter taste.1
Crystal meth, shabu, crystal, glass, shard, P.2
How is it used?
Ice is generally smoked or injected and the effects can be felt in 3 to 7 seconds. It is sometimes swallowed (15 to 30 minutes to feel the effects) or snorted (3 to 5 minutes to feel the effects).3
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
The effects of ice can last for around 6 hours, but it might be hard to sleep for a few days after using the drug.
Ice affects everyone differently, but effects may include:
If a large amount or a strong batch is taken, it could also cause an overdose. If any of the following effects are experienced an ambulance should be called straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don't need to involve the police.
It can take several days to 'come down' from using ice. The following effects may be experienced during this time:
With regular use, ice may eventually cause:
High doses of ice and frequent use may cause 'ice psychosis'. This condition is characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using ice.4
People who regularly use ice can quickly become dependent on the drug. They may feel they need ice to go about their normal activities like working, studying and socialising, or just to get through the day.8
Mental health problems
Some people who regularly use ice may start to feel less enjoyment of everyday activities. They can get stressed easily and their moods can go up and down quite quickly. These changes can lead to longer-term problems with anxiety and depression. People may feel these effects for at least several weeks or months after they give up ice.9
Mixing ice with other drugs
The effects of taking ice with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Ice + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: enormous strain on the body, and more likely to overdose. The stimulant effects of ice may mask the effects of depressant drugs like benzodiazepines and can increase the risk of overdose.6
Giving up ice after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms generally settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. Symptoms can include:
Reducing the risks
1. Campbell, A. (2000). The Australian Illicit Drug Guide. Melbourne: Black Inc.
2. National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC). (n.d.) Ice fact sheet.
3. Cook, C., Jeffcoat, A., Hill, J., Pugh, D., Patetta, P., Sadler, B., White, W. & Perez-Reyes, M. (1993). Pharmacokinetics of methamphetamine self-administered to human subjects by Smoking S-(+)-methamphetamine hydrochloride. Drug Metabolism and Disposition. 21(4), 717-723.
4. Leonard, W., Dowsett, G., Slavin, S., Mitchell, A. & Pitts, M. (2008). Crystal clear: The social determinants of gay men's use of crystal methamphetamine in Victoria.
5. Richards, J. (2013). Methamphetamine toxicity.
6. Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs. (2013). Mixing benzodiazepines with other drugs.
7. NSW Health. (2015). Crystalline Methamphetamine Background Paper - NSW Data, September 2015 (revised).
8. Roxburgh, A. & Burns, L. (2012). Cocaine and methamphetamine related drug-induced deaths in Australia, 2008.
Last updated: 18 May 2016