Facts about ice

What is ice?

Ice is a form of methamphetamine, a stimulant drug that speeds up the messages between the brain and the body.

Methamphetamine comes in three main forms; ice (the most pure form), base, and speed.

Ice comes in a range of substances, possibly white or brownish crystals, some so fine it looks like powder. Often it will look like chunky clear crystals or rock salt and in this form it is extremely potent. 

While ice can still be cut (diluted) with other chemicals, the high purity of ice can mean the side effects are worse and there is a higher likelihood of dependence. Purity can fluctuate, which causes unexpected reactions.

Other names for ice

Ice is also known as crystal meth, shabu, crystal, glass, shard, p and rock.

How is ice used?

Ice is often smoked or injected but can also be swallowed or snorted.

Smoking ice is more addictive than most other forms of drug use. 

What are the effects? 

When ice is used the receptors in the brain are flooded with monoamines, producing an adrenaline like effect which makes the heart beat faster and pupils to dilate. 

A single use of ice can take 24-48 hours to leave the body.

Ice affects people differently but some common effects that entice people to start using the drug include:

  • feelings of pleasure and confidence
  • increased alertness and energy.

Common negative effects may include:

  • mood swings
  • paranoia and anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • agitation or aggression.

Users often experience a come down phase as the drug wears off. These feelings can last a few days and symptoms can include:

  • feeling down or depressed
  • exhaustion
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • increased need for sleep.

Ice stops people feeling hungry, thirsty or being able to sleep which puts a lot of stress on the body.

What are the signs and symptoms of ice use?

Symptoms of ice use may include:

  • dilated (enlarged) pupils
  • talkativeness
  • restlessness and agitation.

Someone who has taken ice may appear unusually active but may also act nervous and anxious.

What are the signs and symptoms of ice dependence / heavy use?

Signs and symptoms of ice dependence (heavy use) may include:

  • aggressiveness, paranoia and psychosis - psychotic episodes can include hallucinations where the person may feel like they have bugs under their skin
  • anxiety and panic attacks
  • increased heart rate (tachycardia) and faster breathing
  • dry mouth, jaw clenching and teeth grinding – the chemicals dry up the flow of saliva and the person’s teeth may become rotten and brown – this is referred to as ‘meth mouth’ 
  • sweaty or clammy skin due to the ice user getting overheated
  • extensive weight loss, appearing gaunt, thin and undernourished
  • following a ‘binge’ or period of heavy use a person may not be able to control his sleepiness and may sleep long hours or keep falling into a sleep.

Ice is associated with violence as it increases the ‘fight or flight’ reaction which can make people respond aggressively to situations where they feel threatened.

What are the risks?

Methamphetamine users increase their risk of:

  • dehydration, malnutrition, exhaustion
  • stroke
  • heart, kidney and lung issues
  • dental issues including increased sensitivity, cracked teeth, cavities and gum disease
  • if injected, methamphetamine use is associated with abscesses and bacterial infections where the needles have been used
  • unprotected sex, which may result in a sexually transmitted infection or unintended pregnancy
  • overdose.

In addition to health risks using ice can lead to serious legal, social and financial consequences.

When a person has a dependence on ice they are often focused on getting or using the drug rather than their usual responsibilities and priorities. 

This may appear in neglect of their home, children, animals or work. Research also shows that children exposed to frequent and normalised drug use are also at risk of developing a drug dependence.

What can I do?

To seek help call 1800 131 350 (freecall 24-hour service) or visit Getting help to find out more.

Facts about ice (pdf 698.9 kb)

Last updated: 26 Feb 2016