What is it?

Ice, also known as ‘crystal meth’, is a crystalline form of the drug methamphetamine. Other names include meth, shabu, tina and glass.

Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that comes in three main forms:

  1. Ice
  2. Base
  3. Speed

The difference between ice, base and speed is that ice is the most pure form, followed by base, then speed.

Even though the crystalline appearance of ice makes it look pure, ice can still be ‘cut’ with other chemicals.

The high purity of ice can mean that the side-effects are worse than for speed and base, such as more agitation, worse comedowns, and higher likelihood of addiction.

Fast facts

  • Smoking ice is more addictive than most other forms of drug use.
  • Among meth/amphetamine users, the use of ice (also known as crystal) more than doubled, from 22% to 50% between 2010-2013.
  • Ice can cause paranoia and hallucinations. This is called methamphetamine psychosis.
  • Ice is notoriously associated with violence. It increases the ‘fight or flight’ reaction which can make people respond more aggressively to situations where they feel threatened.

What are the effects?

Drugs can appear initially to have positive effects – on your mood, energy and confidence. However, they can also have negative impacts on your mental and physical health, your relationships, and your life in general.

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 dilate. It can take 1-2 days for the drug to completely leave the body.

As more is taken, these receptors can be destroyed – and prolonged ice use can lead to a point when the user no longer feels normal without using ice.

Users often experience a comedown phase or crash, when the drug starts to wear off. These feelings can last a few days and symptoms can include:

  • Feeling down or depressed.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Anxiety.
  • Irritability.
  • Increased need for sleep.
  • Decreased appetite.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Dilated (enlarged) pupils.
  • Talkativeness.
  • Restlessness and agitation.
  • Aggressiveness, paranoia and psychosis.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Increased heart rate (tachycardia) and faster breathing.
  • Jaw clenching and teeth grinding.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Sweaty/clammy skin.

Psychotic episodes can include tactile hallucinations where the person feels like they have bugs under their skin.

Ice puts a lot of stress on the body. Ice stops people feeling hungry or thirsty and it stops them from being able to sleep.

What are the risks?

Methamphetamine use increases your risk of:

  • Dehydration, malnutrition, exhaustion.
  • Stroke.
  • Heart problems.
  • Kidney problems, including kidney failure.
  • Lung problems.
  • Dental issues such as increased sensitivity, cracked teeth, cavities and gum disease.
  • If injected, methamphetamine use is associated with vein problems, abscesses and bacterial infections.
  • Unprotected sex, which may result in a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy.

Other problems can include:

  • Social issues, such as family and relationship trouble; losing friends, jobs, doing badly at school or study and homelessness.
  • Financial issues if the user becomes dependent.
  • The risk of getting into trouble with the law for dealing or committing other illegal acts to support their drug use.

Source material and more information

The above information is sourced from evidence based resources developed by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre:

Methamphetamine: What you need to know about Speed, Ice, Base and Meth

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre: Fact Sheets

Need help?

Contact details and information about where to go for local help and support, counselling services, and organisations that support parents, families and friends.

Find out more

Tips and Resources

Useful information and resources for young people, parents, students and teachers. The Ice Destroys Lives campaign evaluation research report can be found here.

Find out more about tips and resources

National Ice Taskforce

Improving the efforts of the federal, state and territory governments to combat the growing use of ice in our community.