An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

20150 Methamphetamines

An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

speed, meth, chalk, ice, crystal, crystal meth, jib

What is it?

Methamphetamine belongs to a family of drugs called amphetamines—powerful stimulants that speed up the body’s central nervous system.

It has been used medically as a treatment for obesity and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While still available for medical use in the United States, its use is limited by the severity of its adverse effects, and by its high addictive potential. Methamphetamine is not legally available in Canada.

Where does it come from?

Street methamphetamine is made in illegal labs with fairly inexpensive, and often toxic or flammable, ingredients. The chemicals and processes used vary from lab to lab, affecting the strength, purity and effect of the final product.

What does it look ?

Methamphetamine is a white, odourless, bitter-tasting crystalline powder that dissolves easily in water or alcohol and may be snorted, swallowed, smoked or injected. In its smokable form, methamphetamine is called “ice,” “crystal,” “crank” or “glass” because of its transparent, sheet- crystals. It is smoked in a pipe crack cocaine.

Who uses it?

In the past, illegal methamphetamine use was most closely associated with biker gangs, and also had a spell of popularity in the hippie culture of the 1960s.

More recently, the low cost, ease of manufacture and availability of methamphetamine has led to a rise in use among a variety of people.

These users include young people at nightclubs and parties, and cocaine users who substitute methamphetamine for its cocaine- effects.

A 2011 survey of Ontario students in grades 7 to 12 reported that one per cent had used methamphetamine at least once in the past year. A 2012 study estimated that there are roughly 52,000 methamphetamine users in Canada. This same study went on to say that the actual number of users may be much higher.

How does it make you feel?

The way methamphetamine—or any other drug—affects you depends on many factors, including:

  • your age and your body weight
  • how much you take and how often you take it
  • how long you’ve been taking it
  • the method you use to take the drug
  • the environment you’re in
  • whether or not you have certain pre-existing medical or psychiatric conditions
  • if you’ve taken any alcohol or other drugs (illegal, prescription, over-the-counter or herbal).

Immediately after smoking methamphetamine or injecting it into a vein, the user experiences an intense surge of euphoria, called a “rush” or “flash.” Snorting methamphetamine produces effects within three to five minutes; swallowing in about 15–20 minutes.

Methamphetamine makes people feel alert and energetic, confident and talkative. They feel little need for food or sleep.

On the other hand, users are also ly to feel the many unwanted effects of the drug, including racing of the heart, chest pain, dryness of the mouth, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and physical tension. Many report an anxious “wired” feeling of restlessness and irritability.

The negative effects of methamphetamine can be extreme and alarming, including paranoid delusions, hallucinations, aggressive behaviour and impulsive violence.

How long does the feeling last?

When methamphetamine is injected or taken by mouth, the effects of the drug last about six to eight hours. Smoking methamphetamine may produce effects that last from 10–12 hours.

After the effects of the drug have worn off, users are left feeling tired and depressed.

Some use the drug continuously over a period of days or weeks in a “binge and crash” pattern, inviting serious health risks and leading to drug addiction.

Is it addictive?

Yes. Tolerance to the effects of methamphetamine builds up quickly in regular users, meaning they need more and more of the drug to achieve the desired effect.

When addicted users stop taking methamphetamine, they have strong cravings for the drug, and within a few days will experience withdrawal symptoms, including stomach pain, hunger, headaches, shortness of breath, tiredness and depression.

Is it dangerous?

Yes. Methamphetamine causes the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. Since what is sold as methamphetamine varies widely in terms of content and purity, users can’t know how much they are taking.

An overdose of methamphetamine can result in seizures, high body temperature, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, stroke and death. The risk of overdose is highest when the drug is injected.

Injecting methamphetamine also puts the user at risk of infections from used needles or impurities in the drug, and of hepatitis or HIV if they share needles with others.

Using methamphetamine during pregnancy can cause the baby to be born prematurely and to have a low birth weight.

Driving or operating machinery while under the influence of methamphetamine, or any drug, increases the risk of physical injury to the user, and increases the risk of injury to others.

What are the long-term effects of using it?

When methamphetamine is used regularly over a long period of time, people can develop amphetamine psychosis. The symptoms of amphetamine psychosis include hallucinations, delusions, paranoia and bizarre and violent behaviour.

Regular use of methamphetamine can also result in:

  • severe tooth decay (meth mouth)
  • meth “bugs,” or the feeling of bugs under the skin, leading to skin-picking and sores
  • loss of appetite, weight loss
  • difficulty sleeping
  • increased risk of heart disease and stroke
  • increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Research in animals and humans suggests that methamphetamine may cause long-term damage to cells in those areas of the brain associated with thinking, memory and movement. Further research is needed to determine if these effects are permanent.

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Methamphetamine | FRANK

An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)
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Part of the amphetamine family of stimulant drugs

Also called:

Methamphetamine can come in several different forms – including tablets, powder, or crystals. The tablets are sometimes referred to as yaba and the smokeable crystals are often called crystal meth or ice.

Depending on its form, methamphetamine can be swallowed, snorted or injected.

Smoking the purer, crystalline form of methamphetamine, known as crystal meth, produces a very intense high similar to that produced by crack cocaine but much longer lasting.

Sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment, runs the risk of the injector catching or spreading viruses, such as HIV or hepatitis C. There is also the risk that veins may be damaged, and of abscesses or clots developing.

Methamphetamine can reduce your appetite and make you feel:

  • exhilarated
  • alert
  • awake
  • agitated
  • paranoid
  • confused
  • aggressive
  • aroused

How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.

The effects of methamphetamine can last a very long time.

Smoking the purer, crystalline form of methamphetamine, crystal meth, produces a very intense high similar to that produced by crack cocaine but is much longer lasting. The effects can last for a period of between 4 and 12 hours.

After effecs

The comedown from methamphetamine is severe.

Crystal meth can report positive in a urine test for 1 to 4 days after using.

How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack – the higher the dose, the greater these effects.
  • In cases of overdose: stroke, lung, kidney and gastrointestinal damage can develop, and coma and death can occur.
  • There’s evidence that long-term methamphetamine use can cause brain damage, although this gradually gets better if the user stays off the drug for a long time.
  • Inhibitions are lowered and libido may be increased – this can lead to taking part in risky activities that you would not normally do, such as having unsafe sex, which itself can lead to other risks, such as catching a sexually transmitted disease or an unplanned pregnancy.

Severe psychosis caused by methamphetamine have been reported in countries where there is widespread use of the drug. Psychosis is a serious mental state where you lose touch with reality and may come to believe things that are not true.

There’s evidence that long-term use can damage the brain, although this gradually gets better if the user stays off the drug for a long time.

It’s not unusual for drugs to have things added to them to increase the weight and the dealer’s profits.

They can be cut with other amphetamines ( speed, caffeine, ephedrine, sugars ( glucose), starch powder, laxatives, talcum powder, paracetamol and other drugs with some similar effects.

Some impurities can be added by mistake, as impurities can be formed during the manufacturing process for methamphetamine.

Mixing methamphetamine with alcohol can have serious consequences – as the stimulant effects of methamphetamine and the depressant effects of alcohol interact unpredictably, which can increase the risk of harm or even death.

Yes – is the simple answer. For some people, methamphetamine use can lead to very strong psychological and physical dependence, especially if it is injected or smoked.

This usually means they have cravings for methamphetamine, and a very strong drive to keep on using it despite evidence of accumulating harms.

The crystal form of methamphetamine, sometimes called crystal meth or ice, is extremely powerful and addictive. Some compare it to crack cocaine as both are smoked and give an intense, powerful high followed by a very severe comedown, and both are very addictive.

Class: B

  • This is a Class B drug, which means it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
  • Possession can get you up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
  • Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.

If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.

Additional law details

methamphetamines are a class B drug and only class A if prepared for injection.


Methamphetamine DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse

An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

Crystal methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is a powerful, highly addictive stimulant that affects the central nervous system. Crystal methamphetamine is a form of the drug that looks glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, a drug used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy, a sleep disorder.

How do people use methamphetamine?

People can take methamphetamine by:

  • smoking
  • swallowing (pill)
  • snorting
  • injecting the powder that has been dissolved in water/alcohol

Because the «high» from the drug both starts and fades quickly, people often take repeated doses in a «binge and crash» pattern. In some cases, people take methamphetamine in a form of binging known as a «run,» giving up food and sleep while continuing to take the drug every few hours for up to several days.

How does methamphetamine affect the brain?

Methamphetamine increases the amount of the natural chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is involved in body movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors. The drug’s ability to rapidly release high levels of dopamine in reward areas of the brain strongly reinforces drug-taking behavior, making the user want to repeat the experience.

Short-Term Effects

Taking even small amounts of methamphetamine can result in many of the same health effects as those of other stimulants, such as cocaine or amphetamines. These include:

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • decreased appetite
  • faster breathing
  • rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature 

Currently, most methamphetamine in the United States is produced by transactional criminal organizations (TCOs) in Mexico. This methamphetamine is highly pure, potent, and low in price.

The drug can be easily made in small clandestine laboratories, with relatively inexpensive over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medications.

To curb this kind of production, the law requires pharmacies and other retail stores to keep a purchase record of products containing pseudoephedrine, and take steps to limit sales.

Methamphetamine production also involves a number of other very dangerous chemicals. Toxic effects from these chemicals can remain in the environment long after the lab has been shut down, causing a wide range of health problems for people living in the area. These chemicals can also result in deadly lab explosions and house fires.

Long-Term Effects

People who inject methamphetamine are at increased risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.

These diseases are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids that can remain on drug equipment.

Methamphetamine use can also alter judgment and decision-making leading to risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, which also increases risk for infection.

Methamphetamine use may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS and its consequences. Studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who use methamphetamine than it does in people who have HIV and don't use the drug.1 Cognitive problems are those involved with thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering.

Long-term methamphetamine use has many other negative consequences, including:

  • extreme weight loss
  • addiction
  • severe dental problems («meth mouth»)
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • anxiety
  • changes in brain structure and function
  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • sleeping problems
  • violent behavior
  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—sensations and images that seem real though they aren't

In addition, continued methamphetamine use causes changes in the brain's dopamine system that are associated with reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning.

In studies of people who used methamphetamine over the long term, severe changes also affected areas of the brain involved with emotion and memory.

2 This may explain many of the emotional and cognitive problems seen in those who use methamphetamine.

Although some of these brain changes may reverse after being off the drug for a year or more, other changes may not recover even after a long period of time.3 A recent study even suggests that people who once used methamphetamine have an increased the risk of developing Parkinson's disease, a disorder of the nerves that affects movement.4

Are there health effects from exposure to secondhand methamphetamine smoke?

Researchers don't yet know whether people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or have other health effects. What they do know is that people can test positive for methamphetamine after exposure to secondhand smoke.5,6 More research is needed in this area.

Can a person overdose on methamphetamine?

Yes, a person can overdose on methamphetamine. An overdose occurs when the person uses too much of a drug and has a toxic reaction that results in serious, harmful symptoms or death.

In 2017, about 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths involved the methamphetamine category, and 50 percent of those deaths also involved an opioid, with half of those cases related to the synthetic opioid fentanyl. (CDC Wonder Multiple Causes of Death—see #42 on Meth RR.)  It is important to note that cheap, dangerous synthetic opioids are sometimes added to street methamphetamine without the user knowing 

How can a methamphetamine overdose be treated?

Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions, with the intent of:

  • restoring blood flow to the affected part of the brain (stroke)
  • restoring blood flow to the heart (heart attack)
  • treating the organ problems

Is methamphetamine addictive?

Yes, methamphetamine is highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • severe depression
  • psychosis
  • intense drug cravings

How is methamphetamine addiction treated?

While research is underway, there are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction. The good news is that methamphetamine misuse can be prevented and addiction to the drug can be treated with behavioral therapies. The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies, such as:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps patients recognize, avoid, and cope with the situations ly to trigger drug use.
  • motivational incentives, which uses vouchers or small cash rewards to encourage patients to remain drug-free

Research also continues toward development of medicines and other new treatments for methamphetamine use, including vaccines, and noninvasive stimulation of the brain using magnetic fields. People can and do recover from methamphetamine addiction if they have ready access to effective treatments that address the multitude of medical and personal problems resulting from long-term use.

  • Methamphetamine is usually a white, bitter-tasting powder or a pill. Crystal methamphetamine looks glass fragments or shiny, bluish-white rocks.
  • Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that is chemically similar to amphetamine (a drug used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy).
  • People can take methamphetamine by smoking, swallowing, snorting, or injecting the drug.
  • Methamphetamine increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which is involved in movement, motivation, and reinforcement of rewarding behaviors.
  • Short-term health effects include increased wakefulness and physical activity, decreased appetite, and increased blood pressure and body temperature.
  • Long-term health effects include risk of addiction; risk of contracting HIV and hepatitis; severe dental problems («meth mouth»); intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching; violent behavior; and paranoia.
  • Methamphetamine can be highly addictive. When people stop taking it, withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, severe depression, psychosis, and intense drug cravings.
  • Researchers don't yet know if people breathing in secondhand methamphetamine smoke can get high or suffer other health effects.
  • A person can overdose on methamphetamine. Because methamphetamine overdose often leads to a stroke, heart attack, or organ problems, first responders and emergency room doctors try to treat the overdose by treating these conditions.
  • The most effective treatments for methamphetamine addiction so far are behavioral therapies. There are currently no government-approved medications to treat methamphetamine addiction.

Learn More

For more information about methamphetamine, visit our:


  1. Chang L, Ernst T, Speck O, Grob CS. Additive effects of HIV and chronic methamphetamine use on brain metabolite abnormalities. Am J Psychiatry. 2005;162(2):361-369. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.2.361.
  2. Volkow ND, Chang L, Wang GJ, et al.

    Association of dopamine transporter reduction with psychomotor impairment in methamphetamine abusers. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158(3):377-382. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.158.3.377.

  3. Wang G-J, Volkow ND, Chang L, et al. Partial recovery of brain metabolism in methamphetamine abusers after protracted abstinence. Am J Psychiatry.

    2004;161(2):242-248. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.2.242.

  4. Curtin K, Fleckenstein AE, Robison RJ, Crookston MJ, Smith KR, Hanson GR. Methamphetamine/amphetamine abuse and risk of Parkinson’s disease in Utah: a population-based assessment. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;146:30-38. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2014.10.027.
  5. Bassindale T.

    Quantitative analysis of methamphetamine in hair of children removed from clandestine laboratories—evidence of passive exposure? Forensic Sci Int. 2012;219(1-3):179-182. doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2012.01.003.

  6. Farst K, Reading Meyer JA, Mac Bird T, James L, Robbins JM.

    Hair drug testing of children suspected of exposure to the manufacture of methamphetamine. J Forensic Leg Med. 2011;18(3):110-114. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2011.01.013.

This publication is available for your use and may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from NIDA.

Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIDA. 2019, May 16. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. Retrieved from

NIDA. «Methamphetamine DrugFacts.» National Institute on Drug Abuse, 16 May. 2019,

NIDA. Methamphetamine DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. May 16, 2019


Methamphetamine drug profile

An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

A synthetic substance. Normally seen as a white powder, it acts as a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS). First manufactured in Japan in 1919, methamphetamine has some limited therapeutic use, but most is manufactured in clandestine laboratories, particularly in the USA and the Far East. It is under international control and closely related to amphetamine.


Methamphetamine (CAS-537-46-2) is a member of the phenethylamine family, which includes a range of substances that may be stimulants, entactogens or hallucinogens. Thus, methamphetamine is N,α-dimethylphenethylamine.

According to IUPAC, the fully systematic name is N,α-dimethylbenzeneethanamine. The asymmetric α-carbon atom gives rise to two enantiomers. These two forms were previously called the [–]- or l-stereoisomer and the [+]- or d-stereoisomer, but in modern usage are defined as the R- and S-stereoisomers.

Molecular structure

Molecular formula: C10H15N

Molecular weight: 149.2 g/mol

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Physical form

Methamphetamine base is a colourless volatile oil insoluble in water. The most common salt is the hydrochloride (CAS-51-57-0), which occurs as a white or off-white powder or as crystals soluble in water.

Illicit products mostly consist of powders, but the pure crystalline hydrochloride is known as 'ice'.

Tablets containing methamphetamine may carry logos similar to those seen on MDMA and other ecstasy tablets.

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Methamphetamine is a CNS stimulant that causes hypertension and tachycardia with feelings of increased confidence, sociability and energy. It suppresses appetite and fatigue and leads to insomnia. Following oral use, the effects usually start within 30 minutes and last for many hours.

Later, users may feel irritable, restless, anxious, depressed and lethargic. It increases the activity of the noradrenergic and dopamine neurotransmitter systems. Methamphetamine has higher potency than amphetamine, but in uncontrolled situations the effects are almost indistinguishable. The S-isomer has greater activity than the R-isomer.

The therapeutic dose of the S-isomer is up to 25 mg orally. It is rapidly absorbed after oral administration, and maximum plasma levels are in the range 0.001–0.005 mg/L. The plasma half-life is about nine hours. The major metabolites include 4-hydroxymethamphetamine and amphetamine. Fatalities directly attributed to methamphetamine are rare.

In most fatal poisonings the blood concentration is above 0.5 mg/L. Analysis of methamphetamine in urine is confounded because it is a metabolite of certain medicinal products (e.g. selegiline).

Acute intoxication causes serious cardiovascular disturbances as well as behavioural problems that include agitation, confusion, paranoia, impulsivity and violence. Chronic use of methamphetamine causes neurochemical and neuroanatomical changes.

Dependence — as shown by increased tolerance — results in deficits in memory and in decision-making and verbal reasoning. Some of the symptoms resemble those of paranoid schizophrenia. These effects may outlast drug use, although often they resolve eventually. Injection of methamphetamine carries the same viral infection hazards (e.g.

HIV and hepatitis) as are found with other injectable drugs such as heroin. When methamphetamine is smoked it reaches the brain much more quickly. Drugs which are smokable (e.g. methamphetamine, crack cocaine) are much more addictive and more ly to cause problems when consumed in this way than when taken orally.

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Synthesis and precursors

The S-enantiomer is most commonly produced by reduction of l-ephedrine, i.e. (1R,2S)-2-methylamino-1-phenylpropan-1-ol, or by reduction of d-pseudoephedrine, i.e. (1S,2S)-2-methylamino-1-phenylpropan-1-ol. Both ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are commercially available and are used in certain medicinal products.

Ephedrine may also be extracted from the plant Ephedra vulgaris L. (used in Chinese medicine as Ma Huang). Both the Leuckart route and reductive amination (e.g. the aluminium foil method) of 1-phenyl-2-propanone (P2P, BMK, phenylacetone) yield a racemic mixture of the R- and S-enantiomers.

The synthetic route used may be identified by impurity profiling. Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and 1-phenyl-2-propanone are listed in Table I of the United Nations 1988 Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances.

The corresponding EU legislation is set out in Council Regulation (EEC) No 3677/90 (as later amended), which governs trade between the EU and third countries.

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Mode of use

Methamphetamine may be ingested, snorted and, less commonly, injected or smoked. Un the sulfate salt of amphetamine, methamphetamine hydrochloride, particularly the crystalline form (ice), is sufficiently volatile to be smoked. When ingested, a dose may vary from several tens to several hundreds of milligrams depending on the purity and the isomeric composition.

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Other names

The term metamfetamine (the International Non-Proprietary Name: INN) strictly relates to the specific enantiomer(S)-N,α-dimethylbenzeneethanamine. Metamfetamine is also the name required by Directives 65/65/EECand 92/27/EEC for the labelling of medicinal products within the EU.

In the United Kingdom and some other countries, the name used in drugs legislation is methylamphetamine. Other commonly used chemical names include N-methylamphetamine, 1-phenyl-2-methylaminopropane, phenyliospropylmethylamine and desoxyephedrine.

Methamphetamine, as the N-methyl derivative of amphetamine, is sometimes included with amphetamine and other less common substances (e.g. benzphetamine) under the generic heading of ‘amphetamines’.

Hundreds of other synonyms and proprietary names exist (see, for example, ‘Street’ terms include speed, crank, meth, crystal meth, pervitin (particularly in eastern Europe; a name derived from an earlier medicinal product), yaba and shabu (certain countries in the Far East).

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The Marquis field test produces an orange/brown coloration. The Simon test (for secondary amines) produces a blue coloration that will distinguish methamphetamine from primary amine such as amphetamine (red coloration).

In the mass spectrum, the major ions are m/z = 58, 91, 59, 134, 65, 56, 42 and 57. Identification by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry can be improved by N-derivatisation.

Using gas chromatography, the limit of detection in urine is


Ice (crystal meth)

An Overview of Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine)

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, speed.

It comes as little crystals that look ice or as white to brownish, crystal- powder, and 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, shard and p.

What are the effects of taking ice?

Ice produces an intense rush that can make people feel confident and energetic. They may have increased sex drive, itching and scratching, enlarged pupils, fast heartbeat, dry mouth, 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 down.

Ice can affect people differently :

  • 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

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 strange, 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:

  • heart palpitations
  • breathing problems
  • fits
  • uncontrolled jerking
  • being very agitated and confused
  • sudden, severe headache

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. See what are the effects of taking drugs?

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

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

Using ice along with drugs speed or ecstasy increases the risk of a stroke. Using it with alcohol, cannabis 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.

Withdrawing 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

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.

You can 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.

Help and support in your state or territory:

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

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: January 2020


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