Ice is one of the most dangerous and devastating drugs in Australia today. Not only is ice relatively inexpensive compared to other addictive drugs such as cocaine, it is also readily available. Around one in ten Australians have tried meth, while there are half a million Australian adults who are current users.
Ice is a highly addictive substance that wreaks havoc on the lives and families of people who become addicted to ice. Because ice addiction is so devastating, there has been a lot of media and news coverage on its effects and how ice impacts users. Some of the coverage is accurate, but there are some common myths out there about ice users which can confuse the process of getting help.
We believe that when you are equipped with accurate information it is easier to get help for yourself or for the people you care about. That's why we wanted to take the time to go through some of the information about ice addiction and dispel some common myths.
If you or someone you love is living with ice addiction there is a way to get help and to move forward. The Hader Clinic is a leading Melbourne rehabilitation clinic where ice addicts can access treatment.
What is ice?
Ice is a street or slang name for the drug methamphetamine. Methamphetamine is known by other names including meth, shard, crystal, speed, shabu, tina, glass, and gak.
Methamphetamine can be found in three main forms: Powder (speed), base, and crystal. Crystal methamphetamine can be smoked or injected. Crystal methamphetamine is highly addictive due to the rush and increase in pleasurable sensations that users get from smoking or injecting it.
What does ice look like?
Sometimes identifying a problem is as easy as identifying the substance itself. When looking for ice, you’re looking for material that looks like small, dirty or clear shards of glass. The material may be in a small snap-lock baggie or aluminium foil, or a small container of some kind.
Ice is an extremely powerful and fast-acting stimulant, so extended euphoria, confidence, and increased energy in users will be present.
An ice user will skip sleep and may experience significant weight loss over time. As ice wears off, a user will be anxious, irritable, jittery, and depressed.
What happens to your body when you use ice?
When a person uses ice they will ingest in it whatever manner they choose - whether oral, smoked, or injected. As ice enters the bloodstream it travels to the brain where the substance binds to the brain's transporters and floods the brain with dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These chemicals are neurotransmitters which have a deeply pleasurable effect on the user.
A person using ice will immediate start to feel good and may feel that they:
- Have lots on energy
- Can think very clearly
- Can make good decisions
- Can plan effectively
This is because using ice increases dopamine in the body by up to 1,000 times the usual level. A person on ice will also experience physical symptoms including:
- Dilated pupils
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rate
- Reduced appetite
- Increased sex drive
The first time a person uses ice the experience is highly pleasurable. However, as ice use continues and ice addiction develops, the neurological system for dopamine and serotonin can become damaged which causes long term complications.
A person who is an ice addict is not beyond help - and even long term users can and do make a full recovery from ice addiction.
What are the complications with long term ice and meth addiction?
- Damage to episodic memory which allows a person to consciously re-experience past events.
- Damage to executive function which can result in distraction, impulsivity, inappropriate social behaviour, loss of focus, and destructive behaviour.
- Drug-induced psychosis, including symptoms similar to schizophrenia such as altered perception and hallucinations.
These symptoms can be distressing to the user, which may result in the person using ice in an attempt to alleviate their distress. The consequence of course, is further damage to the brain.
However, damage to the brain caused by meth use is repairable over time, and it is important to remember that no one is beyond help; even severely addicted users. With the right treatment and care in a rehabilitation clinic, an ice addict can overcome addiction and move forward with their life.
How do I know if someone is addicted to ice?
The symptoms that ice addicts might demonstrate extend beyond purely physical or emotional aspects, often impacting a range of aspects in their life.
It is important not to approach your potentially addicted loved one in a confrontational way, even if you are upset by the discovery that they may be addicted to ice. A person on ice may respond negatively to you, and may even become violent.
If you are unsure whether someone is addicted to ice, you may notice:
- Impulsiveness and increased risk taking
- Violent behaviour and aggression
- Legal troubles
- Financial problems
- Social isolation
However, none of these issues on their own or in combination are indicators of ice addiction. If you suspect someone you love is addicted to ice, contact The Hader Clinic to get more clarity about key symptoms and what to look for.
How do I know if I or someone else is addicted to ice?
A person who is a meth addict may experience a range of symptoms, but the general definition of an ice addiction includes:
- Needing more of a drug to get the same effect
- Intense withdrawal symptoms
- Spending time seeking out the drug and using it
- Neglecting work, personal life, or family to use the drug
- Losing interest in other things apart from using the drug
- Getting involved in crime as a way to get money to buy the drug
- Stealing from family to get the drug
As a general guide, a person who is seeing an impact on their family, home, school, or personal life may have issues with dependence.
What happens when a person is detoxing and withdrawing from ice?
When a person stops using ice there is a withdrawal and detox period in which the drug leaves the body and the brain recovers from use. It can take between 10 and 14 days for a person to physically detox, and even up to a further two weeks in some cases.
When a person goes through the physical detox, there may be a huge temptation to use ice again to avoid the unpleasant symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Increased appetite
- Excessive sweating
- Red, itchy eyes
- Loss of motivation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Stomach ache
- Severe depression
It is difficult for a person to detox on their own, and in many cases it is helpful for a person to be in a rehab centre where they can be watched and away from harm during their detox.
After the physical detox is complete, a person will have a further period in which the desire to use meth still exists. Social cues, physical cues, and mental cues will all make recovery challenging — but not impossible.
How addictive is ice?
While ice is a particularly devastating drug, it must be noted that other drugs like tobacco and alcohol are also highly addictive and just as devastating.
In 2017–18 the four most common drugs that led clients to seek treatment were:
- alcohol (35%)
- amphetamine (27%)
- cannabis (22%)
- heroin (6%)
The rate of dependence of ice users is around the same as that as a cannabis user, but due to the significant neurological changes it can be very difficult to get off ice once a person is addicted.
Ice addiction can happen to anyone, and there is no evidence that a certain type of person will get addicted compared to someone else.
Is it possible to recover from ice addiction?
Yes, absolutely. It is not easy, and a person may relapse on the road to recovery. A relapse is not a failure, and the best approach is to take recovery one day at a time. Instead of saying 'I'm never using again' - it may be helpful to frame the decision to stop using ice as 'I'm not using today' - taking recovery one day at a time.
Ultimately, there must be a real desire to change on the part of the addict. The person who has been addicted may have damaged relationships through their drug use, and it is going to be a long process to feel strong and free of the drug. Again, with the right help and support from a rehab centre, it is possible to get free of ice addiction and move forward in life.
Get help today
The process of guiding someone out of the depths of addiction is not a simple one but with support and professional help, they can return to a healthy life. Professional rehab centres can provide counselling, detoxification and advice for addicts or family members.
For assistance with addiction in Melbourne – for sufferers and their loved ones – contact The Hader Clinic today.