Australia is the world’s highest consumer of illicit recreational drugs. It is not a reputation to be proud of.
One reason why we’ve won “the gold medal” in drug use is down to the explosive increase in the availability and consumption of Ice.
The National Drug Survey revealed that approximately half of all methamphetamine users consume Ice and the number of people on Ice has doubled.
Ice (also known as crystal meth, crystal, d-meth and shabu) is available in powder or crystals. It is the purest and most potent methamphetamine. It is usually snorted (like a line of cocaine), injected, swallowed or smoked. Sometimes it is dissolved into alcohol or water.
How does Ice affect your body?
What is it like?
THE FIRST HIT
The immediate effects of taking Ice are pleasure and clarity. If it is smoked that euphoria starts within minutes. If it is ingested (swallowed as a pill) it will be about 20 minutes before the ‘high’ starts.
Ice dramatically increases the amount of dopamine in your body by up to one thousand times. This is more than any other type of drug. Users say they have a lot of energy and are better able to make decisions.
This ‘high’ will continue anywhere from four to 12 hours. After that is the ‘coming down’ cycle which is exactly the opposite. People suffer headaches, blurred vision and have ‘the munchies’. They can feel anxious, depressed, laxidaisical, and find it hard to make decisions. Some even have hallucinations and paranoia.
It is known that almost one in four meth users will experience a psychotic experience (feeling suspicious, hearing or seeing things that are not there, believing things that are not plausible). This behaviour can go from hours to days.
Users are often exhausted by this up-and-down cycle and sleep for several days.
THE SECOND HIT
The pleasure effects are never the same as that first hit. This is why some people take bigger doses or use it more often. They try to replicate that feeling but it is not possible.
Repeated taking of Ice has numerous side effects including a racing heart, an increase in body temperature, nausea and a constantly dry mouth. It also causes hostility and aggression.
Ice contains a neurotransmitter called noradrenaline. This is what leads to paranoia and psychotic episodes.
Methamphetamines can be detected in the body for up to 72 hours.
If a user wants to go ‘cold turkey’ and stop their addiction it will take up to two weeks for the meth to leave their body. This is nearly twice as long as detoxing from other types of drugs. The withdrawal period is painful and is followed by another period of cravings, feeling anxious and ‘flat’ for up to a year and a half. A cause of this is that Ice has been producing massive bursts of dopamine in the body and when the Ice is gone the brain is unable to produce enough of it for the person to feel alright. This is why it is difficult for some users to walk away from the drug.
Is Ice addictive? Well, all drugs can be addictive. In the case of methamphetamines approximately 10-15 percent of users are addicted. This is less than heroin (50 percent).
Who is more likely to use Ice?
According to Professor Ann Roche, the Director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, young men in their teens to late twenties are in the majority of Ice users. Also, young males in industry and trade areas.