What Is "Ice" (Crystal Meth)
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What is Ice (Crystal Meth)?
Ice is a potent stimulant drug commonly used for recreational purposes. It is considered the purest and strongest form of methamphetamine.
It is highly addictive and dangerous, known to stimulate and excite the central nervous system (CNS).
Ice is also rapid-acting. This means that the user will feel its effects quickly, depending on how it was ingested.
What Does the Drug Ice Look Like?
Ice is crystalline in appearance. Sometimes, it may come in brown or white powder form with a strong smell and bitter taste.
It is also called:
- Crystal meth
- Crystal methamphetamine
What are the Side Effects of Ice?
Ice affects people differently. The effects are usually determined by several factors, such as:
- Amount of drug taken
- Strength of the dose taken
- User’s state of mind and physical makeup
- Usage with other drugs
- User’s response to the drug (a first-time user will be affected differently than a chronic user)
Sharing needles and injecting ice significantly increases a user’s risk of:
- Bacteremia (presence of bacteria in the blood)
- Hepatitis B and C
- Necrotizing Fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria)
- Vein Collapse
Short-term Effects of Ice
Ice produces a rapid effect, and the user will experience side effects shortly after taking the drug.
The short-term side effects of ice include:
- Dilated (enlarged) pupils
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty sleeping
- Excessive energy/hyperactivity
- Feelings of confidence and pleasure
- Increased libido (sex drive)
- Nasal passage damage
- Profuse sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Reduced appetite
- Rapid heart rate
- Teeth grinding
Long-term Effects of Ice
Continuous use of ice will cause long-term side effects, which include:
- Concentration problems
- Dental problems
- Difficulty of breathing
- Frequent viral infections (such as colds or flu)
- Extreme weight loss
- Muscle stiffness
- Restless sleep
Dangers & Risks of Using Ice
The use of ice significantly increases a user’s risk for:
- Drug dependence
Chronic ice use can lead to a lot of dangerous and damaging health effects. These include:
- Brain damage (Alzheimer’s Disease)
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Kidney problems
- Liver disease
- Premature osteoporosis
Ice psychosis is also a danger for chronic ice users. This is a condition characterized by mental health problems such as:
- Paranoid delusions
- Strange, violent, unpredictable, or aggressive behavior
How Addictive is Ice?
Ice is very addictive, so much so that it is classified as an illegal drug. Federal and state laws prohibit using, possessing, supplying, and selling the drug.
The drug boosts dopamine release, a brain chemical that is associated with:
- Motor function
Ice causes intense euphoria much stronger than cocaine. This euphoric feeling is what drives the user to continue taking the drug.
With continued use, the body begins to crave the feeling, resulting in re-dosing and bingeing.
Signs and Symptoms of Ice Addiction
Some physical signs and symptoms associated with ice addiction are:
- A frail, thinning body
- Facial sores/acne
- Droopy facial skin
- Increased body temperature
- Intense scratching
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a clinical diagnosis of meth use disorder may be made if the user meets two or more of the following criteria in a 12-month period:
- Using meth even in dangerous situations
- Neglecting personal, academic, or professional responsibilities
- Having problems with friends, family, and society because of meth use
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using meth or when attempting to quit
- Developing tolerance
- Using higher amounts of meth for a longer period
- Repeatedly failing when attempting to stop or control meth use
- Continuous cravings for meth
- Giving up activities once enjoyed in favor of meth use
- Having psychological, physical, and financial problems because of meth use
- Spending a lot of time using meth
If 2 to 3 of the above signs are present, the person has a mild meth use disorder.
If 4 to 5 of the above signs are present, the person has moderate meth use disorder.
If more than 6 of the above signs are present, the person has severe meth use disorder.
Treatment for Ice Addiction
There are several effective treatment options for ice addiction. These include:
- The Matrix Model — This is a 16-week comprehensive behavioral treatment program that integrates drug testing, 12-step support, counseling, family education, behavioral therapies, and engagement in non-drug-related activities.
- Contingency management interventions — These programs offer rewards or incentives when users adhere to treatment and stay ice-free.
- Inpatient treatment centers — These centers provide medical supervision during the crucial periods of detox and withdrawal. They provide psychological and medical support services throughout the whole treatment process.
Currently, there are no drugs available for ice use and addiction.
However, MIEDAR (Motivation Incentives for Enhancing Drug Abuse Recovery) is a promising method coming from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
MIEDAR promotes meth abstinence with the use of incentives.
Ice Detox & Withdrawal
Detoxing from ice produces the same effect as other drugs, with unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Excessive sleepiness
- Increase in appetite
- Feeling jittery
- Dry mouth
- Suicidal thought
- Extreme cravings for more ice
A typical withdrawal timeline shows:
- Withdrawal starts in the first 24 hours of abstinence
- Withdrawal peaks within the first 7 to 10 days after abstinence
- After the peak period, the intensity of symptoms starts to decline
- Withdrawal symptoms may last for 14 to 20 days
Ice overdose may occur if a user:
- Takes a strong batch of the drug
- Uses large amounts of the drug
- Mixes the drug with other drugs (such as medications, heroin, cannabis, benzodiazepines, and alcohol)
An overdose is very dangerous because it can lead to death. Overdose signs and symptoms to look out for include:
- A severe headache with a sudden onset
- Breathing difficulties
- Extreme agitation
- Uncontrolled jerking
Even if not all of these symptoms are present, an ice overdose is considered a medical emergency.
What Happens if You Mix Ice With Other Drugs?
Ice users mix ice with other drugs in an attempt to increase or prolong the desired effects. However, this practice is very dangerous.
Using ice with other stimulants intensifies the side effects. It can induce anxiety and panic attacks and increases the risk of heart problems and substance-induced psychosis.
Combining ice with depressants such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, and heroin can overload the heart. It also increases the risk of overdose and psychosis.
If you’re unsure about the effects of mixing ice with other drugs (including over-the-counter or prescribed medications), or if you’re worried about the effects of ice on you or a loved one, speak with an addiction specialist today.
Call to find out how much your insurance will cover
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- Zorick, Todd et al. “Withdrawal symptoms in abstinent methamphetamine-dependent subjects.” Addiction (Abingdon, England) vol. 105,10 : 1809-18.
- "Methamphetamine Overdose." Mount Sinai.