Updated on February 6, 2024
4 min read

Ice (Crystal Meth): Addiction and Recovery

Key Takeaways

What is Ice (Crystal Meth)?

Crystalline methamphetamine, also known as ice, is a highly purified form of methamphetamine. It’s known for its translucent appearance, resembling bluish-white crystals.

This type of methamphetamine undergoes an additional refinement process to remove impurities. People usually take it through injection or smoking.

Methamphetamine is an illegal stimulant drug. It is chemically similar to amphetamine, which treats ADHD and narcolepsy. It’s easily made with inexpensive over-the-counter (OTC) ingredients like pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in cold medications.

Federal and state laws require pharmacies and retail stores to keep a record of products containing pseudoephedrine. These laws also limit pharmacy sales of the ingredient.


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How is Ice Different From Other Types of Meth?

Ice is the most potent form of methamphetamine. It’s usually smoked in a glass pipe or injected into a vein. These methods deliver the drug quickly to the brain.

Ice brings an immediate and intense high to the user. The feeling does not last long. 

Heavy users often have to take the drug repeatedly due to a binge-and-crash pattern. This pattern is also known as a run. People often give up food and sleep when they do this to take the drug every few hours. A run can last for several days.

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Side Effects of Ice

Short-term effects of ice include:

  • High energy
  • Euphoria
  • Increased alertness
  • Talkativeness
  • Faster heart rate
  • Higher body temperature
  • Fast breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Jaw clenching
  • Teeth grinding
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Erratic libido
  • Nervousness
  • Paranoia

If a person takes ice in high doses, they can become aggressive, hostile, and/or violent.

Other short-term effects for heavy users specifically include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Shakiness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Poor coordination
  • Collapse

Long-term effects of crystal meth use include:

  • Aggression
  • Demotivation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Poor memory
  • Poor concentration
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations
  • Irregular sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Chest pains

Risks & Dangers of Ice

When heavy users develop a tolerance, they need to take larger doses of the drug to feel the same effect. Heavy methamphetamine use puts a person at greater risk for several health conditions, including:

  • Progression of HIV/AIDS
  • Collapsed veins
  • HIV and hepatitis B and C due to needle sharing or other risky behavior, such as unprotected sex
  • Nasal irritation
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart failure
  • Seizures
  • Dangerously high body temperature

Ice affects the brain’s dopamine system. It reduces a person’s ability to feel pleasure from everyday activities. 

Crystal meth affects a person’s cognitive skills, which include:

  • Thinking
  • Understanding
  • Learning
  • Remembering

Ice use is linked to bleeding, early labor, and miscarriage when it comes to pregnancy. It can also increase the mother’s and/or baby’s heart rate. If a mother takes the drug close to birth, the baby can be born with symptoms of meth use.

Methamphetamine toxicity is called an overdose. It can occur even in small doses when mixed with other drugs or if a person has pre-existing medical conditions.

Symptoms of methamphetamine overdose include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking
  • High body temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation

If you suspect you or someone you know is experiencing a meth overdose, call 911 and seek emergency medical help immediately.

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Treatment for Meth Addiction

Treatments for meth addiction include support services like detoxification, residential rehabilitation, and outpatient counseling. During detoxification, a person will go through withdrawal.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Stomach cramps
  • Hot and cold flashes
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Paranoia
  • Suicidal thoughts (suicidal ideation)

Treatments have significant chances of success when people continue recovery beyond the detoxification stage. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), family education, and individual counseling are some of the most effective treatments for meth addiction.

While no medications can currently treat meth addiction safely, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) researchers have found that naltrexone shows promise. Naltrexone is a drug medical professionals commonly prescribe to treat alcoholism.

In the study, the medication significantly reduced people’s cravings for methamphetamine. Clinical trials must back up the study’s findings before methamphetamine treatment with naltrexone can begin.

Other Forms of Methamphetamine

Other forms of methamphetamine include:

  • Powder
  • Base 
  • Ecstasy

These are distinguishable through their appearance and purity.

The powder form of methamphetamine is also known as speed. It’s the least potent form of the drug and is often mixed with other substances like glucose. Speed can also come in pill form.

The base form of methamphetamine is an oily substance with yellow or brown coloring. Its potency and purity are higher than powder, and people usually inject or swallow it.

Ecstasy is a methamphetamine derivative, but it has a different chemical structure and effect from the other forms of the drug. Because of this, some institutions classify it as a different drug.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

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