What are the long-term effects of Ice?

Ice is a psychoactive drug that is also known as crystal methamphetamine. Australia has the highest reported use of ice per capita in the world, with 1.2 million Australians over the age of 14 having ever used ice.

What is ice?

Ice is a type of amphetamine. It’s the strongest form of methamphetamine, a drug that stimulates the brain and nervous system.

Common pharmaceutical drugs and household chemicals are generally used as a base to manufacture ice. The production of ice is uncontrolled and illegal. It usually appears as small, clear, chunky crystals but can also be a white or brownish crystallised powder. It has a bitter taste and a strong smell.

Ice is most commonly smoked or injected with the effects being felt almost immediately. When snorted, effects are experienced within 3 – 5 minutes and when swallowed, within 15 – 30 minutes.

How does ice affect the brain?

Ice speeds up the messages between the brain and the body. It also increases and rapidly releases high levels of dopamine in the brain.

Short-Term effects

The immediate effects of ice can last for up to 12 hours.

  • increased wakefulness and physical activity
  • decreased appetite
  • faster breathing
  • rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
  • increased blood pressure and body temperature
  • increased libido
  • enlarged pupils and dry mouth
  • sweating, itching, scratching
  • feelings of pleasure and confidence

Users may find it difficult to sleep for a few days after use. They may experience headaches, dizziness, and blurred vision. It can take several days to come down from the effects of ice. Irritability and feeling ‘down’ are commonly experienced at this time.

Long-Term effects

Continual use of ice can result in changes to the brain’s dopamine system, reduced coordination and impaired verbal learning. Long term use has also been observed to affect areas of the brain connected with emotion and memory.

The psychological condition referred to as ‘ice psychosis’ may present when high, frequent doses of ice are consumed. Ice psychosis can include paranoid delusions, hallucinations, and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. The symptoms of ice psychosis may ease or disappear after stopping using ice for a few days – although this is not always the case.

  • extreme weight loss
  • severe dental problems
  • intense itching, leading to skin sores from scratching
  • anxiety
  • changes in brain structure and function
  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • sleeping problems
  • violent behaviour
  • paranoia and hallucinations
  • muscle stiffness
  • heart and kidney problems
  • increased risk of stroke

Regular use of ice can lead to a dependency. Users may feel that they are unable to go about normal activities in their lives such as work, socialising, or studying without consuming ice.

It’s possible to recover from an ice addiction, and normal to continue to experience cravings for up to 3 months. You may also experience other symptoms from ice use for over 12 months and it can take time to feel comfortable.

How and where to get help.

It can be difficult to know who to talk to or where to go when you are concerned about your ice use. It’s important to reach out for help and talk to someone if you are worried that you have an issue with substance abuse.

Arrow Health offers many treatment options including:

  • 28-day detox program
  • Inpatient rehabilitation
  • Outpatient program
  • Forensic services
  • Counselling

Are you unsure if you’re addicted to drugs? Take a read of our blog post on ‘What Is Addiction’, it may help.