Ice is also often called Crystal Meth. The self-help support provided here is designed to assist both those with an ice addiction as well as those seeking to help someone else who has an Ice addiction. Helping someone else with an ice addiction can be challenging. But helping yourself get off an ice addiction is even more challenging without some form of professional help.
Recognising the symptoms, knowing where to go for support and how to look after yourself are essential irrespective of helper or addict.
What is ice?
Ice is a methamphetamine (hence the name crystal meth). It is usually small, colourless crystals, which can also appear as a coarse white or brownish powder with a bitter taste and strong smell.
People using ice usually smoke or inject it. Using it regularly can lead to addiction.
Ice speeds up messages to the brain. Someone who has recently taken ice might:
- talk a lot
- be restless and scratch like they are itchy or irritable
- be nervous, agitated and aggressive
- breathe fast, sweat, grind their teeth and have shaky hands
The effects of ice on mental and physical health can alter moods and sometimes makes people violent. It can also trigger mental health problems like depression, anxiety and psychosis. Users can alienate friends and family, and have both work and financial problems.
Always call triple zero (000) for an ambulance if someone has an overdose.
Ice and psychosis
High doses of ice and frequent use may result in a psychological condition known as ‘ice psychosis’, characterised by paranoid delusions, hallucinations and bizarre, aggressive or violent behaviour. These symptoms usually disappear a few days after the person stops using ice.High doses of ice can lead to psychosis lasting for several days. Symptoms include strange, aggressive and violent behaviour, and hallucinations.
To help a person with ice addiction many services are available, but they must first be ready to seek help and rehabilitation.
A person addicted to ice tends to want to get off ice when the supply becomes difficult or too expensive and the symptoms become unmanageable. Irrespective, people can experience withdrawal symptoms — exhaustion, dizziness, blurred vision, aches, nightmares, irritability, anxiety, paranoia and feeling ‘down’. These problems usually ease after a week. However, a person addicted to ice often determines that the only way to address such withdrawal symptoms is to obtain access to more ice – some how? People with addictions can relapse. This is part of the withdrawal process.
Help for you as a carer
Being around someone on ice is stressful. You may feel desperate, anxious, helpless and frustrated. It is important to know that you are not alone.
Make sure you look after yourself when caring for someone with an ice addiction. You should eat healthy food and sleep well, exercise, see friends and take a break. You also need to set boundaries for yourself and decide what you will do and what you won’t do.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has a fact sheet which may help when it’s a family member who is using ice.
If you are in danger, stay calm, get to a safe place and call the police on triple zero (000).
- Cracks in the Ice website
- National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline — call 1800 250 015
- Counselling Online — visit the website for the helpline in your state or territory
- Family Drug Helpline — call 1300 660 068
- Alcohol and Drug Foundation — call 1300 85 85 84
- na.org.au for Narcotics Anonymous Australia
Long-term effects of an ice Addiction
With regular use, ice may eventually cause:
- extreme weight loss due to reduced appetite
- restless sleep
- dry mouth and dental problems
- regular colds or flu
- trouble concentrating
- muscle stiffness
- anxiety, paranoia and violence
- heart and kidney problems
- increased risk of stroke
- needing to use more to get the same effect
- dependence on ice
- financial, work or social problems.4,7
People who regularly use ice can quickly become dependent on the drug. They may feel they need ice to go about their normal activities like working, studying and socialising, or just to get through the day.
Mental health problems
Some people who regularly use ice may start to feel less enjoyment of everyday activities. They can get stressed easily and their moods can go up and down quite quickly. These changes can lead to longer-term problems with anxiety and depression. People may feel these effects for at least several weeks or months after they give up ice.
Mixing ice with other drugs
The effects of taking ice with other drugs − including over-the-counter or prescribed medications − can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could include:
- Ice + speed or ecstasy: putting enormous strain on the heart and other parts of the body, which can lead to stroke.
- Ice + alcohol, cannabis or benzodiazepines: putting enormous strain on the body, and more likely to overdose. The stimulant effects of ice may mask the effects of depressant drugs like benzodiazepines and can increase the risk of overdose.h
Giving up ice after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms generally settle down after a week and will mostly disappear after a month. Symptoms can include:
- cravings for ice
- increased appetite
- confusion and irritability
- aches and pains
- restless sleep and nightmares
- anxiety, depression and paranoia.
One of the best ways for a person addicted to ice who seeks to “go it alone” is to obtain support from na.org.au – Narcotics Anonymous Australia, a non profit fellowship or society of recovering addicts who meet regularly to help each other stay clean via a program of complete abstinence from all drugs.
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