What Is the Drug ICE?
Ice is a central nervous system stimulant and psychoactive drug that is also known as crystal methamphetamine. Crystal methamphetamine comes in the form of small clear crystals that resemble ice, rather than a powder consistency like powder methamphetamine. Ice is also sometimes brownish in colour and has a strong or bitter smell and taste.
Ice is far more potent than powder methamphetamine and as a result of its potency, it has a very strong effect on the body and can result in substance dependence. The substance is highly addictive, is stronger and causes more harmful side effects than the powder form.
Some people consider crystal methamphetamine to be the most dangerous and destructive drug available due to the devastating effects it has on the human body.
Analysing the Chemical Components of Ice Methamphetamine
Methamphetamine is a synthetic chemical made from either the active ingredient pseudoephedrine or ephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is commonly used in cold medication, while ephedrine is a stimulant medication used to prevent low blood pressure. To make ice, the pseudoephedrine or ephedrine is mixed with a number of chemicals including red phosphorus, hydriodic acid, and hydrogen chloride gas.
Whilst these chemicals are commonly used during crystal methamphetamine production, up to 32 different chemicals can be involved in the process. Most of the chemicals used to create ice are highly flammable and volatile, and the process generates toxic fumes that are extremely harmful. Every pound of crystal methamphetamine that is created produces five pounds of toxic materials that can leave buildings uninhabitable and contaminate nearby farmland or water.
Routes of Ice Administration
Ice can be administered in a variety of ways, and the chosen method of administration will affect the time it takes the drug to take effect, the intensity of its effects and the level of risk. Smoking is the most common method of methamphetamine administration, as it can be smoked without changing its form.
Following smoking, injection (intravenous, intramuscular or subcutaneous administration) and snorting (insufflation administration) are the next most popular choices for ice administration.
Some crystal methamphetamine users also opt to administer the drug orally, rectally or vaginally.
Methamphetamine was initially created for medical purposes and was therefore developed in pill or tablet form. Some individuals who abuse ice still opt for this method of administration using manufactured pills. It is also very common for crystal methamphetamine users to create or ingest homemade pills.
If an individual chooses to administer ice orally, the effects of the drug will take between 15 and 20 minutes to occur. Unlike other methods of administration, oral ingestion does not cause an intense rush; rather, it causes a euphoric high that lasts only a few minutes.
Usually, ice users do not start by injecting the drug intravenously. Most frequently, individuals who have developed a substance dependence or tolerance will begin intravenously injecting the drug when they no longer feel the same level of intensity when they snort or smoke crystal methamphetamine.
Intravenous administration refers to the injection of crystal methamphetamine directly into a vein. This administration route creates the most intense and immediate high, and some people feel the effects only 10 seconds after injection. Following intravenous administration, people experience an intense rush lasting only a few minutes, followed by an eight-hour adrenaline-fueled energetic high.
Intravenous administration is also associated with specific health risks such as infections, vein problems, heart conditions and HIV.
Intramuscular administration involves injecting ice directly into the muscle rather than the vein. Additionally, some ice users accidentally inject the drug into the muscle after missing a vein. This route of administration will result in faster drug effects than smoking or snorting methods, although it is associated with more health risks.
Once the substance is injected into the muscle, it must make its way into the bloodstream; however, some of the substance will not find the bloodstream and instead will sit in the tissue. This frequently causes severe infections and abscesses.
The method of subcutaneous injection involves injecting crystal methamphetamine under the skin but not into a muscle or vein. This method is also sometimes called skin popping. Occasionally, subcutaneous administration is accidental and a result of individuals missing a vein. However, many users choose to use subcutaneous methods of injection as, although the effects are less intense, they last much longer.
Like other routes of administration that involve an injection, subcutaneous injections leave users at risk of many health complications such as infections, HIV, hepatitis C and immunodeficiency diseases. (7)
Smoke inhalation of ice is the most frequently used method of administration, particularly for new crystal methamphetamine users. The hydrochloride salt of crystal methamphetamine can be smoked through a pipe without altering its form.
Smoke inhalation also has specific side effects associated with it, including a condition often referred to as meth mouth, which causes dry mouth and corrodes teeth and gums. As a result of the illicit manufacturing of ice, crystal methamphetamine also contains other ingredients that can be harmful and are present in second-hand meth smoke. Therefore, this route of administration causes negative health impacts to both the user and those around them.
The process of ice insufflation, otherwise known as snorting, involves inhaling ice through the nose. This method of administration allows the drug to be immediately absorbed into the bloodstream through porous nasal cavities. However, this route of administration results in a less intense high than other methods.
Regardless of the intensity of the high, insufflation of crystal methamphetamine is still extremely dangerous. Alongside the general risks associated with ice, insufflation specifically causes nosebleeds, sinus problems, holes in the septum and damage to the nose lining.
Rectal administration of ice, otherwise known as plugging, is a less frequently utilised method of administration, although it is becoming increasingly common. This method involves inserting the substance into the rectum either using a syringe or through an enema.
Individuals use this method to take ice as the anus is considered more absorbent than the mouth or nose, resulting in faster and more intense effects. Users also believe it allows them to avoid adverse side effects such as dry mouth or infections as a result of injections.
However, rectally absorbing ice leaves individuals far more susceptible to overdosing. This is because plugging allows substances to bypass biological responses that guard against overdoses. This method also causes diarrhoea, constipation, rectal tears and increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. (8)
In some cases, female crystal methamphetamine users choose to administer the drug intravaginally. This process is similar to the rectal process of plugging, but rather than inserting ice into the rectum, it is inserted into the vagina.
In the same way as rectal plugging, vaginal administration involves inserting ice into the vagina using a syringe. The tissue of the vagina is extremely absorbent, and consequently, the drug reaches the bloodstream at an accelerated rate when this method of administration is used.
This method carries similar risks to the rectal administration method, such as an increased risk of overdose and increased risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV.
Chemical formula C10H15N
The chemical formula of ice is C10H15N, which refers to the fact that every molecule of crystal methamphetamine is made up of 10 atoms of carbon, 15 atoms of hydrogen and one atom of nitrogen.The chemical formula and chemical structure of ice depicts that there is a methyl group (-CH3) attached to the side chain of amphetamine. The methyl group protects the amphetamine from degrading and allows methamphetamine to persist within the bloodstream long term and exert the biological effects associated with taking crystal methamphetamine. (3)
Legal Class of Ice — Class A
In the United Kingdom, illegal drugs are classified into three main categories: Class A, Class B and Class C. Drugs are classified depending on the harm they are considered to cause; the higher the drug class — Class A being the highest — the more serious the punishment or fine.
Ice is classified as a Class A drug, which means that somebody caught in the possession of it can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison, and those caught supplying or producing crystal methamphetamine can receive a punishment of up to life in prison and an uncapped fine.
The penalty given to an individual will depend on the number of drugs they are found to be in the possession of and whether they intend to take them themselves or distribute the substance.
Trade Names and Synonyms
Drugs often have several different names. When a drug is initially created, it is usually given a generic name that refers to its chemical formula or molecular structure, such as methamphetamine. Then, once a drug is approved by government agencies, it is patented and given a brand or trademark name. Drugs may also be referred to by names that are synonymous with their chemical names. These are usually the names doctors or professionals will use to describe a drug.
Ice is better known as crystal methamphetamine, although it may also be called:
Street Slang for Ice
Some ice users may use the generic, trade or chemical names to refer to crystal methamphetamine, although it is more likely they will use street slang. The street slang used to discuss illicit drugs is coined so that users can discreetly discuss the substance; therefore, there are many street names for ice and the list is constantly growing.
Some of the street names given to crystal methamphetamine may sound silly or not very serious, although they all refer to the same Class A drug.
Some examples of the street slang used to describe ice include:
- Crystal, Crystal Glass, Crystal Meth
- Christina, Tina, Cris, Cristy
- Chalk, Chalk Dust
- Geep, Getter, Getgo, Go Fast
- Trash, Garbage, Wash
- White Cross, White Crunch
- Hironpon, Hiropon
- Hot Ice, Super Ice
- LA Glass
- LA Ice
- Ice Cream
- Chunky Love
- Cotton Candy
- Go-Go Juice
- No Doze
- Rocket Fuel
- Scooby Snax
Terms to Describe Someone Using Ice
People who are involved in the production or taking of ice also have created street slang to describe someone who is using or high on ice. Similarly to street names, these phrases have been coined so that users can more secretively or discreetly discuss drug use.
There are many terms used to describe illicit drug use, although the most common terms that specifically describe crystal methamphetamine use are:
- Getting geared up
- Chicken flippin’
- Hot rolling
- Speed freak
- Spun out
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What Is Ice Addiction?
Addiction is a general term that is used to describe the compulsive repetition of an action that was once pleasurable but over time has become something an individual can’t psychologically or physically live without. Being addicted to drugs by definition involves intense cravings for substances, such as prescription medication, alcohol or illicit drugs, and the out-of-control substance abuse.
Some substances have physically addictive qualities, so anyone who decides to take those substances is at risk of developing a drug addiction. Ice is a highly addictive drug that causes stimulation of the central nervous system, which promotes excessive production of dopamine, adrenaline and norepinephrine. The combination of these chemicals affects the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotions and memory.
Constant or repetitive use of crystal methamphetamine and the combination of chemicals it releases causes a rewiring of the decision-making centre of the brain. Eventually, the substance causes the brain to use the hindbrain, which controls involuntary actions. Once this has occurred, the brain sees taking ice as something it must do to stay alive, such as breathing. This reaction, combined with a craving for the euphoric effects of ice, is an addiction. (11)
Risk Factors of Ice Addiction
Anybody can become addicted to ice once they have decided to start using the substance. Crystal methamphetamine has biological and psychological effects on the body, which can cause addiction in anyone.
However, some people are at a higher risk of becoming addicted to ice as they are more likely to be influenced to take crystal methamphetamine in the first place. The factors that increase a person’s risk of becoming dependent on ice can be social, environmental and biological.
The main risk factors of ice addiction are genetics, social norms, stress, personality factors, availability of the drug and family history. Any of these risk factors alone can lead to crystal methamphetamine addiction, although individuals are more likely to develop an ice addiction if they fall into two or more risk categories.
Many professionals consider addiction to be a hereditary disease. The majority of drug users have a direct relative or family member who also struggles with similar problems. Whilst this is not specific to crystal methamphetamine, once a person is predisposed to engaging in compulsive behaviour that may lead them to take illicit drugs, they are more likely to get involved with ice.
It has also been proven that some people are born a different structure of their central nervous system that causes it to function differently. It is suspected that these individuals are more likely to become involved in drugs.
If a baby is exposed to crystal methamphetamine in utero, their risk of developing an ice addiction significantly rises. Prenatal exposure to ice can also lead to a number of health conditions.
Social norms, peers and stress
An individual’s social circle can have a profound impact on their risk of drug-taking behaviour. Social norms and peers are particularly important during a person’s teenage years and youth. If a young person begins socialising with people who regularly take drugs, the behaviour becomes normalised, and they are consequently more likely to be convinced to try it themselves.
Furthermore, if someone has grown up in an environment where substance abuse and substance dependence is a social norm, they are at a far higher risk of drug addiction. Ice addiction is particularly common in those who have had exposure to that specific drug through their lives.
Stress combined with pressure from peers or normalised substance abuse further increases an individual’s risk of crystal methamphetamine addiction. Teenagers or young people who are experiencing stress at school or at home or feel excluded from their social circle may subsequently resort to taking drugs.
Nobody is the same, and every individual has a different combination of personality traits. Some individuals have personality traits such as high compulsivity, sensation-seeking and adrenaline-seeking. People with these personality traits are often described as having addictive personalities.
Certain individuals also have personality traits that make them predisposed to mental health instability such as anxiety, apathy, disconnection and obsessive-compulsive traits. An unstable mental state also leaves individuals at a high risk of developing drug addictions such as ice addiction.
The availability of a substance is paramount to a person’s risk of addiction. In some social environments, drugs are scarcely seen or available, so people who live in these environments are at low risk of developing an addiction. However, some people grow up surrounded by family members, friends or both who regularly abuse drugs, making illicit substances much more readily available to them. Having a substance widely available increases the risk of addiction signification.
Moreover, the type of drug available in an individual’s environment will impact the type of drug they are at risk of becoming addicted to. If crystal methamphetamine is easily available in a person’s environment, they are at an increased risk of becoming addicted to ice specifically.
Family history and home life play a significant role in drug addiction risk. People who are exposed to family members or authority figures who are substance dependent are at a heightened risk of drug addiction. Additionally, if there is a long family history of substance addiction, it is likely that members of the family are predisposed to suffering from addiction due to their genetics, regardless of their environment or social factors.
It is estimated that between 40% and 60% of people with long family histories of substance addiction also suffer from addiction.
It has also been proven that having a stable and happy home life reduces an individual’s risk of drug addiction and can act as a method of prevention. Therefore, an unstable home life impacted by drug addiction is likely to act as a risk factor. (14)
How Does Ice Affect Dopamine in the Brain?
Ice is a central nervous system stimulant that causes the brain to release a rush of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls movement, emotion and pain. Natural levels of dopamine released by exercise or sex can reach around 200 units; other drugs raise the level of dopamine to up to about 350 units, whereas ice can result in a level of 1,250 dopamine units. Therefore, to experience this level of pleasure again, individuals must continue taking ice.
As the level of dopamine produced by ice is so high, it impacts the brain’s ability to create naturally occurring dopamine. Consequently, long-term ice users have lower natural levels of dopamine, which can lead to depression and feelings of hopelessness during detoxification, withdrawal and sobriety.
The effect dopamine has on the brain encourages crystal methamphetamine users to continue using the substance, as many people cannot deal with the emotions of depression and hopelessness that detoxification brings. However, after people struggling with addiction have abstained from ice for a considerable amount of time, the brain will eventually begin producing natural dopamine effectively again.
Ice Abuse & Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Effects
Ice abuse and addiction have a number of effects on the brain, body and psychology of an individual. The effects and symptoms of ice addiction can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual, the length of addiction and the dose of crystal methamphetamine an individual takes. The longer a person uses ice, the more severe their symptoms will be.
There are also a number of tell-tale signs of crystal methamphetamine addiction. One of the most common signs is a loss of interest in activities the person usually finds pleasurable or neglecting relationships they previously valued.
Additional signs include a sudden change of social group, criminal behaviour, risky financial or sexual behaviour, twitches or tics and evidence of drug paraphernalia in their homes such as burned spoons, needles or syringes or a pipe.
The immediate side effects of ice abuse
Some of the side effects of ice abuse are immediate and can be observed from the first time an individual takes the drug. The side effects that crystal methamphetamine causes can be psychological or physical, and the drug’s effects are typically widespread throughout an individual’s entire body. It is also likely that these side effects will worsen the longer an individual abuses crystal methamphetamine, and their severity will depend on how much ice a person takes.
The immediate side effects to look out for when ice abuse is suspected are:
- Increased energy or activity
- Decreased appetite
- Breathing more or faster
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
The long-term side effects of ice use
If a person continues to take ice for an extended period of time, they are likely to experience a larger variety of side effects and symptoms. The longer a person is addicted to crystal methamphetamine, the larger toll it will take on their body. Not only will the previously mentioned immediate side effects worsen and become more severe, but they are also likely to experience new and more dangerous symptoms.
The long-term side effects of ice abuse include:
- Psychosis (paranoia or hallucinations)
- Problems in thinking ability
- Problems with motor control
- Memory loss
- Aggressive or violent behaviour
- Extreme weight loss
- Dental problems
- Skin sores
- Erratic mood fluctuations
If a person is a long-term user of ice, it is also likely they will experience health issues that can continue long after they detox from the substance. Prolonged use of crystal methamphetamine is proven to increase the risk of cancer, liver failure, kidney failure and even overdose.
Neurotoxicity and How Ice Abuse Disrupts the Central Nervous System
The term neurotoxicity refers to the extent to which a drug or substance damages the neurons within the brain and central nervous system. Ice neurotoxicity is caused by excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and neuroinflammation, and the profound effects of this neurotoxicity are not always reversible. Crystal methamphetamine negatively impacts the serotonin and dopamine nerve terminals in the brain and causes these chemicals to spike, and repeated ice use damages these nerve terminals considerably.
Once the serotonin and dopamine nerve terminals have been significantly damaged, there is likely to be a depletion of dopamine and serotonin in the brain. This leads to memory problems, sleep issues, a weakened immune system and emotional or mood problems. Crystal methamphetamine neurotoxicity can even lead to movement and nerve disorders such as Parkinson’s.
Crystal methamphetamine neurotoxicity causes a feeling of euphoria that is also often accompanied by psychosis, paranoia, muscle twitches, skin picking and violent behaviour. Eventually, the effects of neurotoxicity can change the structure of the brain.
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Chronic Withdrawal from Ice and its Dangers
The withdrawal process from ice starts as little as two hours after the last use and most symptoms can last for weeks, with some symptoms such as anhedonia lasting for years in some cases. Anhedonia is the depletion of serotonin and dopamine and their receptors within the brain, which leads to depression and sometimes suicidal thinking. Other common symptoms of ice withdrawal include exhaustion, excessive sleeping, anxiety, irritability, disorientation and psychosis.
Most people who are experiencing crystal methamphetamine withdrawal only have mild symptoms that last up to two weeks, although some suffer from post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). People are considered to be experiencing PAWS if their symptoms last a considerable time longer than the average withdrawal timeline.
Other ice users who undergo detoxification experience more serious side effects such as seizures, which can be potentially dangerous. However, the most concerning implications of ice withdrawal are the relapse and subsequent overdose.
How Ice Affects People’s Lives
Ice addiction can affect people’s lives to varying degrees and in some cases, the drug can completely devastate a person’s life.
Crystal methamphetamine users are likely to experience major health concerns such as organ and brain damage, heart problems or infectious diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV. Additionally, drug addiction often causes personal relationships with family and friends to break down, as well as serious financial problems.
Additionally, ice addiction often results in homelessness, mental health issues and criminal behaviour as a means of acquiring the drug.
Teen Ice Addiction
Ice addiction in teenagers is becoming increasingly common as a result of poor education on the subject and a lack of knowledge of the effects crystal methamphetamine can have.
Adolescents are at particular risk of the side effects of ice, as teenagers’ brains are still developing. The impact of powerful drugs on that development is extremely significant, and ice is even more damaging during this stage.
Tell-Tale Signs Someone Is Abusing Ice
Ice typically affects people in the same way. If someone is currently abusing the substance some common signs include:
- Lots of excessive movement
- Abnormally high amounts of energy
- High body temperature
- Lack of appetite
Changes in Physical Appearance of People Who Are on Ice
One of the most commonly recognised effects of ice is the impact it has on physical appearance. Crystal methamphetamine not only destroys the inside of the body, but it also has a noticeable impact on the outside.
Ice can compromise the body’s cellular structure and advance the aging process, causing wrinkling and sagging of the skin. Other side effects such as compulsive skin picking can further alter the physical appearance of ice users. Crystal methamphetamine is also known to cause acne, dry skin and a pale appearance.
How to Get Help for a Loved One with a Meth Problem
How to effectively help a loved one who is suffering from crystal methamphetamine addiction will depend on the individual and their circumstances.
Detoxification is necessary for recovery, although abrupt unsupervised detoxification is inadvisable and unsafe. Therefore, in most cases, those who are trying to recover from ice addiction are referred to rehabilitation programs, which have been proven to be extremely effective is successful recovery.
If the individual suffering from addiction is in denial or refuses to seek help, it may be beneficial to stage an intervention with the help of medical professionals. Whilst executing an intervention may be emotionally difficult, it is often the most effective way of helping users who are in denial of their issues.
Facts & Statistics About Ice Addiction
It is currently estimated that there are over 24 million amphetamine abusers worldwide, and nearly 500 metric tons of amphetamine stimulants, including ice, are produced each year. (19)
It was reported in 2014 that 25,000 people were using crystal methamphetamine in the UK, and between 2010 and 2011, ice-related arrests soared up by 500%. Although the ice epidemic has not caused a considerable issue in the UK, these numbers have continued to increase as the UK follows other countries such as the US and Australia. (20)
In the United States, it has been reported that 13 million people over the age of 12 have used methamphetamine, and in 2007, almost 5% of high school seniors had used methamphetamine once during their lifetime.
Ice Addiction Comedown and Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawal symptoms occur due to the body’s physical substance dependence on crystal methamphetamine and arise following the initial comedown from ice. Withdrawal symptoms from ice can start as soon as two hours after the last dose and usually last for two weeks. If somebody has suffered from substance abuse for a prolonged time, these withdrawal symptoms can be intense.
Ice comedown and withdrawal symptoms include:
- Muscle weakness
- Decreased appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Insomnia despite exhaustion
- Headache from dehydration
- Muscle pain, especially in the jaw from clenching
Ice Treatment Options
The treatment options for ice addiction vary depending on the individual circumstances and the extent of addiction. However, all programs involve detoxification, and most will utilise behavioural therapy, peer support groups and sometimes medication. These treatments can be undertaken in a residential rehabilitation facility or occasionally as an outpatient.
The behavioural therapies used to treat crystal methamphetamine addiction include cognitive behavioural therapy, 12-step programs, contingency management and the 16-week Matrix Model program.
Medication That May Help Your Ice Addiction Recovery Efforts
Some devastating effects of crystal methamphetamine withdrawal include depression, anxiety and psychosis. To help patients feel positive about their detoxification and sobriety, antipsychotic, antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications are often prescribed. Medication treatments are usually continued until the patient has fully exited the withdrawal period.
Studies have also shown that a drug, Naltrexone, can effectively help ice users when they are undergoing detox. Naltrexone is used frequently to treat alcoholism but has been proven to significantly reduce cravings for crystal methamphetamine in ice users. Naltrexone blocks the opioid receptors in the brain, and consequently, ice users who have been prescribed naltrexone no longer find ice pleasurable and are thus less likely to take it.
Clients who receive residential treatment for ice addiction will be provided with 24-hour care in a hospital setting. Inpatient stays usually last from one month to 180 days, but for clients who need additional care, inpatient treatment can last longer. Inpatient treatment is well-structured and can be intense, although these factors influence its high success rates.
Residential programmes are particularly beneficial for those with severe mental health conditions or dual diagnoses and those who have repeatedly relapsed.
For those with less severe forms of ice dependence, inpatient treatment may be unnecessary and an outpatient treatment programme will be recommended. Some individuals who have been taking crystal methamphetamine for a shorter time period will experience fewer or less extreme withdrawal symptoms, so 24-hour care is unnecessary.
Outpatient programmes may also be provided to those with responsibilities such as children or jobs that limit their ability to attend an inpatient rehabilitation programme.
Ice Rehab Treatment Process
Most drug rehabilitation treatment programmes begin with an intake session. This session allows the client and doctor to discuss treatment goals and the client’s mental health. Following that, the detoxification process will begin. Clients will stop taking crystal methamphetamine and will enter the comedown and withdrawal stage. During this stage, clients will be offered emotional support, therapy and sometimes medications to make the detoxification process as easy as possible.
Once the treatment program is complete, aftercare is usually offered. Aftercare can involve sober companionship, support meetings and counselling.
Ice Addiction Help & Treatment
Ice is enormously addictive, and seeking help and treatment is the most effective way to stop using crystal methamphetamine and prevent relapses. There are a variety of treatment options and supportive programmes available to ice users that can be tailored to suit the individual and help improve the quality of their lives.
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Admitting there is a problem and making the decision to get help for an ice addiction is the biggest step in the recovery process. Dealing with withdrawal symptoms and fighting for sobriety can be difficult, although it is nowhere near as difficult as dealing with the devastating effects of ice addiction. Ready to start? We’re here for you!
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