Ice addiction

Much has been written about “Crystal Meth(amphetamine)” also known as Tina, Crank, Shabu, Ice and Glass.

Although crystal meth has been around since World War II (it has been documented the Adolf Hitler injected the drug daily), its emergence in mainstream society has only become prevalent in the last 25 years.

Meth use has exploded worldwide in the last decade. In the US, meth use has spiraled out if control and is now the fastest-growing drug abuse problem.

In Australia, there are over 73,000 ice addicts*. Former NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney said “I don’t know in the time I’ve been a Policeman, which is 41 years, of a greater scourge on the community. The physical and mental manifestations of ice are absolutely horrific. It has the potential to destroy generations.”

Is Ice just another drug?

No. Unlike other drugs such as cocaine and heroin, ice has severe effects on the brain and body. Methamphetamine causes the body to release large amounts of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, resulting in a prolonged sense of pleasure or euphoria for the user; however, over time, this causes severe side effects.

With repeated use, meth depletes the brain’s stores of dopamine and actually destroys the wiring of the dopamine receptors.

This is a major reason why users become so addicted to the drug; without it they are no longer able to experience pleasure (a condition known as anhedonia), and they usually slip into a deep depression.

Although dopamine receptors can grow back over time, studies have suggested that chronic meth use can cause other permanent brain damage, such as declines in reasoning, judgment and motor skills.

In addition, meth is a powerful stimulant that causes the heart to race and the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to a number of serious medical problems, including heart attack, stroke and even death. During these energy-fueled meth “runs,” which can last days, users generally exhibit poor judgment and dangerous, hyperactive behavior. For instance, many addicts have committed petty and violent crime when high on the drug, and even for casual users the drug can increase the libido and lead them to engage in risky, unprotected sex. Long-time users have been known to develop symptoms of psychosis, including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations and delusions.

The drug has become popular because it is cheap, readily available and gives users a rush of euphoria, sense of being invincible and increases libido. It is also being blamed for a dramatic rise in HIV infections both in Australia, the US and Europe.

Is the idea of an “ice epidemic” just media hype?

No. You can check out its growth in the US here.

The Aids Council of NSW (ACON) has been severely criticized for its lack of response to the epidemic in the Australian gay community, and even today, its website looks more like an advertisement for a “how to take crystal meth” instruction guide, rather than encouraging abstinence, rehabilitation or prevention.

In the last twelve months, ice use in Australia has started to decline, in part some suspect, due to the extent of negative press, and also anecdotal evidence that some users are beginning to turn away from drug after a bad experience.

Nevertheless it remains one of the most destructive and addictive drugs available today.

The Physical Effects of Crystal Methamphetamine

The Physical Effects of Crystal Methamphetamine

*Source: Scattered – The Inside Story of Ice in Australia, by Malcolm Knox (Allen & Unwin 2008)

Further reading:

Four Corners Ice Documentary

The Ice Epidemic In Australia

16 Responses

  1. Very good post, reb. And you know that this drug scares the f*** out of me.

  2. This is truly an insane addiction and personal family experience. One young man, with low self esteem begins a journey with drugs. After several months, we can all see the change in him.. What we hoped wasn’t happening, was confirmed via a misdirected email.

    The young man goes missing for weeks at a time. No phonecalls, no text messages, no nothing. We know he is alive via word of mouth. He “couch surf’s”

    Phonecall, 2007 Eaaster Sunday ICU: *** has had a heart attack, we need you here ASAP. We rush to the hospital, he is lying on he bed with tubes everywhere, a heart machine hooked up.

    We watch and wait for 2 days. Eventually we are able to speak to him. We give him a hug and kiss first. He does not respond. A different Dr comes in and asks who we are, and allows us to stay

    He speaks to *** and says “we have the results of your blood tests”. *** turns his head away and says he doesn’t care. I ask *** if he minds the Dr telling me what is going on,he nods his head.

    The Dr turns to us and says ***’s Treponin level is currently 23, it should be zero. We found large amount of Speed and Ice in his system, the heart attack comes from months of drug abuse to his body”. He weighs 50 kilos.

    I could go on, but I won’t. You can guess. A day never goes by, without us wondering when the next phone call will be, and what message that call will contain.

  3. I’ve personally seen two people have an episode…one in front of a female client!

    I now know the smell of an ice user…they smell like rancid bleach and and they pick gouges out of their faces.

    Just like all the other drugs, law enforcement can not control this and a part of a generation or two will be lost.

  4. Angel, that’s a gut-wrenching post, and one that I suspect is becoming all too common…

    Unfortunately with ice there is no methadone “equivalent” to assist users with withdrawal. The prognosis is not good for people who become addicted to this substance, however early intervention seems to work well.

    I’ve been reading a lot about this subject, and tried to put a lot of the ‘hysteria’ aside in order to understand the ‘real’ impact it is having.

    Anyway, I hope that the situation improves for the one you care for.

  5. I’m so sorry to hear of this Angel. Thus but for the grace of God go all of us.

  6. Thanks for your concern everyone. *** moved interstate in March. I had not heard from him until Thursday last. I had to join my space to contact him, and he sent me a photo, without words. Nothing has changed.

  7. Has anyone got any stats on ice deaths…I would imagine not as many as heroin.

    I grew up in the seventies in Sydney and we were pretty wild…we were the “backshed boys” of Mortdale and I left Sydney in 1978 due to my work commitments.

    By 1984 eleven of my friends were dead by heroin overdose or more likely drinking alcohol then using.

  8. “Has anyone got any stats on ice deaths…I would imagine not as many as heroin”scaper

    I really hate to say it but I think, in the long run, ice will prove to be far worse.
    Statistically & socially. I realise that is a terribly serious parallel to make but I’ve personally seen enough to be sure of it. Not to lessen the horror of heroin in any way.

  9. The horrific effects of crack and ice on humans has made me rethink my view that all recreational drugs should be legalised and treated as a medical, not a legal problem.

    There are clearly some drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamine derivatives, that are just inherently destructive.

  10. HD, you are right…it is a brain killer that will be a societal disaster.

    Dinner awaits.

  11. Those photos alone should put any potential users off this appalling drug. It should be shown at schools and be on giant billboards everywhere.
    Angel, I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for you to have to deal with the effects of ice on a loved one. What a terrible hold it has on those who are addicted to it. I hope there will be a positive outcome for your loved one.

  12. My heart lives in hope, but ny head tells me otherwise. Thanks Jane.

  13. scaper @8

    I’m not sure if there are any firm stats, however, the effects of crystal meth are considerably more devastating than heroin.

    Many heroin addicts can function as otherwise normal members of society. Death through heroin is typically caused by overdose – usually by underestimating the potency of a batch, or through a related illness – HIV or Hepatitis through needle sharing.

    The path of a crystal meth addict is more predictable. Reports I’ve read say that a crystal meth user typically has a life span of two years from the point that they become addicted (ie daily use). Basically it destroys all the body’s internal organs, blood vessels collapse, heart attack and stroke are common. This is in addition to brain damage and pyschosis.

  14. Ice addiction, like any other drug addiction is ultimately detrimental to family and friends of the addictee, the addictee and society as a whole.

    Unfortunately the answer all to often is to punish, not prevent the use of drugs.

    Criminalising such people further adds to their burden and actually lessens the prospect that these people can recover and ultimately move on.

    As Scaper said on the Frolykz (?) thread there are many reasons people start taking drugs. I think the phrase ‘recreational drugs’ hides the fact that many drug users have underlying mental health issues, or simply feel disenfranchised from society as a whole and drug use is a form of self medication.

    Lets face it, psychiatrists in many cases simply put their patients on medication which in the long term can be just as dangerous. In their defence, I guess they can only offer such band aid solutions because their is no political (or social) will to address the underlying issues.

    Depression is increasing in Western society. The answer is simply more medication. There are many reasons why people become or are depressed. Many studies show that drug use causes depression, psychosis etc but I wonder how many people had symptoms of depression before they started taking drugs.

    Even ‘recreational’ use by teenagers can often be an attempt to ‘fit in’ with peers. Such as smoking used to be when I was at school.

    Criminalising the user only ensures they will have further difficulty obtaining employment, which means they are unable to support themselves (their family if they have one), and reduces them to reliance on the welfare system.

    They are further frowned upon because of this, for being burdens to society, and any children they may have have little hope of obtaining good educations and breaking the cycle.

    I still believe that drugs should be decriminalised for this reason.

    The Govt should also give more funding to programmes which educate (at all levels) and for rehabilitation. This is why I support the injecting rooms (for want of a better term). At least these people are using in a safe environment, are less likely to leave needles etc in public places AND are in an environment where perhaps they can be reached out to and ultimately rehabilitated.

    I think underfunding of mental health care is also part of the problem. It is not easy to obtain access to psychologists in Australia. Medicare does offer something like 6 consultations with a psychologist on a GPs referral, but a far as I know that is about it.

    Unless you are an immediate danger to yourself (extremely suicidical or dangerously unbalanced) there appears to be little or no help.

    The current answer seems to be medication, which makes the pharmaceutical companies even more wealthy (via our PBS system). This does nothing to prevent mental health problems, once again treating the sympton and not the disease.

    Our society also willfully promotes the use of perhaps one of the most dangerous substances known: sugar.

    “The list of health problems associated with sugar is enormous and too large to go into completely in one article, but some of the most common symptoms created are: depression, mood swings, irritability, depletion of mineral levels, hyperactivity, anxiety, panic attacks, chromium deficiency, depletion of the adrenal glands, type II diabetes, hypoglycemia, candida overgrowth, raised levels of cholesterol and creates anti-social behavior such as that found in crime and delinquency.”

    The many studies done on sugar are all but ignored by our Govt and heatlh authorities. $$$$ still mean more than peoples lives.

  15. Tracie of FNQ,

    I am also pro-the injecting rooms for the reasons you mention.

    Despite claims that they attract users/dealers from the hysterical conservatives, I too would rather have these places where people can seek out treatment in a safe environment rather than shooting up in a public park and discarding needles unsafely.

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