The United States Drug Enforcement Administration lists methamphetamine as a Schedule II drug, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and triggers severe physical and psychological dependence if abused.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) classifies “ice” as “extremely addictive” because chronic use can easily turn into full-blown addiction—in as little as a few months—when the user compulsively seeks the drug even if he is aware of its adverse effects and at the cost of health, vocation, and relationships.
It is available as a white, odorless, bitter-tasting coarse powder or a chalk-like chunk and can be snorted, smoked, injected, dissolved in water or alcohol, or swallowed.
What are the immediate effects of “Ice”?
The immediate effects of “Ice” include:
What are the side effects of “Ice”?
The side effects of “Ice” include:
What are the Short-Term Side Effects of “Ice”?
This drug is a powerful stimulant and even in small doses, produces side effects almost immediately after administration.
- Whatever the route of administration, it reaches the brain soon and triggers the release of dopamine, the so-called “happy” chemical. Dopamine brings on feelings of pleasure and increases mental alertness and physical energy. The user becomes talkative and restless. Ice drug increases mental and physical energy to such an extent that users are known not to sleep for days on end when they are on the drug. They also eat little to no food because it decreases appetite. This is the “rush” that the drug brings on and users crave, and it usually lasts longer than the high brought on by cocaine.
- It also raises blood pressure and body temperature and causes irregular heartbeat and sometimes, convulsions. In the case of an overdose, these symptoms must be treated immediately to prevent death.
- According to another study, “ice” increases libido. Under the spell of this drug, the user may engage in unprotected sexual activity that increases chances of acquiring AIDS and sexually-transmitted diseases.
What are the Long-Term Physiological Side Effects of the Ice Drug?
- Chronic abuse of the drug causes a host of physiological side effects, the most severe of these being drug tolerance and dependence. Drug tolerance develops quickly and users start to take the drug more frequently and in increasing doses. The withdrawal effects are unpleasant: depression, fatigue, irritability, and mental disorientation. To avoid these effects, people feel compelled to seek the drug, thereby developing physical and mental dependence. This makes the drug highly addictive.
- Ice has devastating effects on the immune systems of long-term users. The drug acts on the physical and chemical defenses of the body, raising the levels of dangerous free radicals, and triggering the body to produce inflammatory responses. Chronic users contract infections readily because their impaired immune systems cannot fight pathogens. Any disease or condition that they might develop also worsens quickly because their immune systems are weakened.
- Severe hypertension, which is a side effect of using ice, is also a primary risk factor for kidney dysfunction. Ice drug abuse is associated with chronic kidney disease.
- The adverse effects of ice on the heart are well-documented. Cardiac complications account for the second highest number of deaths among chronic drug users. Besides hypertension, which is a risk factor for cardiac diseases, the drug also causes aortic dissection (tear in the wall of the aorta that reduces blood flow to other organs), acute coronary disease, cardiomyopathy (a condition characterized by damaged and/or impaired heart muscles that progresses to heart failure if left untreated), and pulmonary arterial hypertension (a rare progressive disease characterized by shortness of breath, dizziness, and a feeling of tightness in the chest).
- The incidences of smoking ice have increased multiple times in recent years. Many users, who are aware of the risks of injecting the drug, smoke it instead. Researchers believe that smoking increases the risk of lung injury in long-time ice drug users.
- Ice users who inject the drug are at a greater risk of contracting blood-borne diseases, like AIDS and hepatitis B and C, from sharing needles.
- “Meth mouth” is a characteristic symptom of long-term drug use. The toxic content of the drug and its coarse nature cause severe tooth decay and tooth loss. The drug also causes teeth grinding, a behavior that further erodes teeth. Ice drug users often have missing and rotted teeth.
- The ice drug also decreases appetite and causes drastic weight loss in chronic users. The drop in pounds combined with the missing teeth and lack of personal hygiene give users a haggard and aged look.
What are the Long-Term Neurological and Psychiatric Side Effects of Ice Drug?
- Chronic use causes delusions and visual and auditory hallucinations that make the user prone to unbiased suspicion. Increased drug-induced impulsivity can then make the person physically violent. This is dangerous for the people who may reside and/or interact with ice users. Children are especially at risk if they happen to live under the same roof with someone who abuses this drug.
- The Ice drug affects the central nervous system profoundly. According to the findings of this study, ice degrades and destroys white and gray matter in several regions of the brain. This causes anxiety, confusion, insomnia, paranoia, impulsivity, irritability, and extreme mood swings.
- Abuse also triggers tactile hallucinations or formication, a condition in which the user believes there are bugs and insects crawling under the skin. Ice users often have boils, sores, and open wounds on their face, hands, and feet as a result of continuously scratching and picking the skin.
- NIDA reports that chronic ice drug use can alter the chemistry and functionality of the dopamine system and impair motor and verbal learning skills. Ice abuse also increases a person’s chances of having a stroke and suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
The Facts about “Ice” Users
The level to which the drug can negatively affect an individual cannot be understated. Anyone can be affected by this substance, and have chain effects on those who are closest to the users. Children are the most notable group that is affected by other’s use of ice drug. While anyone cohabiting with a user may find the environment anything but pleasant, to say the least, due to their nature, children often are the brunt of the worst aspects of ice drug user’s behavior. From going unfed and uncared for, to various forms of abuse, to even murder in some events, the level of neglect knows no limits with those who use the ice drug and are addicted.
Of paramount proof of who and where ice drug users are, is the amount of strong data coming from Australia. As noted by Australian prof. Ann Roche of Flinders University, significantly higher levels of use are prevalent in rural areas of Australia. Of those people, many have used over their lifetimes, with a significant amount having used ice in the last 12 months. The highest concentrations of use are notably found among men, especially in their late teens to late 20s, and those who are working in industry and trade areas. A contributing factor to the usage and addiction of these young men is the method of using the ice drug: socially encouraging groups that smoke it together, thereby maintaining a positive feedback loop for continued use. Further data from Australia, shows that more than half of the people abusing the drug had committed a crime. Half also were shown to have a slew of aggressive and abnormal behaviors as well as physical problems developed over time.
Ice Drug Addiction Stories
People turn to ice for various reasons. Many are drawn by the “rush” that the drug produces. Some others are influenced by their ice-taking peers. And there are some vulnerable, suggestible women who take this drug to lose weight.
This case study published by PubMed highlights the story of a 48-year-old woman who wrecked her health and risked her life when she tried to lose weight by abusing the ice drug.
The woman was hospitalized for pulmonary edema, a condition where fluid accumulates in the lungs and makes it difficult for the person to breathe. On examination, she was found to have a significant left ventricular dysfunction and a left ventricular ejection fraction of less than 35 percent, which according to this report, is indicative of heart failure and significantly increases the risk of life-threatening irregular heartbeats, sudden cardiac arrest, and sudden cardiac death.
When she went off the drug, her left ventricle started to function normally.
Another study highlights the case of three young women who developed eating disorders and lost weight drastically after abusing ice. Their conditions were so severe that they had to be admitted to specialized eating disorder clinics for treatment. Drastic weight loss not only impaired their ability to function in their daily lives and at the workplace but also wrecked their social lives.
After treatment, the women were able to quit ice drug and their eating disorders were cured.
How to Recognize Ice Abuse
Ice is one of the most dangerous drugs out there with the potential to cause severe, long-lasting, and sometimes, irreversible mental and physical damage. You would want to know how you can recognize the warning signs of ice drug abuse or addiction, so you can seek help for a loved one.
The telltale signs of the ice drug addiction are “meth mouth”, reduced appetite, and drastic weight loss that brings on a gaunt appearance. The person may not sleep for long periods and yet, appear unusually active, move around a lot, and talk too much. But he or she is also likely to be nervous and anxious for no apparent reason. Dilated pupils are another warning sign that a person is abusing a stimulant like the ice drug. Because ice raises body temperature, the person also appears sweaty even if it is not cold and he or she hasn’t been physically active.
Besides these specific signs of ice addiction, drug addicts generally exhibit some telltale behavior.
It is a cause for concern if someone who used to be impeccably dressed and groomed starts to neglect hygiene and personal appearance. Needle marks on the forearms are a telltale sign of drug abuse, but sometimes, the user may be savvy enough to hide the marks under a long-sleeved garment. So watch out for a loved ones who are wearing long-sleeved garments even in warm weather; they may be hiding needle or scratch marks.
Apart from these signs of taking the drug, chronic use is also characterized by mood swings and/or aggressive behavior that were earlier not present in the individual, secretive behavior or lying that the user indulges in to mask habits, and stealing money from family members, school or college mates, and/or co-workers to fund the drug use. Sometimes you may find objects missing from home; it could be a sign that your loved one is pawning or selling them to obtain money for drugs.
It is likely that a family member is abusing drugs if you discover him or her in possession of these items: aluminum foil wrappers, tin foil, weight scales, hypodermic needle, glass pipes, cigarette lighters, and small porcelain bowls. Be wary if a satisfactory explanation for possessing these items isn’t provided.
Aid and Recovery from Ice Usage
Due to its effects and side-effects, ice can take a long toll on a person. Depending on how much someone uses it, its effects can last anywhere from half an hour to as long as a full day, and if binged, perhaps numerous days. As noted, the effects may include physical issues such as “meth mouth”, staph infections, sores, and emaciation. If needle usage was the method of drug transmission, then wounds, hepatitis, and even HIV may be tested and treated for. The immediate effects can include exhaustion, anxiousness, and depression once the drug wears off. This can be followed by mood swings with violent behavior as the user becomes agitated to acquire and use more ice.
Aiding a person to recover and quit use of the drug ice can only best come from treatment via cleansing. The user’s body must be thoroughly and completely devoid of the toxic residues and psychological effects of most recent use. This way, a user can go through a process that lowers or eliminates cravings to relapse and to use more ice. The removal of the toxic residues can come from a low-heat sauna experience, nutritional supplements, and moderate exercise in a controlled regimen. Though this is not a strict prescription for recovery, it has been shown to aid in recovering. Ultimately, once a person has been detoxified, a more positive outlook on life and a more clear thinking must be additionally established to get their lives back on track.
How to Treat Ice Addiction
Are there any medications to treat Ice addiction?
No, there are no medications to treat “Ice” addiction currently. The relapse rate is high, even following medically-assisted detoxification and psychotherapy programs. Some medications have shown promising results in laboratory tests on animals and/or human clinical trials, but still, require further testing and are not yet available for treatment.
Methylphenidate, dextroamphetamine, and risperidone have brought about a reduction in ice drug use amongst addicts in controlled studies.
Right now, there are no medications to treat ice drug dependence, prevent relapse, or reduce drug intake in an addict.
Psychotherapy along with or after medically-assisted detoxification is still considered to be the mainstay of addiction treatment. Psychotherapy may involve cognitive behavioral therapy, contingency management intervention, and counseling. However, the relapse rates are high. So researchers at NIDA are carrying out research to develop and/or identify drugs that can be effectively used to prevent ice addiction, prolong the period of abstinence, and prevent relapse.
Researchers believe modafinil in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce the drug usage in addicts. It can improve cognitive functionalities like memory, attention, and executive functions. These benefits can improve the outcome of behavioral therapies in ice users.
Bupropion, an antidepressant, can reduce the severity of depressive symptoms in light users of the ice drug. This can reduce their cravings for the high that ice induces. However, more trials are required before scientists prove the efficacy of bupropion.
Scientists are experimenting with naltrexone. Some clinical studies have shown that naltrexone can reduce use by reducing the effects of the drug that, in turn, will reduce cravings and drug-seeking behavior. Scientists believe that rivastigmine too can bring about similar effects, but it has not yet been tested on the users.
Right now, NIDA scientists are exploring novel ways of managing ice drug dependence. For instance, they have developed an anti-methamphetamine monoclonal antibody that they believe will neutralize the drug before it reaches the brain. Also currently being studied is a drug called AV411 (ibudilast) that researchers believe could reduce ice use.
Ice is one of the most widely-abused drugs in the United States. It is unfortunate that despite the prevalence of anti-meth laws, the ice drug is available quite easily on the streets. The internet is also rife with tutorials that list and demonstrate the process of making the drug at home. The war against the ice drug can be won only with increased awareness and greater vigilance, at home, office, and on the street.