Ice is a highly addictive form of amphetamine known as methamphetamine. It is stronger than the powdered form of amphetamine, speed. Usage rates by Australian teenagers are generally low, but pockets of Melbourne and regional Victoria face growing ice-related problems, both physical and social. Drug overdose deaths and ambulance attendances involving ice have risen in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria in the past two years.
While the use of amphetamines as a whole has not increased, more people are using it in the potent crystal methamphetamine form (ice), which produces strong highs very quickly and can be highly addictive. This is causing growing concern among police and medical professionals, as those using ice can become extremely violent and have been known to attack ambulance officers trying to help them. They may also commit violent crimes.
Youth worker and 20th Man Youth Fund founder Les Twentyman says in some areas of high youth unemployment up to 30 per cent of young people use or sell ice – or both. He says the drug is highly addictive and can cause users to become extremely violent. He has even heard of desperate parents buying it for their children.
“Once you start and you get an addiction you have to have more and more … and that’s when it becomes a problem,” he says. “There’s no easy fix for this.
What is Ice?
Ice, or crystal methamphetamine, is a potent amphetamine. The only difference between ice and speed is that ice is further refined to remove impurities. Ice is a stimulant and is generally stronger, more addictive and has more harmful side effects than speed. Ice usually comes as small chunky clear crystals that look like ice. It may also be a white or brownish crystal-like powder with a strong smell and bitter taste. Ice is generally smoked or injected. * Copyright © Australian Drug Foundation 2015
Who is using it?
While reported use of ice by high-school students is relatively low, those working at street level say it is much higher and growing fast, particularly in low socioeconomic areas. Nationally, the 2011 secondary school students’ survey found almost 3 per cent (2.9 per cent) of 12 to 17 year-old high-school students have tried amphetamines.
What are the effects?
Ice is much stronger than regular amphetamines. As well as constantly picking at their skin due to a feeling of bugs crawling underneath, users often become extremely paranoid and ultra-violent. One user threw a Molotov cocktail at youth worker Les Twentyman because she thought he was selling her daughter drugs. Twentyman says some people who use drugs also seem to gain superhuman strength, making it extremely dangerous for ambulance officers and doctors treating them. “They think everyone’s after them and they cause havoc in the hospital system,” he says.
Ice users will often have a four to five-day bender, failing “to sleep, eat or drink properly”. They then tend to “crash” and sleep on and off for several days. This lifestyle puts enormous stress on their bodies. “It’s far more potent than the other amphetamines,” Twentyman says.
For short and long-term effects visit: http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/drug-facts/amphetamines
Will users become addicted?
Regular ice users can quickly become dependent and might need it to get through a normal day. Twentyman says dealers tell teenagers that ice will boost their energy and sex drive, when in reality it can lead to serious health and social problems. Twentyman says signs of dependence include a changed personality, unusual sleeping patterns, loss of appetite and theft. “Certain things start to go missing,” he says. “You can’t find your camera, you can’t find your wedding rings.”
Should parents be worried?
Yes and no.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg is a child and adolescent psychologist and author of Strictly Parenting: Everything you need to know about raising school-aged kids. While appreciating the threat Ice poses, he suggests there are bigger issues facing kids and parents.
“It’s also important to be informed about drugs because there’s a mixture of ignorance, fear and anxiety out there. At the moment you could easily think there’s an ice pandemic and that our schools are flooded with drug dealers, but by far and away the biggest drug problem is alcohol.”
This article is an excerpt from Drugs 101, our debut all-inclusive handbook for parents and teachers on the subject of youth drug use and abuse. The complete ebook is available in pdf format here ($15 AUD).
Not sure? Download a free sample here.