What’s ice?

Commonly known as ice, crystal methamphetamine is a stimulant drug that affects the body and mind.

Ice is one of four types of methamphetamines commonly found in Australia. These are:

  • Speed – which comes in powder form and is typically of low purity
  • Base – a damp oily substance with white to yellow or brown colour (also known as “pure”, “paste”, “wax”)
  • Tablets – usually contain only a small dose of methamphetamine. Methamphetamine tablets are different from ecstasy/MDMA pills, although some pills have both methamphetamine and ecstasy in them.
  • Ice – the purest form of methamphetamine, it has a translucent to white crystalline appearance

How do people use?

Ice can be swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected. In Australia, ice is most commonly smoked (usually in a glass ice pipe) or injected.

There’s no risk-free way to use ice - each method has risks. Swallowing ice makes it difficult to work out the dose and when it will come on. Smoking ice is harsh on the lungs and can burn them. Injecting carries the risk of vein damage, not to mention contracting blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis C.

What are the effects?

People use ice for different reasons – because it makes them feel great, the energy and the feeling of euphoria. It’s the reason people use a range of stimulant drugs – it makes them feel good.

But there are downsides too – some aren’t that hard to manage in the short term – headaches, blurred vision and dizziness. But there are others effects that are a real concern like irrational hostility, impaired decision-making and the risk of violence. Over the long term these changes to mood and functioning can cause major problems in your life – including on study, work or relationships. On top of this, there is a strong link between ice use, anxiety, paranoia and psychosis. (When someone experiences psychosis they are unable to distinguish what is real — they lose contact with reality.)

While the link between ice and violence is often discussed, the psychiatric and psychological damage is often understated. Severe mental illness is a real risk of using ice.

Problems with more frequent use

Any use of ice carries with it short term risks, but unlike the media reports and campaigns we see in the media, not everyone who tries ice gets hooked. Being aware of the impact using ice is having on you is going to help keep yourself under control. It’s easier said than done. 

An important distinction to understand is that ice and other amphetamines aren’t as addictive as other drugs can be; alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates or nicotine for example, but a person can become dependent on amphetamines.


It’s normal for people who use ice (and other drugs for that matter) to relieve the nasty withdrawal feelings by using again. With ice, the severe withdrawal symptoms make this a particular risk.

When someone uses ice the brain releases large amounts of dopamine, which is the reason for the intense euphoria people feel when they use. With repeated use, the capacity of the brain to generate more dopamine is reduced – even destroyed.

When people start to use more often, or in larger doses, it’s a sign that the brain’s capacity to generate more dopamine is being effected.

If you’re starting to use more ice, or more often, think about seeking help. 

It’s important to identify and understand that if you are using more ice, or perhaps using in riskier ways, it may be about other issues or stresses in your life.

Getting help

There are a number of ways you can access help and support if you feel like you need help with regard to ice. It depends on what type of help you feel that you need, how urgently you require it, and whether you, or someone else is at immediate risk.

  • In an emergency – always call ‘000’
    If you, or someone else, is in an EMERGENCY situation, and in need of immediate medical help, call the national emergency assistance number for ambulance, police and fire response - ‘000’.
  • Your GP
    Some people see their GP as a first point of call, particularly if they have an existing relationship with a GP and feel comfortable talking with them about their health or life issues.
  • Alcohol and drug telephone-based counselling and referral
    For some, the idea of speaking about ice to someone like there GP is way too confrontational and not an option – in this case, confidential and anonymous telephone counselling and referral can be a great place to start. Check out our get help section to find the number in your area.

Ice and the law

Using ice is illegal. Also against the law: possessing, making, selling and importing/exporting ice.