Speed and Ice
Methamphetamine is one of the amphetamine group of drugs which are all manufactured from readily available chemicals. Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug. Variations in the methamphetamine structure produce other drugs and MDMA (methylene dioxy methamphetamine) or ecstasy is the best known example. Stimulants speed up the function of the brain and nervous system. Methamphetamine is available in three different forms commonly known as speed, base and ice.
Sometimes, but not often, doctors prescribe amphetamine drugs to treat some health problems. But mostly, people use amphetamine that is made illegally. Most of these drugs currently sold on the street in Australia are methamphetamine or variants of this molecule which are stronger than amphetamines.
Speed, base and ice are all the same drug, methamphetamine, but they differ in their purity. Ice is about 80% pure, whereas speed is typically around 10-20% pure. The purity of ice makes the effects stronger and longer lasting but also makes it more addictive with worse side effects.
Speed usually comes in the form of white or yellow powder, but can also be bought as pills. People either sniff it through the nose (snort it), inject it or swallow it in tablet or capsule form. Speed is also known as go-ee, whiz, rev and uppers. People who sell speed often mix or cut the powder with other things that look the same, to make the drug go further. Some mixed-in substances can have unpleasant or harmful effects. It is difficult to tell what the drug actually contains.
Base is a damp or oily substance with a white to yellow or brown colour which is more pure than powder. It can vary a lot in its appearance and is also known as pure, paste and wax. Base is usually injected but sometimes swallowed. It isn’t commonly used in Australia.
Ice is the purest form of methamphetamine available in Australia. It usually looks like colourless to white crystals or a coarse crystal-like powder. It can also appear in other colours. Ice is also called crystal, crystal meth, meth or shabu.
Ice is usually smoked or injected. A drug that is smoked or injected enters the brain more quickly which makes it much more addictive. Ice is also sniffed through the nose (snorted), swallowed or inserted into the anus (shafted).
Because of its purity, ice is more powerful than speed and base and a given amount puts a greater strain on the body. Its use can therefore be much more dangerous. It has stronger side effects and a worse comedown.
What methamphetamine does to you depends on:
The immediate and long-term effects of all types of methamphetamine are the same. Because ice is a more potent or purer form of methamphetamine all the effects and side-effects will be more likely to happen and be more intense than speed and base.
When you take a small amount of methamphetamine the effects can last from a few hours to a few days.
Effects on your body may include that:
If you take a large amount of methamphetamine you might:
If you use methamphetamine often and for a long time you may:
The way a person takes methamphetamine over a long time can also cause problems such as:
Overdose of methamphetamine can happen to anyone. Even small amounts may cause an overdose with some people who have an especially strong reaction to it.
When a person overdoses, it may cause:
People who use methamphetamine sometimes take other drugs at the same time to cope with some of the things methamphetamine does to the body. Some people take drugs such as minor tranquillisers, alcohol, marijuana or heroin to help them sleep.
This can make you dependent on several drugs at once. For example, some people need speed or ice each day to get them going and minor tranquillisers each night to get to sleep. This type of dependence can lead to many serious physical and psychological problems. Mixing different drugs can also make you more likely to overdose.
Using methamphetamine when you are pregnant may increase the chance of losing the baby before it is born, having the baby too early and other problems. Babies of mothers using speed, base or ice may weigh less and may get withdrawal symptoms from the mother’s methamphetamine use. Little is known about the long-term effects on the child as it grows.
Anyone can develop a tolerance to speed, base or ice. Tolerance means that you must take more of the drug to feel the same effects you used to have with lower amounts.
Dependence on a drug such as methamphetamine means that it takes up a lot of your thoughts, emotions and activities. You also have trouble cutting back on your drug use even though it is causing you problems. Dependence on speed, base or ice can lead to a variety of health, money, legal, work and relationship problems. Not all people who use methamphetamine are dependent.
People who are dependent on speed, base or ice may find it very hard to stop using or cut down because of withdrawal symptoms.
These can include:
These symptoms are usually fairly short-lived and most withdrawing people don’t need medication. However, if you are worried about withdrawal, contact your doctor or health centre.
Using speed, base or ice is illegal. If you use, sell or give these drugs to someone else and get caught, you could face substantial fines and penalties including a prison sentence.
Methamphetamine can make you feel more confident when you drive. This can make you take dangerous risks and have accidents. It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs, including speed, base and ice. If you break this law you could lose your licence for a set time, or be fined or sent to prison.
Since January 2007, police have been conducting random roadside drug testing and can give any driver a roadside oral drug test. If you test positive you won’t be charged immediately but you will be prohibited from driving for 24 hours. The sample is sent to a laboratory and if it tests positive to methamphetamine or other drugs you will be charged to appear in court.
Even where random roadside drug testing is not being carried out, if a police officer suspects you have used drugs you could be arrested and taken to a hospital for a blood and urine test. The samples will be sent to a laboratory and if they test positive to methamphetamine or any other drug (including prescribed drugs) NSW Police will decide whether your driving would have been impaired by your drug use and you will then be charged accordingly.
Anyone under the influence of speed, base or ice who kills or injures another person while driving a motor vehicle, can be sentenced to a term in prison.