Both are methamphetamines. First, let’s look at what the drug is, chemically. Methamphetamine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant. It acts on the brain, causing feelings of alertness and well-being. These feelings are the “high,” the reason some start taking this type of drug and become addicted to it. In addition, methamphetamine can cause a physical dependence, which is why people continue to take it to prevent withdrawal from the drug.
The feelings from “ice” are very much the same as those from crack cocaine, another CNS stimulant. But how those feelings come about is different. When a nerve acts, chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are released from one nerve cell and move to the next cell. The neurotransmitters transfer the message. If no neurotransmitters are released, no message is transferred. Methamphetamine causes the chemicals to be released in large amounts. The result is an intense feeling–“euphoria.” Cocaine, on the other hand, keeps the chemicals from being removed. For both cocaine and amphetamines, the nerve is still kept “on,” by different means.
“Ice” is essentially a crystalline form of methamphetamine that is smoked, much like the crack form of cocaine. The effects of “ice” are much stronger than the effects of the same amount of “speed.” The higher potency is one thing that is making “ice” a popular drug of abuse today.
The effects of “ice” also last much longer than methamphetamine, which makes it attractive to people who would use drugs. Since “ice” is more potent and lasts longer than the older form of methamphetamine, the potential for having a dangerous or toxic reaction from the drug is very real.
Symptoms of Overdose
Violence is often connected to methamphetamine use. Symptoms of “ice” overdose include restlessness, confusion, violent behavior, or hallucinations. Since the drug is long-lasting, overdose may not always mean using a single large dose, but could also be from using the drug too often.
To add to the danger of overdose, methamphetamine is often used repeatedly, over a long period of time. Methamphetamine is highly addictive. When the high from “ice” begins to disappear, the user takes more. This may continue for hours. Oftentimes when the person stops using the drug, a depression sets in. To get rid of the depression, more drug is used. The user is not likely to be aware of how much drug he or she has taken. The violence and confusion of an overdose is a fairly frequent result.
Serious Health Effect
In addition to addiction and risk of overdose, methamphetamine use has other serious medical problems associated with it.
Methamphetamine users feel a rush of energy. At the same time, the bronchi of their lungs enlarge to let in more air. Blood pressure increases, as does heart rate. Any potential heart problem, not yet diagnosed, may show up suddenly as a heart attack.
Doctors are beginning to seriously look at methamphetamine use as a cause of heart attacks in younger patients with no history of heart disease. The heart is a muscle. To keep working, the heart muscle needs a constant supply of blood. Methamphetamine may make the blood vessels in the heart contract suddenly (go into a spasm). This can reduce the blood flow to the heart muscle itself. When part of the heart muscle stops getting blood and starts to die, we say the person has had a heart attack.
The increased blood pressure can put stress on a weak blood vessel, causing it to burst. If this happens in the brain, the person suffers a stroke. A stroke may have slight effects, or may mean loss of the use of an arm or leg. The victim may be unable to speak or to read or to communicate with others. The person may die.
These effects can occur with stimulants. “Ice” is, if anything, less predictable and more dangerous than other stimulants. “Ice” can be almost 100 percent pure, or as little as half active. Often the user has no way of knowing how powerful a batch of illegal drug is until it is used.
Because the drug stays in the body, even a small increase in drug levels may be enough to produce serious health effects. If the drug used was partially pure, but is now replaced with a stronger batch, over-dose or serious medical problems are likely.
“Ice” has become popular among drug abusers. Since it is smoked, some users who fear the dangers of contracting hepatitis or AIDS from needles are not worried.
The effects of “ice” last up to 60 times longer than those of cocaine. Drug users prefer the long-lasting high of “ice” to the short peak felt with cocaine or crack.
“Ice” can be synthesized in a laboratory, so smuggling is not a factor. Of course, the drug is not made in commercial laboratories; “ice” has no medical use. Manufacture of the drug takes place wherever a “lab” can be set up.
* There is no quality control.
* Purity and strength of the drug vary from one batch to the next.
* The chance of drug contamination is always possible and harmful.
* Variable strength may also lead to increased risk of overdose.
“Ice” is dangerous. Its effects are potentially lethal. Once a person uses the drug, the cycle of addiction starts. Stopping is not easy. Not starting may save a life.