Addiction | 5 min read
Medically Reviewed By
On March 27, 2023
On May 22, 2023
The term “ice” is a street name that refers to the crystal form of meth. Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug impacting the central nervous system with devastating effects. This smokable substance is highly addictive, much like other stimulants like cocaine.
Ice is a form of crystalline methamphetamines or crystal meth. It looks like white and translucent glass shards or is similar to rock salt. Due to its highly addictive nature, crystal meth is a Schedule II controlled substance as designated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Crystal meth is one of the purest forms of methamphetamine that is far more potent than other types. Ice will temporarily increase the brain’s dopamine release, leading to a “high” or a sensation of euphoria.
Meth has a slower clearance rate from the body and can remain in your system longer than other stimulants. Ice or meth distribution  studies show that it took over 75 minutes to clear from the brain, stomach, and liver. As opposed to seven minutes from the spleen.
Meth goes by many names in the streets.  As it is primarily an illegally manufactured substance, this list is an ever-changing roster that could change if a new meth designer drug makes an appearance on the streets.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center (a division of the Department of Justice) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), there is a long list of common names that include :
Ice is a methamphetamine substance that falls into the stimulant drug category. There are many forms of stimulants, from prescription medications and illicit drugs to natural substances with similar effects.
Cocaine is another stimulant substance with similar effects. It is made from the leaves of a coca plant and is also highly addictive.
Amphetamine prescriptions are a class of FDA-approved substances with specific medical and psychiatric uses. In most cases, these medications are prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and narcolepsy.
Prescription amphetamines include Adderall®, Ritalin®, Concerta®, Focalin®, Dexedrine®, Metadate®, and Methylin®.
This is a naturally occurring stimulant that is derived from the sticks and leaves of a flowering plant that is native to the continent of Africa. The active ingredient is cathinone which has the same CNS effects as ice.
Meth in any form, including the drug ice, is associated with a wide spectrum of side effects, withdrawal symptoms, and long-term health risks. These effects range from mild and annoying to severe and life-threatening.
Increased dopamine release in the brain results in feelings of euphoria. This is a strong contributor to the addictive properties of ice and all other forms of meth. It’s also what makes one’s recovery and treatment harder to begin once long-term meth habits are established.
Common side effects cover a wide range, from simply uncomfortable to dangerous and deadly.
Methamphetamines have a severe impact on the brain, both with immediate euphoric effects, as well as more long-term and potentially dangerous consequences. With the effects of dopamine changes and the parts of your brain that may become damaged, psychological symptoms of ice use may include:
Similar to all other forms of meth, ice has a severely negative effect on your brain chemistry. It’s especially damaging to the parts of your brain that are responsible for cognitive function and the ability to learn new things.
Other long-term effects of meth use may include:
In a recent study from the Center for Disease Control, over 32,500 overdose deaths were attributed to methamphetamine use in a single year.  Due to the high potency and addictive nature of ice and crystal meth, ice users are at increased risk of falling victim to a drug overdose.
As your body becomes accustomed to increased dopamine levels due to long-term ice use, it will produce less and less dopamine naturally. This inevitably leads to your body craving increasingly more ice to sustain the desired dopamine levels. In turn, this increases the risk of overdose even more.
Brain damage that is sustained due to crystal meth use, such as reduced cognitive processing, confusion, and impaired learning, may only be partially reversible. It’s critical for one’s safety as well as the quality of life to pursue treatment for meth use as soon as possible.
Ice users are more likely to have a stroke or develop heart problems. They are also prone to delusions and hallucinations, along with other symptoms of psychosis.
It’s also common for ice users to have rotting teeth and to develop gum disease (periodontitis). They are also more likely to have a seizure and present other Parkinson’s disease-like symptoms. It’s clear that the high isn’t worth the loss.
Detoxing from substances is always an uncomfortable experience. The symptoms and timeline will be different for each patient as it’s connected to the frequency of use, the method of delivery, and the dosage that was last taken.
When undergoing detox alone or at home, withdrawal symptoms can be scary and intimidating. Some detox and withdrawal symptoms for ice include:
The best way to ensure safety and success during detox is to seek help at a medical detox facility. Here, you will find relief from symptoms, 24/7 monitoring, and access to constant medical care.
If you or a loved one are struggling with crystal meth use or a co-occurring disorder, seek professional help right away and begin your path to a safe and successful recovery.
There are several options for ongoing treatment after you’ve completed a medical detox. The goal is to ensure you, or your loved one receives the attentive care, effective treatment, and practical support needed to maintain your recovery.
Inpatient or Residential Programs are a good fit just after detox, where you will receive the same constant care that is supplemented by other holistic interventions like medication management and therapy sessions.
Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP) is the next level of care. This program still offers daily support but allows you to sleep at home or at another safe and sober facility.
Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) is a step down in care from a PHP. These programs offer multiple sessions for treatment and therapy every week while giving you more freedom in your schedule to attend to your daily obligations.
Once regular treatment ends and you’re ready for greater autonomy, an Aftercare plan will be created to support you long-term on an as-needed basis. Establishing a strong foundation in treatment is what creates sustainable and healthy recovery.
No. The street name “ice” refers to methamphetamine, specifically crystal meth. While both cocaine and meth are stimulants with similar effects, they’re not the same substance.
Crystal meth, or ice, is considered one of the purest forms of meth. If uncut with additives or other substances, yes, it can be more potent than other forms of meth.
Within a treatment program at a medical detox center, patients receive medication-assisted therapy (MAT) to reduce the symptoms of withdrawal and temper cravings. MAT has the highest success rates when paired with evidence-based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Interviewing (MI), and other experiential or holistic interventions.
Here at Ascendant New York, we understand the importance of having access to accurate medical information you can trust, especially when you or a loved one is suffering from addiction. Find out more on our policy.
 Volkow, N. D., Fowler, J. S., Wang, G.-J., Shumay, E., Telang, F., Thanos, P. K., & Alexoff, D. National Library of Medicine. (2010, December 7). Distribution and pharmacokinetics of methamphetamine in the human body: Clinical implications. PloS one. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2998419 on 2023, March 8
 DEA. Methamphetamine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dea.gov/factsheets/methamphetamine on 2023, March 8
 United States Department of Justice. (n.d.). Crystal methamphetamine fast facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs5/5049/5049p.pdf on 2023, March 9
 NIDA. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2023, March 8). Drug overdose death rates. Retrieved from https://nida.nih.gov/research-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates on 2023, March 8