Ice addiction is an insidious problem, and has now surpassed heroin and cocaine in prevalence. It may be the most addictive substance in circulation – preventing addiction in your loved ones is imperative. Know the signs.
Ice – or pure, crystallized methamphetamine – is the most addictive form of meth there is. Ice undergoes multiple stages of refinement to remove impurities, unlike other forms (such as speed and base), which is what gives it its potency. Psychological and physical addiction takes hold quickly – ice addiction often requires professional treatment to overcome.
Ice use is becoming increasingly common. Over the past year, approximately 25 million people have used amphetamines and methamphetamine – more than the number of people experimenting with cocaine or heroin.
Over time, ice takes its toll on the body as well as the mind, resulting in physical degradation and cognitive impairment that ultimately robs users of their ability to experience pleasure, as well as their good looks. It is important to recognize the signs of ice addiction, and to seek treatment, as early as possible.
If you suspect that your loved one is at risk for chronic meth use, here are the top behavioural, physical, and mood-related symptoms to watch out for:
1. Behavioural Disturbances
Meth is a powerful stimulant that leaves users restless, agitated and hyperactive. This can manifest in staying awake for days on end, or being seemingly unable to stop moving. As a function of the latter, those developing a meth habit may exhibit a dramatic increase in physical activity while under the influence.
After the drug wears off, however, you may notice the opposite – ie, lethargy and sleeping for extended periods of time. To draw attention away from their atypical sleeping habits, meth users may resort to sleeping pill abuse, faking sleep and giving excuses for their insomnia.
While under the influence, another behavioural disturbance you are likely to notice is extreme focus, potentially channelled into repetitive tasks.
Meth users can almost be said to have blinders on – they are thoroughly immersed in what they are doing, and have little regard for their surroundings. They frequently prefer to occupy themselves with repetitive, ostensibly meaningless tasks while high. They may do things like take things apart and put them back together, exercise excessively or do laundry repeatedly. The activities are likely to be odd, so are one of the easier signs to spot.
In addition to being much more active than you might usually expect, ice users frequently have little to no appetite, so dramatic and rapid weight loss is a common symptom. Before weight loss occurs, you might notice that your loved one alternates between eating very little for long stretches of time, and eating large volumes of carbohydrate-rich food (likely coinciding with the above-mentioned lethargy, as the drug wears off).
2. Physical Manifestations
Using meth simultaneously destroys tissue and impairs the body’s ability to repair itself by causing blood vessels to constrict, leading to widespread physical changes.
If someone you know is developing a meth habit, you will probably see it all over their face – their skin is likely to rapidly lose elasticity and lustre, resulting in premature ageing. You might also see acne or skin lesions that were not previously present, and observe that they take longer than they normally would to heal.
There are subtler signs to watch out for on the surface of the skin, as well. Ice use increases the heart rate dramatically, bringing both blood pressure and body temperature up. This generally results in excessive sweating. If you notice this – especially if the scent of the sweat is particularly pungent (some compare it to cat urine), take note.
Dilated Pupils and Twitching
After assessing your loved one’s skin, look into their eyes. While high, and even some time after, dilated pupils are an obvious indicator of use. Pupil dilation can persist for 26 hours after taking the drug. Given its longevity, users are likely to try to hide this symptom – keep an eye out for wearing sunglasses at odd hours.
Eye twitching is also a very common symptom of methamphetamine abuse. This is because meth use alters the structure and function of the brain, which affects fine motor control. You might expect to see a twitch every 20 seconds or so, on average. These persistent tics will be especially noticeable when under the influence, but are likely to continue once the effects of the high wear off.
In addition to skin and eye-related symptoms, meth has multiple mouth-based consequences. You might see repeated, uncontrollable jaw clenching, bad breath, and rotting teeth. Tooth decay in chronic meth users is so common that there’s even a name for it: meth mouth, which is characterized by rotting, broken teeth. This happens because meth restricts the function of salivary glands, causing the mouth to dry out and acids to run rampant, eating away at teeth and causing widespread decay. Users may attempt to moisten their dry mouths and mask decay by drinking excessively or chewing gum to stimulate salivary glands. Bottom line: unexplained dental issues may be a red flag.
3. Mood Changes
Mood changes are some of the most prominent, immediate symptoms of ice addiction. This is due in part to the fact that ice is a strong stimulant that gives the body a surge of adrenaline in conjunction with a dopamine hit, the combination of which throws mood regulation into disarray.
Initially, these changes are ostensibly positive (which is why the drug is attractive in the first place). The initial surge of dopamine when ice is ingested leads to intense pleasure and euphoria while high, as well as increased productivity, limitless energy and increased confidence. This confidence may be sexual in nature, and lead to promiscuity and risky behaviour. The sense of wellbeing, alertness, and confidence characteristic of an ice high will last for around six to twelve hours after a hit is taken.
Once those initial euphoric effects fade, users swing to the opposite end of the mood spectrum, as they come down. 95% of people who regularly use meth report feeling depressed and anxious while not under the influence of the drug. This dopamine-driven roller coaster is what keeps users coming back for more. If you are seeing dramatic, uncharacteristic highs and lows in conjunction with other symptoms, pay attention.
With chronic ice use, dopamine and adrenaline receptors are repeatedly flooded and worn down, and dependence is initiated. Once this happens, the body struggles to produce enough dopamine to maintain balance in absence of the drug, leading to depression and anxiety as a baseline state.
Mood shifts in chronic users may be so extreme so as to be characterized by psychosis: violent outbursts, yelling fits, or delusions and hallucinations (eg, talking to people who are not there). They might begin to act paranoid – as if everyone is out to get them. You would notice these unpredictable, erratic behaviours most prominently while your loved one is actively using, but may be observed in the absence of the drug as well.
Ice Addiction Treatment at The Cabin Melbourne
Ice may be the most addictive substance in active circulation. If you suspect that someone you love is battling an ice addiction, it is imperative that you get them help – right away. The Cabin Melbourne’s world-class facilities are uniquely positioned to help set your loved one on the road to recovery. Contact us for an overview of our multifaceted treatment options.