Title: Ice: Speed | Smoke | Fire
Author: Jim Parker
Publisher: Do It Now Foundation
Publication Date: March 2011
Catalog Number: 165

,,Smoke & Mirrors

it almost seems like somebody’s gotta be making it all
up. Because no sooner does the media declare last year’s drug
problem (GHB, Rohypnol, Special K — take your pick) permanently
passé than it discovers a new mole/wrinkle on the tired
face of substance abuse and proclaims it the drug problem
of the new year or century or millennium.

As often as
not, the new “menace” turns out to be just another
blip on the great media sensationalism machine.

But by the
time anyone realizes that, the media “experts” are
latching onto the next Big Thing, on “60 Minutes” or
“20/20,” worrying about What It All Means and
Where Do We Go From Here.

Still, sometimes
the drug smoke the media blows turns out to be hovering over
a real fire.

That’s what
turned out to be true with a smokeable new form of an old drug
it labelled “ice,” or “glass” when it first
began to rear its ugly little head in the 1990’s.

Ice has attracted
major media notice, and it is living up to its billing — so
far, at least –as the “crack of the 21st Century.”
And just like crack, it’s leaving a huge trail of broken
people in its wake, people who somehow didn’t hear or believe
the warnings.

That’s why
we put this pamphlet together: to sort the smoke from the fire
on ice, whether you call it that or what it really is
— and was all along: crystal meth.

Because the
smoke that meth turns into is a real pharmacological fire —
one that burns everything (and everyone) it touches.

And we don’t
want you to be one of them.

,,Crystal & Ice

So how are
ice and meth different? They aren’t.

That’s because
ice is crystal — at least, a smokeable form of crystal
— first developed in South Korea and Taiwan, and introduced
to the U.S. by Asian drug gangs.

Both are bootleg
versions of d-methamphetamine hydrochloride, the most potent
form of the stimulant drug group known as amphetamines.

For years,
meth was a drug in search of a disease. After it was first synthesized
in 1919, it was tried against everything from depression to decongestion.
Today, it’s rarely prescribed, except as an occasional short-term
treatment for obesity and sleeping sickness.

That’s because
it blocks appetite and fatigue so well (and triggers feelings
of arousal that are so intense) that uncontrolled medical use
boiled over into large-scale non-medical use over the years in
places as far-flung as Sweden, the United States, and Japan.

That brought
crackdowns, and a gradual disappearance of most forms of legal

But it’s not
the medical use of the drug that put the buzz back in the meth

Instead, it
was the reemergence of street versions of the drug, doing what
meth always does best: getting the people who use it strung out
— and worse.

,,Powder & Vapor

One factor
in the hype surrounding ice is that the drug is smoked, just
like crack cocaine.

The similarity
doesn’t end there.

Since they’re
both absorbed through the lungs, effects are intense — and kick
in fast. And even though smoking meth isn’t that new —
it was reported in Hawaii as early as 1968 and elsewhere in the
U.S. since the late ’50s — ice does offer a new twist
on an old recipe for trouble.

For one thing,
it’s easier to do. In powder form, meth requires a high temperature
to vaporize, so smoking never really caught on before. Converting
the drug to pure crystals made it easier to melt and produce
a concentrated vapor.

Not only that,
but ice also tends to be less diluted than methamphetamine, due
to the difficulty of “cutting” crystals with additives
and bulking agents.

Still, the
potency of ice only adds to a list of problems linked to methamphetamine.

And there were
plenty of those, to begin with.

,,Actions & Hazards

No matter how
they get to work, all forms of methamphetamine end up working
in the same way in the same place, turning up the biochemistry
of the brain.

the drug increases the activity of two key neurotransmitters,
dopamine and epinephrine. In low, prescribed doses
(10-20 mg. taken orally), the drug unleashes a surge of energy
and alertness and temporary loss of appetite.

Heartbeat and
blood pressure also rise as the drug pumps up cardiac activity
and constricts blood vessels.

At higher doses,
activity in the brain and central nervous system jumps further.

The result:
alertness, tension, and all the signs of physical and psychological
arousal-from racing thoughts and rapid breathing to activation
of the body’s “fight or flight” response, making us
ready to do or die.

But speed saves
its most spectacular — and spectacularly dangerous — effects
for those who smoke or inject the drug.

In fact, effects
of ice are identical to those produced by injection, since smoking
and shooting involve direct pathways to the brain.

Each delivers
a concentrated blast of the drug in seconds, compared with the
longer, slower absorption that occurs with oral use.

The effect
is overwhelming: a flash of euphoria, followed by an extended
period of energized alertness. The rush is so powerful that users
quickly crave it over the drug’s longer-lasting stimulant action.

And that’s
when problems really get started.

,,Tweeking & Amping

of the dangers involved, there’s still a lot of misinformation
swirling around about ice, particularly about the duration of
its effects.

Early media
reports to the contrary, a single dose of ice does not trigger
a marathon high lasting 16 hours. What reports of long-term ice
intoxication really reflect is the increased purity of the drug
and the way it drives users to take more, more often.

It’s a small
distinction, but important. Because when smoked or injected,
ice hits fast and hard — then fades (like other types of speed)
over a period of up to eight hours.

Users frequently
“chase” the high by upping their dose, sometimes to
the point where they smoke continuously for days or weeks, with
little food and less sleep.

At the height
of a typical tweeking “mission,” hard-core crystal
users may inject 10-12 times a day at 2-3 hour intervals. Heavy
ice smokers can spend dozens of days each month amping up on
ice. Tolerance builds so quickly that users end up taking massive
amounts during a run, compounding the risks.

The tendency
to slide into high-dose, non-stop use points up yet another danger
of ice: It gets users into methamphetamine in a way that’s almost
guaranteed to cause serious problems — and worse.

,,Toxicity & Trouble

troubles are legendary. They start with the physical effects
of over-amping-tremors, dizziness, nausea, and rapid heartbeat
— and build all the way to overdose.

And even though
methamphetamine is usually less-often lethal than cocaine, overdose
can occur. It’s particularly likely to occur during an
extended run, when users lose track — or control — of how much
they use.

Perhaps the
best-known danger linked to speed is the psycho-emotional meltdown
of toxic psychosis. Symptoms — including hallucinations, panic,
and paranoia — can involve irrational, even violent behavior.

Since psychosis
is related to high blood levels of methamphetamine, it often
clears within a week after stopping use. However, some symptoms
may persist for weeks or months. Researchers think that long-lasting
episodes may be caused by damage to dopamine-producing structures
in the brain.

Other risks
include organ damage, malnutrition, and the general breakdown
that follows driving the body faster than it was meant to go.
And ice smoking causes the same sorts of lung damage seen in
crack smokers.

,,Life and Meth

As often as
not, people get into drugs like ice and crystal innocently enough.

They take it
to party or just to taste-test whatever the media is hyping as
the next Big Thing, drug-wise.

For some, it
starts and stops there.

But for others,
ice and its chemical cousins become a life-and-death ritual.
And living without speed can seem a real dead-end existence to
someone who’s learned to equate feeling wired with feeling alive.
Don’t become one of them.

Because of
all the drugs the media has picked up on since crystal meth made
its first big splash in the deep end of the drug pool, probably
none has produced more consistently-negative long-term effects
to more people than speed.

And no matter
what you call it, and no matter how it gets into your body, speed
still kills. And, too often, it ruins what it doesn’t kill.

And that’s
not hype. That’s just the way it is.

And it’s probably
the way it always will be.

,,Sidebar| Meltdown Management:
Getting Off Ice

Getting off
ice — or any other stimulant drug — can be tricky. And staying
off is trickier, still. But it can be done, and it is
being done every day by lots of people. If you have a problem,
you should be one of them.

Recovery starts
when you admit that you’re hooked. It expands as you acknowledge
the needs inside you that drive the craving and stare down the
emptiness and boredom that can come with finding yourself suddenly

But how do
you beat it? You do it in lots of ways, one at a time or all
at once.

Since a big
part of speed’s allure derives from the physical arousal it generates,
it’s important to find alternative activities to trigger similar
feelings-without the boom-or-bust convulsive body-mind cycles
of speed. Ways that work:

  • Jogging. Running is a perfect way to relieve
    problems. It can induce trance-like states that dissolve negative
    feelings, and it helps the body burn off calories and control
    weight-reasons some get involved with speed in the first place.
    Walking works just as well, but takes longer.
  • Meditation. Believe it or not, meditation and other
    alternative-focus activities can produce effects that end up
    feeling pretty stimulating. Don’t know how? Check out The
    Relaxation Response
    (by Dr. Herbert Benson) or Creative
    (by Shakti Gawain) from your local library
    for tips on getting started.

But get started
— and do it now. Playing with ice is like playing with fire
— except, with ice, it can take a while to know just how badly
you’ve been burned. 

This is one in a series of publications
on drugs, behavior, and health published by Do It Now Foundation.
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