Drug Taking and Addiction

All humans are susceptible to becoming addicted to different things. A body builder gets hooked on their image, a marathon runner can’t stop training, a coffee lover can’t start the day without a couple of strong espressos.
These addictions are manageable. But what happens when the addiction is bad for you.

It is hard to believe that a cigarette can be addictive, yet it is. Apart from being proven to be linked to cancer and emphysema, the nicotine changes the body so you physically and mentally can’t survive with out them.

Mental Illness
But what if your addiction is changing the chemical makeup of your brain? The brain is what defines a human being, and in today’s world is being pushed far beyond its genetic design, even when treated with care.

Consequently we are all susceptible to degrees of mental dis-functioning, and in fact given the right (wrong!!!) circumstances, mental illness. Insomnia, anxiety, extreme excitability, lack of concentration, total selfishness … all are negative traits that indicate not all your neurons are working 100%. But that’s ok, that is what makes people individuals.

However, depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia, paranoia etc are mental illnesses that can beset any of us. Yes, we can all be at risk, if we are put in extremely stressful situations for prolonged periods.

It is also proven that drugs do the same thing, but far more efficiently. They alter the brain’s functioning and for frequent users, this often becomes permanent.

Note, this is not hearsay. It is PROVEN that regular use will frequently trigger mental disorders. And once you have a mental illness, it is not reversible.

Psychological dependence
Psychological dependence is a major risk with any drug. A substance which affects your mood can easily become addictive, even after a short period of time, especially if you start thinking it’s a better feeling than being straight.
• Smoking a lot of hash frequently leaves many people thinking they have to get stoned to cope with the world.
• The mind gets hooked on stimulants such as crack and cocaine, without you even having a say. This is because the hit is intense but doesn’t last long, and so users feel the need to ‘chase the high’ by taking more and more.
• Some people are more likely to develop a psychological addiction quicker than others, it’s impossible to predict as your state of mind is always changing. There are no guarantees, and the longer you have taken them, the greater the risk.
• Kicking a psychological addiction testing as the physical withdrawal. Physical addiction
• Family history is very indicative of how you will cope. If your parents, brothers or sisters suffered badly, then chances are you will have that same genetic makeup and be affected in the same way.

Physically addictive drugs
These include heroin, tranquilizers, alcohol and sleeping pills and they work by changing the body chemistry:
• The more you do these kind of drugs, the more you need a hit to feel normal.
• This won’t happen after the first go, but then most people don’t realise they’re addicted until they’re hooked.
• Coming off physically addictive drugs (withdrawing) can be extremely unpleasant. Basically your body has to get used to going without, and may react badly for the first few days (or months). This is often called cold turkey. Symptoms include cramps, shivering, chills and sweats. Even after your body’s free of drugs, the mental cravings can be intense for a long time after. Staying clean can be a constant battle.
• Withdrawing from a chronic addiction to a tranquilliser such as Temazepam can result in physical symptoms such as seizures, hallucinations and vomiting. Other risks
• All drugs carry risks of some kind, especially when the effects are unexpected.
• Taking too much of any drug in one go risks an experience that could get out of control.
• Many drugs sold on the street have been mixed with other substances, so users can never be sure what they’re getting.
• Users may become tolerant to certain drugs like alcohol, heroin, and speed. This means their bodies have become so used to the drug that they need to take more to get the hit they’re after.
• As a result, users may overdose (i.e. take too much for their bodies to handle). With alcohol, heroin, gases, glues and aerosols, an overdose can kill.
• Mixing any drug is seriously risky. Doubling up depressant drugs (such as heroin and alcohol) depresses the body’s ability to function properly and can be fatal.

ICE
Ice is the most frightening drug to ever have been created, and is often where other drug taking can lead to. So read carefully.
”Ice” is a street name for crystal methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is a powerful, synthetic stimulant drug. Stimulant drugs speed up the messages going to and from the brain.
Ice is more potent than other forms of amphetamines. It is more pure than the powder form of methamphetamine (”speed”).
Ice often appears as large, transparent and “sheet-like” crystals that may have a hint of pink, blue or green colour.
Other street names for ice include “meth”, “d-meth”, “crystal”, “crystal meth”, “shabu” “batu”, “tina” and “glass”.

How is it used?
Ice is known to be smoked, swallowed, snorted, injected or inserted anally (“shafting”). Some people smoke ice using a glass pipe, while others heat it on aluminium foil and inhale the vapours (“chasing”).

Ice use in Australia
• In 2004, 3.2 per cent of Australians aged 14 years and older had used amphetamines for non-medical purposes in the previous year and over 38 per cent of this group reported the type of amphetamine they used was ice. 1
• Ice use among injecting drug users increased from 15 per cent in 2000 to 52 per cent in 2004. 2
• In 2004, 63 per cent of a sample of people who used ecstasy had tried ice at least once and 45 per cent had used ice in the past 6 months.

What are the effects of ice?
The effects of any drug (including ice) vary from person to person, depending on the individual’s size, weight and health, how much and how the drug is taken, whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken. Effects also depend on the environment in which the drug is used—such as whether the person is alone, with others or at a party.

Immediate effects
Soon after taking ice, a person may experience a number of psychological and physical effects including:
• feelings of euphoria, excitement and well being
• increased alertness, confidence and libido, more energy, feelings of increased strength, talkativeness, restlessness, repeating simple acts, and itching, picking and scratching
• tremors of the hands and fingers
• speeding up of bodily functions, such as increased breathing rate, body temperature, blood pressure, a rapid and irregular heartbeat and excessive sweating
• difficulty sleeping, reduced appetite, dilated pupils, dry mouth, stomach cramps, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision and severe headaches
• abrupt shifts in thought and speech, which can make someone using ice difficult to understand
• nervousness, panic attacks, anxiety, paranoia
• irritability, aggression, hostility and “amphetamine psychosis”, including hallucinations, paranoid delusions and bizarre behaviour.
The variable purity of each batch of ice increases the risk of negative effects and overdose.

Coming down
As the effects of ice wear off, a person may experience a range of symptoms such as tension, depression, radical mood swings, uncontrollable violence and exhaustion.

Long-term effects
Long-term use of ice can result in a number of health issues, including:
• high blood pressure and increased risk of heart-related complications such as heart attack and heart failure
• malnutrition and rapid weight loss due to reduced appetite
• chronic sleeping problems
• reduced immunity and increased susceptibility to infections due to the person not sleeping or eating properly
• depression, anxiety, tension and paranoia
• brain damage (there is some evidence that amphetamines may damage brain cells resulting in reduced memory function and other impairments in thinking)
• dental problems (from grinding teeth)
• smoking ice can damage the lungs
• snorting ice can damage the lining of the nose
• injecting ice can lead to scarring, abscesses and vein damage. Sharing injecting equipment increases the risk of contracting blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

Other effects and issues
Due to some of the effects of ice, some people may be more prone to practice unsafe sex. This increases the chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections and blood-borne viruses, such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV.
As well as health problems, using ice (or any drug) can result in family, financial, legal, work, school and other personal problems. These problems can be made much worse because some people who use ice can become irritable, hostile and violent and/or experience other psychological problems. It is also dangerous to drive a vehicle or operate machinery after using ice.

Ice and pregnancy
Using ice while pregnant can affect the development of the foetus. Amphetamine use has been linked with bleeding, early labour, an increased risk of foetal abnormalities and changes to the brain.
If amphetamines are used close to birth the baby may be unsettled, overactive and agitated. Babies born to mothers who regularly used amphetamines during their pregnancy may experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Tolerance and dependence
People who use ice can quickly develop a tolerance to the drug so that increasingly greater doses are needed to achieve the desired effects. Ice can also lead to physical and/or psychological dependence. People who are  psychologically dependent on ice find that using it becomes far more important than other activities in their life. They crave the drug and find it very difficult to stop using it. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body adapts to the drug and the body gets used to functioning with the drug present. If a person who is physically dependent on ice suddenly stops taking it they may experience withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal
Some of the symptoms people may experience once they have stopped using ice include:
• disorientation
• hunger
• extreme fatigue and exhaustion
• decreased energy, apathy and the limited ability to experience pleasure
• anxiety, irritability and depression
• craving ice.

Ice article courtesy of The Drug Info Clearing House

More information
For more information on ICE and other drugs go the DrugInfo ClearingHouse.  http://www.druginfo.adf.org.au/article.asp?ContentID=ice_crystal_methamphetamine_hy

Or contact the DrugInfo Clearinghouse on tel. 1300 85 85 84, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

References
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2005 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: Detailed findings, Canberra: AIHW
2 National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) 2005 Australian Drug Trends 2004: Findings from the Illicit Drug Reporting System, Sydney: NDARC
3 NCDARC 2005 Australian Trends in Ecstasy and Related Drug Markets 2004: Findings from the Party Drug Initiative, Sydney: NDARC