While ice, crystal meth and meth refer to the same general substance, crystal meth refers to the drug in a more potent and concentrated form. Knowing the differences between the types of meth is important in considering the risks and potential consequences of each.
Article at a Glance:
- Crystal meth (also known as ice) is a powerful form of methamphetamine (meth). It creates an extended high that can be felt for up to 24 hours.
- Because of its strength, ice is often seen to be more addictive than other types of meth.
- Ice has a rock-like appearance, while other types of meth may be a fine white powder or brownish-yellow oily substance.
- There are many negative long-term consequences of using meth in all forms, including ice.
Table of Contents
What is the Drug Ice?
“Ice” is the street name for pure methamphetamine (meth). Meth is a powerful stimulant that increases dopamine and makes a person feel a rush of euphoria and high energy levels. Since a lot of street methamphetamine is adulterated with harmful chemicals, ice is prized for being a pure form of the drug, which causes a longer high.
Are Meth and Ice the Same Thing?
Yes, Ice (also referred to as crystal meth) refers to the rock or glass-like form of methamphetamine. Both crystal meth and ice are common street names for meth.
However, ice does differ from other types of meth for things like appearance, strength, duration of effects, etc.
What Are Other Types of Meth?
Meth can come in different forms that change the way it is used and the effects it can have on the brain and body. In general, meth comes in three main forms including:
- Ice or crystal meth, which has a rock-like appearance
- A fine white powder often referred to as ‘speed,’ which is often snorted
- An oily and a thick brownish-yellow substance called ‘base’
Differences Between Ice and Other Forms of Meth
Differences in Strength & Purity
The most important difference between ice and other forms of meth is its strength and purity. Ice is a more pure and strong form of meth, compared to the speed or base forms of meth. It is typically manufactured in chemical super labs that can preserve its potency with few to no additives.
When in a purified form, the half-life of meth is 6-15 hours, which means it takes this long for the body to remove half of the drug. Based on the half-life, meth stays in the body for at least 30 hours and up to 75 hours after last use. As a result, ice is more addictive and creates an extended high that can be felt up to 24 hours after use.
Since ice is the purest form of methamphetamine available, the strength and length of its effects can make it a target for abuse and overdose. Ice and other concentrated forms of illegal drugs are more likely to cause overdose and death than less concentrated forms.
Differences in Effects
As a stimulant, all forms of meth can produce a ‘rush,’ which refers to feelings of euphoria and a burst of energy. However, using meth in different forms can alter the effects. For example, in its purest form, the effects can be stronger and can last longer.
Using speed or base will still produce a high but may not be as quick-acting or strong. Speed is a powder form of meth that often contains other substances and is usually the least pure form of meth. Base is a damp or oily substance that is purer than speed powder and is often injected or swallowed but is not as pure as ice/crystal.
In general, high purity means that the substance will produce a more intense high and for a longer period.
Differences in Risks
The different methods of use also carry slightly different overdose risks. When the potency of a drug like meth increases, then the overdose risk also increases because it becomes more toxic.
For example, since ice has the highest purity, it will feel the best when using it but it carries the greatest risk of toxicity and overdose.
Since meth works by increasing dopamine in the brain, higher purity also typically leads to greater binging behavior which can increase the risk of overdose.
The Difference in Paraphernalia
The differences in paraphernalia are generally related to the form of meth being used:
- Speed: speed is a powder that can be injected, snorted, or swallowed. Therefore, paraphernalia may include rolled-up bills, small mirrors, razor blades, syringes and needles, or empty capsules.
- Base: base is an oily substance most often injected. Therefore, paraphernalia includes syringes and needles.
- Ice: since ice is extremely pure, there are many options for ingestion and its paraphernalia includes glass pipes, lights, syringes and needles, empty capsules, rolled-up bills, small mirrors and razors.
Difference in Availability
The availability of ice, base or speed will depend on the location. Different geographic regions have big differences in what is commonly available or purchased.
There is no safe way to use meth, but each type of meth and method of use carries its own risks. Meth is linked with serious long-term consequences, like poor oral health, psychiatric problems and overdose.
- Alcoholism and Drug Addiction. “Irreversible Brain Damage Caused by Methamphetamine: Persisting Structural Brain Lesions.” March 2016. Accessed Aug 30, 2021.
- National Alcohol and Drug Knowledgebase. “Are There Different Forms of Methamphetamine?” n.d. Accessed Aug 30, 2021.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. “What is Methamphetamine?” May 2019. Accessed Aug 30, 2021.
- StatPearls. “Methamphetamine Toxicity.” Jan 2021. Accessed Aug 30, 2021.
- Medical Disclaimer
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