Crystal meth or ice is the strongest form of methamphetamine. Learn the key differences between ice and other types of meth.

While ice, crystal meth and meth refer to the same general substance, crystal meth refers to the drug in a purer, more potent and concentrated form. Meth rock, ice, glass, shards — there are many slang terms used to describe crystal meth. 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.

What Is Ice (Crystal Methamphetamine)?

“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 that causes a longer high.

Other Street Names for Crystal Meth

Crystal meth has many street names, including:

  • Batu 
  • Blade 
  • Cristy 
  • Crystal 
  • Crystal glass 
  • Hanyak 
  • Hiropon 
  • Hot ice 
  • Ice
  • Kaksonjae 
  • L.A. glass 
  • L.A. ice 
  • Quartz 
  • Shabu 
  • Shards 
  • Stove top 
  • Super ice 
  • Tina 
  • Ventana 
  • Vidrio

Are Meth and Ice the Same Thing?

Ice (also known as crystal meth) refers to a unique form of methamphetamine. Ice refers specifically to the high-potency type of meth that looks like rocks or glass-like shards. Although some people may use the terms ice and meth interchangeably, ice is a much more specific term that refers to the crystal meth subtype.

What Does Crystal Meth Look Like?

While regular meth comes as a pill or powder, crystal meth does not. Instead, crystal meth looks like glass fragments or shiny, blue-white rocks of different sizes. 

What Does Meth Look Like?

Meth usually looks like a white pill or a powder. However, 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:

  1. Ice or crystal meth, which has a shiny rock-like appearance
  2. A fine white powder often referred to as “speed” or “crank,” which is typically snorted
  3. An oily and thick brownish-yellow substance called “base”

Differences Between Ice and Other Forms of Meth

Ice differs from other forms of meth in various ways. This can have a direct impact on not only the high someone gets from using the drug, but also the drug’s addictive potential and overdose risk.

Differences in Strength and Purity

The most important difference between ice and other forms of meth is its strength and purity. Ice is a purer and stronger 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 six to 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 it is not as pure as ice/crystal.

In general, high purity means that the substance will produce a more intense high and last for a longer period. This can increase the addictive risk of the substance.

Differences in Risks

The different methods of use also carry slightly different overdose risks. When the potency of a drug like meth increases, 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 also 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: Also called “crank” in drug slang terms, 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. Its paraphernalia includes glass pipes, lighters, 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. The best way to overcome these risks is to find professional treatment for meth abuse and addiction.

If you or someone you love is struggling with meth addiction, The Recovery Village is here for you. Contact us today to learn more about meth addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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Editor – Jonathan Strum
Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor's in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.