Crystal meth or ‘ice’ as it’s referred to here in Australia has over the years transformed from a wide-sweeping issue to that of a national health crisis. It gets the name ‘ice’ from its transparent appearance and is also called shard, shabu, crystal and glass.
It’s effect both long and short term on those that use it are extensive and dangerous. Physically it can and will ruin your skin, teeth and your hair. Ice addicts regularly appear older than they are. It leads to unhealthy weight loss, and coming down from an ice hit can take days and leave users paranoid, violent, anxious and exhausted. In this article, however, we’ll examine the link between prolonged ice use and depression.
When you try and end it, the come-down is harsh beyond belief and the high is rapidly replaced by an endless feeling of helplessness and depression. Unlike ending a cocaine addiction, your brain doesn’t know when the party is over and begins to crave the dopamine you chemically created. It leads to a fear that this depressive state will last forever.
That’s called anhedonia – or the inability to experience pleasure. When once activities like sex, food and money created excitement, anhedonia numbs those pleasure centres in your brain. Starving you of happiness. Ice injects dopamine through your brain, so when a user ceases his or her intake it leads to anhedonia. How permanent that is, has yet to be determined.
With toxic ingredients (including but certainly not limited to) ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, paint thinner, rat poison, battery acid and rock salt – ice’s venomous damage is profound. Dr Edward Ratush, a psychiatrist who specialises in the treatment of both depression and drug addiction, explains “Using Crystal meth for a substantial amount of time, especially when smoked, can put almost golf ball-sized holes in someone’s brain.” He adds that ice creates an incredible amount of brain damage. “If you look at someone who has had a traumatic brain injury, from a fall or car accident, their ability to experience happiness is also affected because different parts of the brain are interdependent,” he says. “The long-term meth user experiences traumatic brain injuries as a result of long time toxin ingestion.”
So, is there a way to repair the damage? According to Dr. Ratush, it’s a 50/50 question. “Certain problems are not repairable,” he says. “I suppose it’s theoretically possible, but I’m not sure what the exercises for that would be.”
Does this leave ice user’s in a no-win scenario then? Either giving up the drug and facing a life of unhappiness or continuing to use it and harming their health even further. The answer is at this point unclear. Either way, it’s a truly hard road ahead for those looking to pick up the pieces. There is, of course, the prescription of anti-depressants to boost dopamine, but there’s no indication that this will repair the long-term damage.
Leaving a chemical solution behind, one approach may be long-term cognitive or subconscious therapy, in which a psychologist attempts to reshape the thought patterns of an addict. Dr Ratush says, “You intellectually decide what it is that you need to be doing in life: what is healthy for you and is going to get you to a place that you want to be. And no matter how unmotivated you are, you just do it anyway. Eventually, the hope is that the ent will come from the neurobiological response from doing the activities. You have to run to eventually get a runner’s high.”
The link between ice and depression is this: creating a synthetic and incredible high and happiness builds a peak that no addict can ever reach again, and spends the rest of their addiction trying to summit once more. It’s a truth so many understand, but so many fail to learn. That pursuit of happiness is a marathon that never ends, and the realisation of that causes a user’s brain to end the extrapolation of happiness from the usual sources mentioned prior.
Thus it’s up to the loved ones of an ice user to spot, confront and treat the addiction before permanent damage is done. It begins at home, it begins with love.