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What are the mental health effects of ice?

People using methamphetamines (like ice) can experience mental health symptoms while using the drug or during the 'comedown' or ‘crash’ phase. Symptoms usually last a few days to a few weeks. For some people mental health symptoms persist and develop into mental disorders in their own right.

The effects of ice on mental health can include:

Aggression irritability mood swings


Substance-induced psychosis

A 'comedown'

Anxiety and panic attacks

Feelings of euphoria (a high)

  • Dependence on ice
  • Anxiety
  • Poor memory
  • Paranoia
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Damage to attention span


Methamphetamine use (including ice use) can lead to disrupted sleeping patterns, due to the stimulant effects of the drug. This can develop into insomnia-type sleep problems that persist even though the effects of ice have worn off.

Those experiencing insomnia typically have difficulty falling asleep or may wake up several times during the night and find they can’t fall back to sleep. Prolonged insomnia can lead some to experience fatigue, poor concentration and headaches during waking hours.

The Comedown Phase

Man looking out window

A 'comedown' phase or ‘crash’ is often experienced by people who use ice as the drug starts to wear off. These feelings can last a few days and symptoms can include:

  • Feeling down
  • Decreased appetite
  • Exhaustion
  • Increased need for sleep
  • Irritability.

These symptoms are also commonly reported in people who experience depression (see below).


    Methamphetamine increases heart rate which can cause the person using the drug to feel short of breath. Some people may suddenly feel very frightened or paranoid which can trigger panic attacks. Click here for tips about how to help someone who is having a panic attack or experiencing other side effects. Other common symptoms include restlessness, trembling, dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, muscle aches, headaches, nausea or vomiting. These symptoms can leave people using methamphetamine feeling agitated or nervous, particularly as the drug starts to wear off. If these symptoms persist for most days of the week, or for a few weeks or longer, it may be a sign that an anxiety disorder is present.


    As the effects of methamphetamine begin wearing off, it is common to feel very low and depleted for a few hours or even up to a few days. Some people who use methamphetamine regularly can experience depressive symptoms when they are not using the drug because it can deplete brain chemicals which are responsible for making us feel happy and excited. Those who have experienced depression before are at particular risk of experiencing these symptoms. These symptoms can persist for weeks or longer, and develop into a depressive disorder in their own right. If these symptoms occur for most of the day, for most days of the week, for 2 weeks or more, or if these occur when not using methamphetamine (or coming down from use), this is a sign that depression may be present.


    Heavy, consistent use of methamphetamines like ice can cause acute psychotic reactions in some but not all people.  This is supported by data from several sources. For example, the 2017 Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) found that thirty-two (3.6%) participants out of 888 people who inject drugs reported a hospital admission for methamphetamine psychosis in the past year.

    Some symptoms of methamphetamine psychosis include:

    • Feeling suspicious (e.g. thinking you are being watched, picked on or that people are out to get you).
    • Hallucinations (hearing, seeing or smelling things that don’t exist e.g. feeling like you have bugs under your skin, hearing someone calling your name when no-one is around or imagining things are changing shape or moving when they are not).
    • Unusual thoughts (e.g. thinking other people are reading your mind or stealing your thoughts).
    • Repetitive compulsive behaviour (e.g. cleaning, assembling/disassembling objects, washing your hands repeatedly).
    • Muddled thoughts or incoherent speech.
    • Being hostile towards others.

    These symptoms can last a few hours or up to a few days. A small number of people may find these symptoms last much longer (e.g. more than a few weeks), or continue even when a person is not using ice. This might mean that an underlying psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, is present.


    If you or a loved one are experiencing problems related to the use of ice, you can get support. It can be difficult to seek help, but in most cases the sooner you reach out for support, the better. You may want to discuss your concerns with a friend that you can trust. Your General Practitioner or family doctor can also be a good starting point – they can confidentially discuss your concerns with you and refer you on to other services if you need additional support.

    For more information on support services and how to get help for yourself or a loved one, visit the When and Where to Get Help and What type of help is available? sections.

    If you need emergency support, call Lifeline on 131 114 (a free and confidential 24-hour crisis helpline) or dial ‘000' for the police or an ambulance.
Page last reviewed: Tuesday, 3 September 2019

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