Ice is an evil drug that causes addiction, ruins lives and wreaks havoc in the community. If you are personally struggling with the impacts of ice use in your family then this would ring true. But is this the full story?

Does it disempower us to think of ice in this way? While there is definitely more ice around and therefore more problems, is there something about the drug itself that causes problems like no drug before it or is it more complicated than that?

Well we know that Methamphetamine works by affecting the systems in the brain responsible for pleasure, reward and motivation. This  means it is associated with very strong cravings, especially after prolonged use. But if it is just this addictive nature that causes all the problems then why:

  • Do most users of methamphetamine not go on to develop future problems (Lee 2014)?
  • Are there so many examples of people moving on and out of even the most problematic use?
  • Are we seeing so many problems now when there is nothing new about methamphetamine - it has been around for near on 100 years.

Perhaps the answer comes in understanding that drug problems do not simply come from within a person or occur as a result of a drug’s effects. Instead drug problems (such as we see with methamphetamines) are the result of a many different factors 

That’s why  problematic substance use has such a strong correlation with vulnerability and issues in other life areas. In fact, simply using a drug is, in itself, not a very strong indicator that a person will go on to have drug problems (Room, 2005).

In 2013, research about young people getting help from drug and alcohol services revealed that 90% of young people using methamphetamines were also getting help issues such as with housing problems, mental health concerns, family conflict, a history of abuse and trauma, school disconnection and justice issues. Though some of these problems had come about because of their ice use, many were pre-existing.


There is a strong correlation between drug problems and issues in other areas of a young person's life.

So while the unique properties of ice do have an impact on the problems ice is creating, and while there are specific things to consider when helping a young person using ice, ice problems, like other drug problems, are still people problems.