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What is Amphetamine or Meth? Effects, Risks & Use

On this site the term amphetamines is used to describe the group of stimulant drugs including: Methamphetamine, Amphetamine Sulfate and Dexamphetamine.

Also known as: Meth | Ice | Crystal Meth | Shards | Speed | Whizz | Goey | Rock | Crack | Freebase | Base | Dexies

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What are amphetamines?

What are amphetamines?

Meth/amphetamines (Amphetamines) are a group of drugs commonly known as speed. They are classed as stimulant drugs. This means that they affect the central nervous system by speeding up the activity of certain chemicals in the brain, producing a feeling of increased alertness and reduced fatigue.

The amphetamine group includes:

  • Dexamphetamine, commonly known as Dexies, which is used for medical purposes to treat conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 
  • Amphetamine sulphate, commonly known as speed, whizz and goey, which comes as a powder or waxy paste. 
  • Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, ice, crystal, shards; which is a more potent form of amphetamine which can come with a crystal-like appearance, as a powder or waxy paste. 

Where do amphetamines come from?

Amphetamines were first developed in Germany in 1887. During the 1930s, they were introduced as a treatment for asthma and low blood pressure. During World War II they were used to help soldiers fight fatigue.

How are amphetamines used?

Amphetamines can be swallowed, injected, smoked or inhaled (snorted). The effects of amphetamines can last from four to eight hours. Sometimes a person may experience a hangover effect that can last up to three days.

  Called Looks like How its used

Prescription Pills:


Dexies, Ritalin Pill or capsule different colours for different strengths Swallowed


Amphetamine Sulphate or Methamphetamine

Speed, whizz, goey Fine dry powder – colour ranges from white, pink, yellow, orange, brown Smoked, swallowed or injected


Amphetamine Sulphate or Methamphetamine

Paste, point, pure,


Oily or sticky damp powder – often with a brown tinge and strong smell Usually injected or swallowed but can be snorted or smoked


Ice, crystal meth, shards Crystal or coarse powder – colour ranges from almost clear to white with a tinge of green, blue or pink Usually smoked or injected but can be snorted or swallowed

How many people use amphetamines?

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2016 reported that 2.7% of Western Australians aged 14 years and older had used meth/amphetamine in the previous 12 months. This rate is higher than the rest of Australia.

Of those who use amphetamines in Western Australia, more are choosing to use methamphetamine, a more potent form, and they are using it more frequently than in the past.

More potent forms + more frequent use = increased problems and harms to users

To see how Meth Can Take Control watch our videos.

Health effects and risks

Health effects and risks

Methamphetamine and stroke

Regular methamphetamine use is associated with both haemorrhagic and ischaemic stroke.

Ischaemic stroke: is caused by a blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain and cuts off blood flow.

Haemorrhagic stroke: is caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel. This causes blood to leak into the brain, stopping the delivery of oxygen and nutrients.

Either type of stroke may result in part of the brain dying, leading to sudden impairment of a range of functions. Stroke can causes paralysis of parts of the body normally controlled by the area of the brain affected by the stroke, or speech problems and other symptoms, such as difficulties with swallowing, vision and thinking.

Regular use of methamphetamine has been found to lead to a 280 percent increased risk of ischaemic stroke and a 394 percent increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke.

Methamphetamine and cardiovascular disease

Regular methamphetamine use is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

An Australian study found that cardiovascular disease was highly prevalent amongst cases of methamphetamine-related death, between 2009 and 2015, and the mean age of cases was relatively young, at 37.9 years. Of these, over a third had a history of high blood pressure, a quarter of cases were found to have enlarged hearts and 1 in 7 were diagnosed with cardiomyopathy

Regular use of methamphetamine has been found to lead to a 268 percent increased risk of cardiomyopathy.

Cardiomyopathy is a condition in which your heart muscle becomes inflamed and enlarged. Because it is enlarged, your heart muscle is stretched and becomes weak. This means it can’t pump blood as fast as it should. If your heart muscle becomes too weak, you may develop heart failure (a serious condition that needs special treatment).

Amphetamines and the brain    

There is emerging evidence that amphetamine-use can cause brain injury. A pilot study conducted at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH) found that 1 in 5 people who agreed to have an MRI after presenting to the Emergency Department for an amphetamine-related reason had a brain lesion. This is a scar on the brain that is usually found in older people.

Although the study recruited cases based on amphetamine-related presentations, all those involved in the study had also used a variety of other drugs therefore this study cannot conclude the lesions were amphetamine-related.  However, there are similar studies that have found similar outcomes and there is evidence emerging to suggest that stimulant drugs cause problems for the brain, especially with memory, judgment, thinking and mood being affected. The findings from this study support the possibility of amphetamine use being a risk for cognitive decline.

Watch our interviews with Professor Daniel Fatovich for more information on the RPH study and the broader impact on the body and brain.

Amphetamines, pregnancy and breastfeeding

Amphetamine use during pregnancy has been linked with bleeding, early labour and miscarriage and can affect the baby’s development before birth. Amphetamines also cause the heart rate of mother and baby to increase.

If amphetamines are used close to birth, the baby may be directly affected, and may be born hyperactive and agitated. Babies of mothers who regularly use amphetamines during pregnancy may also experience withdrawal, making them unresponsive and sleepless in the first few weeks after birth. It is not yet known whether children of mothers who used amphetamines during their pregnancy experience long-term problems in mental or physical growth, but initial studies give some cause for concern.

It is likely that amphetamines reach the baby through breast milk. Symptoms may include the baby being irritable, unsettled and difficult to feed.

Method of Use

There are dangers associated with the method of use of amphetamines.

  • Snorting amphetamines can lead to headaches and burns and sores on the interior membrane of the nose.
  • Smoking amphetamines can damage the teeth and lungs. 
  • Swallowing amphetamines can cause damage to the teeth, throat and stomach lining.
  • Injecting amphetamines can result in major damage to the body’s organs, inflamed and blocked blood vessels, abscesses and blood poisoning. Bacterial infections can occur which may damage the heart valves, cause vein collapse, infection at injection site, bruising or more serious injuries if users inject into an artery or tissue. Injecting users are also at risk of blood borne diseases such as Hepatitis C & HIV if sharing equipment occurs.

Emergency Presentations

Data from the Emergency Department (ED) Information Service found that between 2005 and 2010, there were a total of 1872 reported amphetamine-related ED presentations to all metropolitan hospitals in Western Australia.

Violent outbursts can be triggered by paranoia that is brought on by the drug. Patients can exhibit more strength, confidence and stamina making them more dangerous and more difficult for emergency room staff to manage. These patients require extensive resources, and patients frequently re-attend.

A 3-month study at Royal Perth Hospital in Western Australia in 2005 found that amphetamine-related presentations represented 1.2% of all ED presentations. This had a major impact on the service with a mean time of 6 hours spent in the ED For more information on Amphetamines and the ED. Watch our interviews with Emergency Physician Dr Francis Loutsky and Professor Daniel Fatovich.


There is a growing body of evidence showing that methamphetamine users, dependent users in particular, are at increased risk of death compared to the general population. The most common causes are drug toxicity, disease, suicide and trauma.

An Australian study found that methamphetamines contributed to a clinically significant number of deaths in Australia between 2000 and 2005.  Methamphetamine was the only drug contributing to almost 1 in 5 of the 371 methamphetamine-related deaths recorded and over half (51%) of the deaths were due to combined drug toxicity and cardiovascular complications.

Frequent, long-term use of methamphetamine can increase the risk of chronic and infectious disease, which may contribute to mortality. Dependant methamphetamine users have also been found to have higher rates of mortality due to disease, particularly cardiovascular and liver diseases.

Short-term effects

  • Enlarged pupils
  • Reduced appetite
  • Increased energy and alertness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Increased rate of breathing, pulse rate and blood pressure

Short-term effects of high-doses

  • Sweating, headaches, pale skin
  • Restlessness, dizziness, shaking, repetitive movement
  • Jaw clamping and teeth grinding
  • Irregular breathing and very rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Overdose (toxicity)

Long-term effects

  • Malnutrition and weight loss
  • Reduced resistance to infection
  • Dental health issues
  • Tolerance and dependence
  • Brain scarring and memory loss
  • Seizure, stroke , cardiomyopathy and heart attack

The effects of amphetamine, including dexamphetamine, amphetamine sulphate and methamphetamine, will vary depending on:

  • the person – mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with amphetamines, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • the drug – the amount used, its purity, how often it is used, and whether it is smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected.
  • the place – whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.
Amphetamines and mental health

Amphetamines and mental health


When using amphetamines, people can feel nervous and agitated. Feelings of paranoia can occur triggering panic attacks, which cause users to feel suddenly afraid or anxious.


People who already experience depression may find that using amphetamines makes their depression worse in the long term, as it depletes serotonin, the 'feel-good' chemical in the brain. Depression is most often felt when the person is not using the drug, which makes them want to go back for more.


Amphetamine use has been associated with psychotic symptoms in people without pre-existing mental health issues. For those who have a pre-existing mental health issue or psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, their condition could become worse.

Common symptoms of methamphetamine-associated psychosis:

  • Seeing shadows or lights in the corner of their eye.
  • Hearing someone calling their name when nobody is around.
  • Feeling self-conscious as though people are watching them.
  • Feeling like ordinary everyday things have special importance or meaning.
  • Imagining things are changing shape or moving when they’re not.
  • Having unusual thoughts (e.g. the user may feel that other people are reading their mind).
  • Feeling suspicious (e.g. the user may feel as though people are ‘out to get’ them).
  • Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there).

Other symptoms of methamphetamine-associated psychosis:

  • Repetitive compulsive behaviour.
  • Tactile hallucinations (e.g. feeling things that aren’t there).
  • Olfactory hallucinations (e.g. smelling things that aren’t there).
  • Muddled thoughts, incoherent speech and going off on tangents.

How common is methamphetamine-associated psychosis?

Up to 1 in 3 moderate users of methamphetamine will experience a symptom of psychosis. This increases to 3 in 5 people in inpatient treatment settings. Heavy use and regular use are the key risk factors for methamphetamine-associated psychosis.

After a person stops using, symptoms can go away within a few hours to days. However, for a small number of people the problems can continue for a longer period of time and may be related to underlying mental health conditions.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of mental health, we recommend seeking help, as these may not go away on their own. You could make an appointment with your GP or health professional for a mental health plan or visit Beyondblue for information on mental health and help services.

Short-term effects

  • Increased confidence and talkativeness
  • Anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks
  • Irritability and threatening manner

Short-term effects of high-doses

  • Feelings of being powerful or superior
  • Psychosis including paranoia & hallucinations
  • Hostility and aggression

Long-term effects

  • Violent behaviour, emotional disturbances
  • Periods of psychosis with delusional thoughts and behaviour

Amphetamine use, including dexamphetamine, amphetamine sulphate and methamphetamine, can cause a range of mental health issues. The effects will vary depending on:

  • the person – mood, physical size, health, gender, previous experience with amphetamines, expectations of the drug, personality, whether the person has had food and whether other drugs have been taken.
  • the drug – the amount used, its purity, how often it is used, and whether it is smoked, swallowed, snorted or injected.
  • the place – whether the person is using with friends, on his/her own, in a social setting or at home, at work or before driving.
Impact on your life

Impact on your life

Amphetamine use can impact on your life in many ways. It can lead to relationship, financial and legal problems.

Amphetamines and relationship problems

Meth took everything from me - even my family

Drug use can lead to social and emotional problems and can affect relationships with family and friends. 

When someone close to you is using amphetamines it can be worrying, stressful and emotionally draining. Their use can cause them to behave erratically, and it can be difficult to know how to act around them. They may become aggressive, angry or even violent, or withdrawn and detached. Everyone around them can be affected and this can be hard. They may become focused only on drugs and have no time for friends, or may argue over money, their behaviour or their drug use with friends and family.

While there are no simple answers about exactly what to do, the Parent and Family Drug Support Line can provide advice on things that can help you to help those close to you. 

Watch the Meth Can Take Control 'Relationships' video to see how meth use can affect relationships. 

Amphetamines and the law

Getting involved with Meth gave me a criminal record

Misuse of Drugs Act

In Western Australia, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981, it is illegal to use, possess, manufacture or supply amphetamines.

Offences under this Act carry heavy fines and/or prison sentences.

Penalties vary depending on the offence:

  • Possession offences: up to $2,000 in fines and/or two years in prison.
  • Supply offences: up to $100,000 in fines and/or 25 years in prison.

A person convicted of a drug offence can receive a criminal record, which can lead to difficulties in getting a job, health insurance, credit or visas for overseas travel.

Drug driving

In Western Australia, it is against the law for anyone to drive with the presence of an illicit drug prescribed within the Road Traffic Act 1974, or impaired by a drug.

Amphetamines can cause exaggerated feelings of confidence giving a false sense of driving ability, which may result in users taking greater risks and increase the risk of having a crash.

Amphetamines, taken in combination with other drugs including alcohol, can greatly impair driving performance.

See the Testing section for information on roadside drug testing.

Watch the Meth Can Take Control 'The Law' video to see how meth use can lead to problems with the law. 

Amphetamines and financial problems

The street price of amphetamines changes depending on availability and market trends. The cost of purchasing amphetamines can lead to financial problems for both occasional and regular users.

Whilst some users report using amphetamines as a cheaper alternative to other drugs such as alcohol, regular and occasional users may experience varied financial problems such as:

  • Loss of employment and finding it hard to get more work.
  • Missing payments for rent or bills.
  • Spending most of their pay on drugs.
  • Choosing to purchase drugs over items such as food or medicine.
  • Owing money to people.
Amphetamines and other drugs

Amphetamines and other drugs

Using more than one drug at a time can have unpredictable and dangerous effects.  Amphetamine users sometimes take other drugs such as tranquillisers, cannabis, alcohol or heroin to cope with some of the undesirable effects of amphetamines and a dependence on several drugs may develop. For example, some people may need amphetamines each day to get them going and tranquillisers each night to get them to sleep. This type of dependence can lead to a variety of very serious physical and psychological problems.

If amphetamines are combined with depressant drugs like alcohol, users may not feel the effects of the depressant drug straight away due to the masking effect that occurs. For example, if amphetamines are used with alcohol, Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) still goes up and motor skills such as coordination and reflexes are still impaired.

A review of methamphetamine-related fatalities found that the most common drugs present with methamphetamine in cases where death was due to combined drug toxicity were opiates (82%), benzodiazepines (42%) and antidepressants (24%).

Combining amphetamines with other stimulants such as ecstasy or cocaine can greatly increase the negative side-effects of both drugs. The effects can be greatly exaggerated and unpredictable and may be similar to taking a very large dose of stimulant drugs. 

One of the major risks associated with illicitly manufactured drugs is that you won’t know what is in them, or the toxicity of the active substances. As part of the manufacturing process, dangerous by-products can also be formed, of unknown toxicity. Compounds used to manufacture the drug can cause them to be converted to other unknown compounds of unknown toxicity. This can result in accidentally mixing drugs and serious side effects.

Quitting Options

Quitting Options

People decide to quit using amphetamines for a lot of reasons including it is harming their physical and/or mental health and wellbeing, their relationships with friends and others they care about, or because they are starting new employment and may be drug tested.

Thinking about quitting your amphetamine or meth use? Worried you may struggle? You are not alone. Help is only a phone call away.

You can call the Alcohol and Drug Support line on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024. The Alcohol and Drug Support Line counsellors can assist in planning your quit attempt, and talk with you about the options available to assist you.

Sometimes it can be scary thinking about cutting down or quitting your use as you don’t know what to expect. Some people may find it easy to cut down or even quit using, but some people may find it a little harder and may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Remember, this is normal.

Common symptoms a user experiences

1-3 Days

Usually referred to as the 'comedown' or 'crash':

  • Exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Oversleeping/Overeating
  • No craving to use

2-10 days

Withdrawal symptoms start around this time:

  • Strong cravings to use again (be aware of the "binge and crash" cycle)
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious, irritable or agitated
  • Lack of energy or feeling flat
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor concentration
  • Headaches
  • General aches and pains
  • Increased appetite
  • Paranoia or strange thoughts (such as people are "out to get you")

7-28 Days

Most symptoms will start to settle down, although some symptoms may still be around. These include:

  • Cravings to use again
  • Mood swings
  • Feeling anxious, irritable or agitated
  • Lack of energy or feeling flat
  • Poor sleep or sleeplessness

1-3 Months

  • Major improvements in general health and mood
  • Return of normal sleep and levels of activity and mood

At the beginning of your withdrawal, it is important to get a few things in order:

  • Organise a safe environment - going through withdrawal can be scary, especially if there are people around you who are still using. Organise a safe place where there will not be drugs or drug use going on around you. Let those around you know that you will not be using, and don’t want to use, and ask those who are using to stay away until you contact them. 
  • Organise support - you may find it easier to go through withdrawal with some support. It is important to have the right people around you while going through withdrawal. Friends and/or family, your doctor or health worker can also help you cope with everything that is going on around you. Support groups, such as Narcotic Anonymous/SMART recovery group can also be helpful. 


Withdrawal Symptoms

How to cope


Cravings are common and can be very strong, so it is important to be prepared for this. Cravings can be mistaken for hunger of thirst so make sure you are eating and drinking regularly. Severe cravings generally last for short periods of time. When you get a craving, try to delay the decision to use for as long as you can (aim for minutes), this can allow you the time for the craving to go away. Find something to distract yourself such as listening to music, watching TV, cleaning, going for a walk, or ringing a friend. You may find it hard to concentrate, so don’t try and do something too complicated or you may get more frustrated.

Sleep Disturbances

It can take a number of weeks before your sleep patterns return to normal. Remember this is normal and it’s not permanent. Some things that can help include, lying down to go to sleep only when you are actually sleepy, and only using your bed for sleeping. If you don’t fall asleep within about 30 minutes, get up, go to a different room, and try to find something to do that’s not too stimulating such as reading a book or listening to music, and only return to your bed when you feel sleepy. Try getting up at the same time everyday no matter how long you have slept, as this can help your body develop a routine. Try not to nap during the day as this can make it harder to sleep at night. Exercise and cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine can also help. If you're still struggling after 4-6 weeks you may wish to visit your GP for further support.


It is very common to get agitated and irritable during withdrawal, so it will be important for you to do things that will help you relax. Whether it’s just taking time out to watch TV, listen to music, read a book, or doing specific relaxing techniques, do whatever works for you. Noticing your rate of breathing and controlling this can also help when you are feeling anxious or agitated.

Mood Swings

One of the most important things to coping with mood swings is to remember that they are part of withdrawal and they will go away eventually. Relaxation techniques, exercise, getting into regular sleep patterns and eating properly can also help mood swings.

Strange Thoughts

Some people may experience paranoia, while others may misinterpret things they see or hear around them. Remember that this does not mean you are going mad, the symptoms will settle. If the symptoms continue for a while, or if you are concerned, you can discuss these with your doctor, counselor or health worker.

Eating Again

Most people who use amphetamines regularly have poor appetite and nutrition. Your appetite usually improves within a few days of stopping use, and it is important to try and eat healthy and stay away from greasy and fatty foods. Eat small meals regularly. This may help with decreasing cravings. Drink lots of fluids.

Aches and Pains

Due to the increased muscle tension, general aches and pains and headaches can be quite common. The worst of the pains generally settle within the first week or two. Warm baths, spas and saunas can help. Massages and light exercise can also be beneficial.

If you're ready to make some changes to your use the Meth Help Tool can help you think about how meth affects your life and provide you with some harm reduction and self-help strategies. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for support or help to plan your quit attempt. Don’t give up if you slip up - a slip up is not a relapse! Consult with your GP or other qualified health professional if you have any concerns about your withdrawal. 

The Alcohol and Drug Support Line can also assist, and talk you through the options and services available.


Real Stories

Real Stories

* These are real stories of how Meth can take control. The names have been changed to protect the identity of the story tellers. 

James’* Story

33 years old from regional Western Australia

“It started by me using cannabis first which then led me to try meth. I ended up liking it so much I started using it every time I went to a party or when I felt like I needed energy. I used for 20 years.

Meth gave me the energy I needed, and made me feel strong. When I was coming down sometimes it could be quite scary, I saw things being in a psychotic state, I would get quite hungry and need to sleep. Sometimes I look back and think ‘did I do that?’.

Meth definitely destroys relationships. It took my partner and kids away from me, family and friends too. Because of the things I did like lie to them, steal from them, scare them and neglect them, not turn up to work and other social activities or events ‘cause of the state I would be in.

Meth has a big impact on work, I would always get up too late and rock up to work late. I would look like an addict talking to my boss explaining why I was late or sometimes I would turn up on meth, putting others in danger using machinery and not being clear-headed. This led to me being fired.

The bad thing about meth was coming down I would be violent and start on people for no reason and end up broke, having no money left when (I should have spent it) on my family. My priorities went out the window.

My emotions changed dramatically, I was the world's biggest arse. I was very aggro towards people, I was angry all the time. I would feel depressed and guilty of my actions knowing that I've either stole from someone or taken physical or mental abuse towards someone. Even lying to them which made issues worse and having the people that mean everything to me lose their trust in me.

I experienced meth-induced psychosis a lot of times, I have seen things and thought people were out to get me, it made me arm up with weapons and made me run around like a crazy man. It was that bad I scared my own family several times to the point they needed police. I felt so depressed after doing this and when I came good I knew my actions were evil.

I definitely noticed that I lost weight and sometimes I would end up with injuries because I would end up in a fight or would do things like jumping fences or in a car chase with police ending up in a crash. ‘Playing with fire’ is how I describe it best.  

I couldn't focus on daily tasks because I would hang out for meth, I would get to a point where I would dry retch and get an itchy feeling along with the shakes.

I started hanging out with dealers, helping them get rid of drugs so I would profit drugs for myself and I would find out which dealer would have the best drugs.  I got into trouble by breaking the law by either assaulting someone or breaking and entering – now I'm known to police as a re-offender.

Yes, I needed professional help. I now finally have found it (in rehabilitation).”

Jen’s* Story

32 years old from regional Western Australia

“I used meth on and off for a period of five years. When coming down I would be irritated, short-tempered, empty and regretful. My relationships with my 'real' friends and family grew distant; my relationship with my partner was rocky and unstable because drugs always came first. I spent a lot more time with people that used or dealt.

After a while, everything centred around using. I would be late because I would have to (use) before I went to work, I would want to get out early so I could get high, I would race through my work which led to mistakes and eventually I usually found another job before I got laid off.

I was depressed and ended up paranoid. My partner was extremely paranoid and so he would make me sit for hours 'watching out'. This eventually resulted in my own paranoia. I feel that I am still affected by ongoing paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks now, nearly nine years on, mostly when I am on my own at night.

I rarely ate or slept. My skin was terrible and I rarely got a period, got heaps of blood noses and felt faint constantly.

There was nothing good about using meth. I needed help to get away from my partner, I needed help to be a better mum, I needed help to stop. I wanted to stop using and it was completely out of my control. I ended up crying every time I (used) because I didn't want to use anymore but I couldn't stop. Eventually I (got help), then finally left my partner who refused to stop even for our child and moved back with my family in a regional area. I slept for about a month as I was so tired physically and emotionally that I was completely useless. I was lucky I had a family to support me when I was ready and that I hadn’t already (done more damage to) myself.”


Di’s* Story

Mother in her 60s from regional Western Australia

“I don’t really know when my son started using meth – I suspect it was quite young but he always denied drug use other than cannabis smoking. I think he started using meth in his teens, using it for partying and having a good time. When he was 21 he became unwell  - poorly nourished and possibly a touch of amphetamine psychosis as well. He tried to come home (a long drive to a regional area) but eventually collapsed from dehydration and had to be rescued by family members, who eventually got him to my home where he needed to be. He detoxed there over a couple of months then got the first of many jobs on the mines.

He loved work on the mines. He met and fell in love with a girl who also got a job on the mines with him. They moved in together and did well for a few years, surfing the boom-time wave, buying property (in Perth) and living fairly extravagantly. When they broke up and divided the property, he was less emotionally and financially buoyant. He started using meth with mates and his use became more and more frequent. He started to fail the drug tests that are part of every mining job. After a while he was being sacked from sites for positive drug tests.

Soon he found he was having to get through periods of unemployment that were getting longer and longer – so with time on his hands, became increasingly immersed in the meth scene. Gradually it wasn’t his mining mates any more that he was associating with – criminal gangs, other habitual users filled his days.

I don’t know the half of what went on and I don’t want to know. But when I look at my son, the desperation of the past 10 years is etched on his body like a branding. The multiple scars on his arms and abdomen from picking at himself which has led to abscess formation. He is dappled like a leopard.

The weight gain, caused by having years of see-sawing between starvation when bingeing on meth and then binge eating when there is no meth around. Meth use has wrecked his ability to regulate many of his normal functions. He now never feels full after eating. He once ate a $300 food shop in a day and then went out that night for hamburgers. The resulting spikes in blood sugar levels make him vulnerable to infections, as do the periods of no nutrition when bingeing. This means that any cuts, pimples or ingrown hairs can rapidly turn to large, painful abscesses.

Then there’s the depression and hopelessness. My son used to be an energetic go-getter type. He played sports, swam, fished, surfed. He was a champion athlete in primary school. Now, he sleeps for days at a time. Or just hides in his bed for days at a time. His health is wrecked, his life is wrecked and his reputation is a bad one.

Any (non-drug using) friends he had disappeared years ago. Now, he gets the occasional visit from people he knows but often there’s a drug agenda for the visit.

My son really only started spending more time with his family when things became so bad he needed help. He nearly died from a systemic infection.

He had a series of meth-fuelled relationships with people as fired up and messed up as he was. Meth makes people highly sexually active. His days were filled with meth binges, food binges, sex binges and then periods of down time in which he’d had to rely on prescription drugs to sleep. 

On returning to his house after his last FIFO swing he had a huge argument over money with a woman he was seeing. After a binge she accused him of a serious assault, for which he served a year in jail on remand, only to have the charges against him dismissed. He lost his last job opportunity when that happened.

Whilst in jail his car was repossessed, and his house became the local crack-house. Everything in it was stolen, the fittings were damaged, walls and cupboards kicked in, windows smashed, garden dead. Even his oven and fridge were gone.

Poverty has become a trap for him. He lives on his dole money, but struggles to manage. I’ve given him discarded phones of mine but they get stolen – he can’t lock his house. He bought a car with his tax return and that was stolen and trashed. It was impounded and he hasn’t got the money to get it towed home. The bank is poised to foreclose on his house. He can’t get work, has no transport, can’t afford the internet, can’t afford to get fined for anything - a traffic or parking fine is a major disaster as it would mean he couldn’t pay it and eventually have his driver’s license suspended – which in turn means he (definitely) can’t get work.

I love my son. I feel desperately sorry for him. He still can’t seem to believe that this has happened to him and I get the impression that he thinks he’s just another FIFO job away from salvation. Years of ice use have affected the way he relates to other people, the way he handles money and his ability to cope with problems – always looking for the quick fix – not just in the drug context but in life as well. There is no quick fix with methamphetamines – it’s a long slow drag into destruction and a long slow slog to claw back your life.”

Addendum: Di’s son died of an accidental overdose at the age of 36.


Dave’s* Story

25 years old from regional Western Australia

“I broke up with my boy's mum and used meth once at a party. I loved the way it felt and it stopped the empty feeling I had about my boy's mum. Over a short time I began to feel like I couldn’t do anything without it. I felt helpless. I began struggling to wake up for work …so I started using more so I had the energy to work.

When you take meth you feel unstoppable, indestructible. When you come down it's not great. I used to get the shakes in my legs and I'd start to feel all the sores in my mouth from chewing all the time. Then I'd sleep sometimes for days. I would get infections on my chest from picking. I was severely malnourished. And my teeth would sporadically crumble in my mouth.

Meth affected my relationship with everyone I knew. My parents were on the brink of meltdown. At 25 they were still supporting me to live – I was incapable of supporting myself. My siblings hated the sight of me. My son wasn't getting looked after properly by me so my parents had to do that.

My drug dealer became my only friend. I couldn’t hold a job and I started trafficking for money. A meth addict with unlimited supply is bad news for everyone involved. I got caught with 24 thousand dollars when I was on my way to the city to buy meth to bring back to my town.

I had stopped myself (using) for 6 months then opened a shop and started using again. That’s when I knew I needed help. I went to residential rehab and am happy to say I’m still clean. I’m 10 months clean.

Looking back, there is literally nothing good about using meth. The friendships you think you have are fake. You achieve nothing. It's just a downward spiral of destruction.”


Jane’s* Story

30 years old from metropolitan and regional Western Australia

“When I was 15 I had an older boyfriend. I had already been dabbling in pot and alcohol, running away from home to hang out with my 'friends'. I went over to his place for an overnight visit and him and his friends were (using). I wanted to try it; I wanted to be 'cool'. I didn't touch it for a little while again but then about a year later my new group of 'cool friends' were all doing it and so began my first month long bender.

Almost everything was bad about meth. After the initial (short term) pleasure I was left feeling awful, remembering my troubles, realising I had failed yet again and was one step closer to losing my babies.

Meth has affected every single relationship I've ever had. Destroyed partnerships, destroyed my family, caused my mother and brother untold amounts of anguish and heartache, caused my grandparents grief, caused me to a be a terrible mother to my beautiful children – heart-breakingly causing me to put the drugs ahead of their mental and physical wellbeing, allowing me to feel guilt-less about dumping them on my mother who financially struggled as it was without the added financial and emotional responsibility. It has caused unfaithfulness in my partnership with me prioritising drugs over my wonderful partner. It has destroyed my relationship with myself - I have no idea who I am anymore.

Meth ruins everything. I've done terrible things that I wouldn’t usually do. Said terrible things to the people I hold dearest, that I wouldn't usually say. I've been abusive, I've been a liar and I’ve been a thief.

I lost all my friends, although because of the drug use I struggled to make real friends anyway. I only associated with dealers and other (users). I am very lucky to say that I have one true friend left.

It's ruined any short-term job I ever held, not that there were many as drugs were usually more important to me. It's ruined any studying I've ever started, causing me never to complete any of it - leaving me unemployed and unskilled at 30 years old.

I was constantly losing and gaining large amounts of weight. (When I was using) I was usually scarily underweight. In the time I'd get clean my weight would balloon, stacking on 15-30kg easily in 1-6 months. At my lowest weight my skin, hair and nails were shocking. Blemishes, limp hair and (sores on my extremities) were the norm. I am starting to have problems with my teeth from long term use.

Meth destroys your mental health. My emotions are like a roller-coaster. I have hallucinated, I have been paranoid to the hills, I have been depressed, I have been scarily anxious, I have heard things that weren't there, I have been so sure people were out to get me that I've set up recording devices and listening devices. The worst was the psychosis, conversations with invisible people, conversations complete with different voices and accents and genders of which I was the one orating them all. The psychosis didn't seem scary at the time, after the fact I was terrified for my fragile mind.

I’ve been admitted to the emergency department several times. A few times to be admitted in to the psychiatric ward and the last time to be admitted into detox.

Rehab has saved my life and my soul. The staff and other residents have helped me immensely. They have changed my life, they have saved me. I couldn't pinpoint the most helpful thing; I think honestly it's been the whole combination of the service. This has saved my life.”


Sarah’s* Story

25 years old from metropolitan Western Australia

“I got mixed up with the wrong crowd through high school, they all used and initially I refused. One of my friends who was using decided I needed to be using as well, I guess because it meant that I would hang around and drive them around. So, she asked her guy friend to come and hang out with me, he sat there for about 2 hours smoking meth in front of me telling me to try it. I said no, I don't want to. After about 2 hours, I gave in and tried it. Once you start, you don't want to stop as the feeling when you're coming down is horrible. You also get very addicted to the lifestyle, hanging out with mates all the time, having fun, you end up selling to support your habit and you're caught in a web you can't escape.

When I was 18, I got caught with a minor amount of meth – I was given a spent conviction. It was enough to make me clean my act up for a while. Unfortunately, it is a never ending battle to stay away from the stuff.

When I was 21, I went through a really tough break up, my partner at the time left me on the night of my birthday, he and his family had really knocked my confidence down while we were together and a whole pile of other stuff happened that made me feel weak, so I started using again. I tried to use while I was still going to work however, that was never going to work out.

Before I knew it, I was head over heels (or at least I thought I was because I was too far on another planet to realise that it wasn't real love, it was just drug fuelled) for someone and got into a lot of trouble to keep him out of trouble and pay out his debts. I got arrested and knew I was going to go to jail and I ultimately just gave up on myself so didn't care about trying to stop using.

When you first start, you can't sleep properly and it really gives you a false perception that you are cool and popular. The come down is horrible – you feel and look tired, your grumpy, have a dry mouth, and you feel dizzy. I got back acne and would pick at it all the time, I did lose a lot of weight at first as you can't eat, although, once you have been using all the time, you can eat like normal again and put weight back on.

When I got locked up, the doctors thought I was anaemic, I would pass out anywhere and looked like a ghost. I would half fall asleep at work and send strange e-mails not realising what I was doing. I also got arrested in my work car and lost my job. You can't hold down a job with long term use.

You lose real friends or they distance themselves from you until you stop. Relationships you have while on meth are never real, boyfriends are usually verbally and physically abusive, friends will backstab you to get what they want and put you directly in harms way if need be. I can honestly say from that world, I have 3 people I would call friends now that I am out of it.

I won't lie, I can remember some really fun times hanging out with friends, running amuck and just generally hanging out and having a laugh. Unfortunately, they are far outweighed by the bad. You lose your whole life for maybe 1 in 20 days that are fun. I was always scared all your emotions are heightened. You always watched your back thinking people were out to get you, although I still believe about 90% of the time they really were in that world. Having to watch for cops all the time, not being able to trust your friends, I was running from people who threatened to hurt me, I have bad nightmares still from things that happened.

I felt like I was hard done by and someone needed to help me get away from that life. When push came to shove, I obviously wasn't ready at the time as it was me who was running away. The best thing that happened was everyone putting their hands up and saying they couldn't help me again and forcing me to face up to everything alone. That's when I truly hit rock bottom and wanted to change. I went to rehab and completed that successfully. Jail helped, gave me time to think about things. Ultimately, you have to want to change yourself before all of this works and you can't blame everyone else for you being the way you are.”


Lisa’s* Story

32 years old from metropolitan Western Australia

"I'm not sure how it actually started, but I know (my brother) used to use cannabis in high school. He had a friend whose dad was a bikie and gave it to them to on-sell. I think that’s when he started mixing with the wrong crowd. I'd say it started when he started hanging around at our local pub where a few bikies and a particular girl, who later became his girlfriend, worked. He was about 19. He is now 29 and has moved over east to get away and has apparently not been using.

We never really saw him when he was using, he would leave and not come back for days. As it was around the time he was becoming a young adult we didn't think anything of it. The few times when he would come home when he was using he would be really hyperactive, talkative, his eyes were huge and his conversation and behaviour would be strange. He would stay awake all night tinkering around in the shed. He always struggled at school and I think he lacked resilience, but he told me when he used, all his troubles disappeared.

When he was home it was usually when he was coming down or not using and it was very hard to be around him. He would fight with just about everyone in the family about the smallest things.  He slept a lot and didn't eat much and was extremely moody. He would often have a fight within minutes of entering the house and just leave when it got too tough. He lied a LOT! About everything and anything – that was the hardest thing for my Mum to deal with.

All of his relationships were affected. He had a group of friends from school that just seemed to disappear; he would constantly come home and say that he had a falling out with a friend and wasn’t hanging out with them anymore. He made friends with other users and bikies. His relationship with our mum was hugely strained. She feels like he is a different person now and they probably have the most difficult relationship due to his lying. He has been through a few different jobs, because of how the drug has affected his moods even when he's not using he has trouble controlling his temper and being honest and concentrating on the job. He has become unreliable, he turns up late to work and tells them he had a flat tyre or some other reason, or he’ll tell us he's coming over for lunch and doesn’t turn up. He is an incredibly giving person to his detriment he'll do anything to help anyone out and often over promises.

My sister and I grew apart from him for about 5 years. In that time even a phone conversation was difficult. When we did see him he would argue with us and he would often go and find somewhere to sleep at family events to hide away from everyone. It wasn't until I started working with him that I started to see how affected he was and how stuck he was. He was not working for one to two years, his money from the mines was gone, he had people coming to collect his car, and he couldn't get work because of a knee injury, so his use became far more regular.

He lost lots of jobs, probably 4 or 5. He had to borrow $500 from me one time after he was threatened that his legs would be chopped off if he didn't pay up. He would lend out all of mum and dad's stuff such as their bikes, a couch from the shed, tools, his clothes you name it. We were never sure if he just took them to his house or gave them to friends to clear debts or sold them.

He became very pale. I never thought he lost a lot of weight, until I saw him stop using and how much he has filled out. He has a big beard and would constantly get ingrown hairs. I'm not sure whether they were worse because he picked them a lot, but he would often have missing patches in his beard and scabs from picking them, he also had scabs on his arms.

I kept trying to get him to seek help and was really concerned about his mental health. He broke down one Christmas and told me that he was in too deep with bikies and couldn't get out and wanted to leave his girlfriend and stop using. It was from here that he'd finally admitted that things were not good and he started to be more open with us.

He wanted to stop, but was just not in a good environment to do that. It all came to a head when he broke up with his girlfriend and moved over east to live with friends who had also escaped and are doing well now.”

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To learn more about how Meth Can Take Control check out our interviews with Western Australian experts.

Page last updated: May 2018

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