Ice is a smokable, crystalline form of methamphetamine. It is easily made from ephedrine, an ingredient found in many over-the-counter drugs, and extremely potent. Ice highs last for between 8 and 24 hours, as compared with 20 minutes for crack cocaine. Users crave the drug after a couple of doses and addition is stronger than for crack. Being odourless, it is hard to detect. Ice is used as much for recreation as for staying alert on the job. Like other amphetamines, ice helps a person lose weight, and so it is particularly popular in beach resort areas.
Ice induces immediate and intense euphoria and increased alertness. It can produce aggressive behaviour hallucinations, paranoia, and bouts of violent psychosis. Prolonged use can cause fatal lung and kidney disorders and well as long-lasting psychological damage.
The Japanese invented the stimulant in 1893, calling it "shabu". During WWII, Japan's military leaders supplied it in liquid form to weary soldiers and munitions-plant workers, leading to the addiction of hundreds of thousands of Japanese. Japan banned shabu in the 1950's, but many laboratories that produced it relocated to South Korea, and Korea's consumption subsequently boomed. Its introduction into the USA in the late 1908's was through Korean traffickers into Hawaii.
In recent years Japan's use has levelled off -- though it remains the drug's biggest market. Medical experts believe that 130,000 Koreans are addicted to ice, called "hiroppon" in Korea. In 1989, ice surpassed marijuana and cocaine as Hawaii's principal drug problem. The Honolulu Police Department estimate that ice was a factor in 70% of spouse-abuse cases in one month. One hospital averages six ice overdoses a day.