Call it or meth or ice, it is a rather misleading nickname for the dangerous narcotic methamphetamine.
Now an Australian study reveals that emergency hospital staff need skilled security guards and personal alarms to protect themselves from the often violent and aggressive ice addicts.
A survey at a Sydney hospital has confirmed the ice addicts are significantly more agitated, self-destructive and bizarrely-behaved than other intoxicated people.
Just one in five ice users cooperated with staff, with the remainder displaying signs of anxiety, restlessness and agitation.
One fifth were aggressive, violent and self destructive, according to the study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The drug has been linked to violent crime, paranoid delusions and drug psychosis.
Doctors at the St Vincent's Hospital said the results had serious implications for police, ambulance and particularly emergency department staff, who needed special training to cope with the behaviour.
"Personal safety must also be taken into account in the design of emergency departments and the provision of equipment such as personal alarms," wrote emergency department director Dr Gordian (Gordian) Fulde and his colleagues.
"Skilled security staff must be readily available to help if necessary and, ideally, prevent problems."
The study analysed all presentations to the emergency department in the last three months of 2006, finding one per cent of the 10,000 cases were methamphetamine-related.
A quarter of these users arrived with police, compared with nine per cent of other intoxicated people, and 40 per cent required scheduling under the Mental Health Act.
They were more likely to be male, have a history of intravenous drug use and take their drugs on the street.
"Our study suggests that methamphetamine use tends to be ongoing rather than a "one off" experiment by recreational drug users," the authors wrote.
Methamphetamine is now the second most commonly used illicit drug in Australia after marijuana.
The locally-made drug is cheaper than heroin and cocaine and has become increasingly refined, potent and dangerous, especially in its most pure form, ice.
A recent report suggested 73,000 Australians are addicted to the drug, and almost one in ten young people have tried it in the past year.
Meantime Labour party leader and front runner in the forthcoming national elections Kevin Rudd has also spoken for the first time about his fears as a parent about the availability of drugs for young people.
The Opposition Leader said he and his wife Therese Rein always had the view that the issue needed to be openly discussed with children, but said young people today faced greater dangers than previous generations.
"It is the price of amphetamines and all that sort of stuff worries the hell out of me," Rudd said.
"In our experience the really important bit is to talk to your kids all the time in a very open and candid way about what they are facing rather than pretending these problems don't arise because they do."
The comments were made in an interview before Prime Minister John Howard on Sunday announced a new plan to quarantine welfare payments for convicted drug users - a proposal Rudd promised to study
Labour already had a plan in place to restrict payments to parents who abused drugs, Rudd said.