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The Connection Between Meth Use And Child Abuse Methamphetamine use has been a problem in Montana and our service area for a long time now, and despite the tireless efforts by our State’s Law Enforcement Agencies, doesn’t seem to be getting any less of a problem. There has been a lot of focus on the effects of Meth use on teenagers, adults and the community, as shown in a recent HBO special about Montana Meth. But what about the young victims who live with the users? Meth poses tremendous risks for those living with a user. More and more often, Meth is a contributing factor in cases of domestic violence, child neglect and child abuse. There are several aspects of child abuse and neglect in drug-endangered homes. The environments themselves are frequently so dangerous that simply allowing a child to live there constitutes child endangerment. Substance abuse also affects the caregiver's ability to parent, placing the child at additional risk for abuse and neglect. About 30 - 35% of meth labs seized are in residences where children live. Children are at an increased risk in a meth lab environment because of their physiologic status (higher rates of growth, metabolism, respiration, and development) and their behaviors (hand- to-mouth behaviors and increased contact with their physical environment). At least two reports have demonstrated that 35 - 70% of children removed from labs have a urine drug screen that is positive for methamphetamine at the time of removal from the home. The dangers to these children are too numerous to count, but can include: * Exposure to toxic chemicals and are at risk of inhalation of toxic fumes * Chemical waste dumped in play areas * Exposure to accessible drugs, other drug users, cooks and dealers, hypodermic needles, glass smoking pipes, razor blades and other drug paraphernalia, weapons left accessible and booby traps placed to "protect" the clandestine laboratory and its contents from intruders. Children in these homes are often exposed to violence as well as unsavory individuals. Unfortunately, these caregivers were often not parented well themselves and therefore did not learn effective parenting skills. The caregiver's also frequently display inconsistent and paranoid behavior, especially if they are using methamphetamine. They are often irritable and have a "short fuse" which may ultimately lead to physical abuse. These children are also frequently neglected. They often do not have enough food, are not adequately groomed, do not have appropriate sleeping conditions, and usually have not had adequate medical or dental care. They are frequently not well supervised, placing them at additional risk of injury. Children are often emotionally abused and have a heightened risk for sexual abuse. Additionally, they frequently do not get the appropriate amount of support, encouragement, discipline, and guidance they need to thrive. Some of the signs of a child who lives with a meth user are: * Eye pain, including burning * Skin irritation and redness * Mild to severe burns * Sneezing and coughing * Congestion of the voice box * Chest pain * Nausea and vomiting * Abdominal pain * Diarrhea * Moderate to severe headache * Rapid heart rate * Dark colored urine * Fever * Decrease in mental status * Yellow jaundice * Hallucinations * Extreme irritability * Severe neglect * Difficult and labored breathing; shortness of breath. If you believe a child you know is being exposed to Meth lab chemicals, or if a child reveals to you that drug-making is occurring in their home, call 911 immediately and tell law enforcement what you know.
A Non-Profit Organization Serving Victims of Abuse for Over 30 Years in North Central Montana