We’ve all seen upsetting before and after photos of adults who have become addicted to meth. The physical changes that take place in just a few months are staggering. But what happens when children are repeatedly exposed to methamphetamine in their environment?
Meth Exposure in Children
Fetuses in the womb can be harmed my meth use in a number of ways. Generally, mothers who are addicted to meth are less likely to get the prenatal care they need. This can result in nutritional neglect and an increased chance of preterm birth. Meth use during pregnancy has also been linked to increased transmission of HIV to children, as well as an increase in diseases such as syphilis and hepatitis.
Once the baby is born, the symptoms of meth exposure become evident:
- Low birth weight
- Birth defects
- Tremors in the arms and/or legs
- Excessive crying or irritability
- Muscle weakness
- Risk of stroke or seizures
- Poor regulation of sleep/wake cycle and feeding
- Abnormal infant behavior
Withdrawal symptoms can last for months, and include:
- Difficulty with transitions
- Difficulty with changes in the environment
- Discomfort with being touched (extreme sensitivity) and dealing with normal body sensations
- Neurological impairment
- Difficulty being comforted
Direct mother-to-child exposure in the womb is just one way that children can be exposed to meth. As any parent knows, children get into absolutely everything, and they love to put things in their mouths! If a child puts something in his/her mouth that has been polluted by meth, then they will ingest the meth. Worse still, most children are exposed to methamphetamine simply by crawling or laying on a soft surface such as carpeting or a couch.
Because children’s bodies have a more difficult time processing and eliminating chemicals, the effect of meth exposure can be tragic. They can develop diseases such as cancer and leukemia, and they are also more likely to have kidney or liver failure. Children’s developing brains and internal organs are also more susceptible to damage than an adult taking methamphetamines.
Repeated and/or extreme exposure to meth can result in chronic effects in children that may never go away.
- Developmental and/or speech delays
- Difficulties in learning
- ADHD and other attention issues
- Social Maladjustment
- Failure to thrive
- Poor growth
- Sensory integration issues
- Behavioral problems
Abuse and Neglect of Children
Children whose parents use drugs or alcohol are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected as children whose parents do not use drugs or alcohol (Wells & Wright, 2004). There is also an increased risk of child abuse and domestic violence in homes where meth is regularly used. In addition, children are more likely to be abandoned by parents who use meth or taken away by social services or other authorities.
Children in meth-using families often come across razor blades and needles in their environment. They may also go without standard necessities such as shelter, food, and water. And, of course, medical attention such as dental care, immunizations, and yearly checkups at the doctor are often entirely skipped.
Meth wreaks havoc on the family and is particularly tough on children who are unable to protect and provide for themselves. Click Here for information on meth residue remediation.