The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


November 21, 2013

Constant chaos for children of meth addicts

— “The five children ranged in age from 1 to 7 years old. The one-bedroom home had no electricity or heat other than a gas stove with the oven door opened. Used hypodermic needles and dog feces littered areas of the residence where the children found playing. Because there were no beds for the children, they slept with blankets underneath a small card table in the front room. The bathroom had sewage backed up in the tub, leaving no place for the children to bathe. All children were infected with hepatitis C. Children had accidental needle marks on their feet, legs, hands arms. All children tested positive for methamphetamine and the heavy metal mercury.” (Oregon newspaper)

When 3-year-old Tyson was removed from his methamphetamine infested home he was not speaking or potty trained; did not know his name or any nursery rhymes; was fearful, withdrawn; and was caught trying to snort salt off a table with a straw. Tyson had been physically, sexually and emotionally abused as well as neglected.

Meth is the leading cause of foster care placement as well as child neglect surpassing all other drugs combined by a significant margin.  

Furthermore, methamphetamine is highly addictive. It is not “I tried it once, I didn’t like it. I never went back to it.” This is “I tried it. I need it. I will risk my life and the lives of my friends to get it.”

Parents and caregivers addicted to meth often become careless, irritable, violent and lose their capacity to nurture children. “Constant Chaos” describes the home life for children of meth addicts. Parents abusing meth can stay high and wired for a week; then crash into a comatose sleep for days.

When meth is cooked,” the chemicals spread throughout the house.” The meth is deposited everywhere, from walls and carpets to microwaves, tabletops and clothing. Children living in those labs might as well be taking the drug directly. The process of cooking meth produces a cloud of hydrochloric acid and meth that spread throughout a home.

Meth children suffer from accidental ingestions, inhalation of drugs or their precursors, rashes, respiratory problems, sex abuse, physical abuse, neglect, lice, school truancy, absent parents, numerous moves, burns, chemical odors, feelings of guilt and dental issues. From 2000-2003 over 15,000 children were reported as being affected by clandestine meth labs; 10% of users were introduced to meth by their parents. Their parents will often give them ‘just a little’ because they are whining and crying. “Give them a little meth and they will go off and play with their toys for a few days.”

Chronic exposure to the chemicals typically used in meth manufacture may cause cancer and damage the brain, liver, kidney, spleen and immunologic system. Chemicals used to cook meth and the toxic compounds and byproducts resulting produce toxic fumes, vapors and liquids. A child living at a meth lab may swallow or inhale toxic substances, suffer an injection or accidental prick from discarded needles or absorb meth throuth the skin.

Tyson, as a teenager, has been diagnosed as having ADHD, anxiety, depression, attachment issues, poor self-esteem, developmental delays, educational delays, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and sexually acting out behavior.

Pat Bruno, M.D., of Selinsgrove, specializes in recognition of child abuse.

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