Exposure to meth threatens children in many ways. You don’t have to use meth to absorb its toxins—living near a production site or inhaling meth smoke will also cause it to enter a person’s bloodstream. Because children have smaller bodies and higher rates of metabolism and respiration than adults, they absorb higher levels of the toxic chemicals from meth labs. The explosive ingredients used to make meth also put children at risk for chemical burns and respiratory damage from fires.
The living conditions of a home used for the production of meth or inhabited by adults who use meth also endanger children. The homes are frequently filthy, and the parents may be so consumed with acquiring and using meth that they neglect their kids. Children’s play, sleep, and eating areas may be infested with rodents and insects. Law enforcement officials frequently find rotten food, animal feces, used needles, and garbage piled on floors and counters in homes where meth is produced. First responders say they can never fully prepare themselves for the shock of finding young children who haven’t eaten, bathed, or been loved by a sober parent in days or weeks. They describe finding malnourished, frightened, and neglected children with respiratory problems, liver damage, injuries, or other issues. Initially, children who live where meth is made must be held with rubber gloves because their skin and clothing are extremely toxic.
A recent study calculates the long-term health damage to meth-exposed children. Infants exposed to meth in utero are more likely to be smaller than infants not exposed to drugs. By age five, they show above-average levels of anxiety and depression, and they are more emotionally reactive, which can increase behavior problems. They are more likely than other children to have attention problems, be more withdrawn, and show ADHD symptoms. Yet with professional help and a stable home environment, their lives can improve.
THE HIGH COST TO CHILDREN
In 2021, a baby from Paragould, AR died from ‘manslaughter and introduction of a controlled substance into the body of another person’ at 8 months old. The infant was in the care of a 30-year-old Paragould woman and according to the probable cause affidavit, the infant was taken to Arkansas Children’s Hospital with a fractured skull, a fractured femur, and meth in his system. The woman told investigators that she smoked methamphetamine in ‘close proximity to the infant on the night prior to the incident.’ Stating she had placed the infant down for a nap approximately 1 and ½ hours prior to finding the infant unresponsive. There were 12 blankets, a towel, two pillows, and some toys in the crib with the infant. The baby’s death was determined to be ‘due to exposure to methamphetamine exposure complicated by an unsafe sleeping environment.’