MAMa FAQ's #17

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More information can be found in Crystal Meth: They Call it Ice.

My daughter is using meth and I am concerned about my 4 year old grandson.
What can I do to make sure he is safe?

The most innocent victims of drug abuse are the children of meth addicts, especially those whose parents manufacture meth in the home. These children are exposed not only to the general abuse and neglect related to living with a parent who is high, but also to the chemical hazards involved in the manufacturing process.

The chemicals used to make methamphetamine are caustic, flammable, and toxic. They cause burns, lung damage, nausea, and headaches. Children go to school confused and disoriented. They cannot concentrate. Some of the by-products of meth manufacture are similar to nerve gas used in war time. The long term effects of exposure to these chemicals include cancer, emphysema, nerve damage, liver and kidney damage.

Even if the parents do not manufacture meth in the home, these children are still subject to an incredible level of child abuse. Even minimal meth use by a mother makes her impatient and distracted. She thinks she is a 'better mother' because she is less tired and can do more. But her thoughts are so speeded up that she snaps at her kids. She loses track of time and forgets to put them to bed or feed them. There is no such thing as a 'good mother' who uses meth.

As levels of usage increase, the impact on children increases. A mother who uses every day is oblivious to her children's needs. No one gets them up for school or washes their clothes. No one buys groceries or takes them to the doctor. They put themselves to bed and scrounge for food in the pantry. They drink out of the toilet. A friend of mine is a teacher who got a little too close to one of her first graders and noticed a funny smell. The kid smelled like dog food. This child had been eating what the neighbors put out for their dog.

When parents reach the later stages of addiction, they become paranoid and violent. This is the stage in which the children are at the greatest danger. When the father comes home in a rage, he will beat and torture his children. Cigarette burns, broken bones, facial fractures, and head trauma are not uncommon. Children are left in dangerous situations, locked in their bedrooms or in the back of a car for hours or days. Their parents lose track of time and forget about them.

Children in homes where meth is manufactured are exposed to extremely high levels of methamphetamine, enough to cause symptoms of irritability, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite in the child. But even in homes where meth is only smoked by a parent, significant amounts of methamphetamine can be released into the air and ventilation system in the home, enough to affect a child's health.

It is essential the children be removed from even the 'best' meth abusing home. Meth addicts are unpredictable and dangerous as parents. Concerned family members can take steps to ensure that children are safe.

  1. Report any suspected abuse, neglect, or drug use by a parent to the child protective services CPS agency in your area. They may not do anything about it, but it is essential that you file a complaint and start an investigation. Continue to call them about each episode of abuse or neglect. Collect documentation, photographs, videotapes to prove the abuse. CPS agencies are so overwhelmed with meth cases that they often do not have the manpower to investigate each claim. The squeeky wheel gets the grease.
  2. Call the police and report your suspicions. A child endangerment complaint allows them to get the necessary warrants to search a home.
  3. Have the child evaluated for abuse by a physician or the ER. Insist that the child be tested for drug exposure. The drug test must be a crime lab drug test. The hospital lab cannot detect minimal amounts of methamphetmanie in a child's specimen. Request a search warrent if necessary. You do not have to have custody of the child in order to bring him to a hospital emergency room for care. You also do not have to have the parents consent for a drug test. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act authorizes medical professionals to get a drug test on a child they suspect is being exposed.
  4. Consult an attorney. State laws differ, but in most jurisdictions a lawyer can petition for a drug test on suspect parents once a complaint has been filed with CPS.K

Expect the parents to be furious. If you are the grandparent, you can expect angry phone calls, threats and abuse from your child and his/her spouse. Do it anyway. The child's life is at stake. You can't pretend everything is OK and ignore a serious danger to your grandchild. When you have the kids removed and get the police involved, your addicted child will be forced to face the music and admit he has a problem with his drug use.

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