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Recognizing Meth

Recognizing a Meth-Endangered Child

Along with the dramatic rise in methamphetamine labs in Illinois has come an increase in the number of children found at lab sites. The dangers to children being exposed to this environment are severe. It is difficult to identify children who may be endangered by meth because there may be so many different signs and symptoms. However, there are some “telltale signs” to look for.

Children who are exposed to the chemicals used to manufacture meth may experience irritation of the eye, skin, or mucus membranes. They may have respiratory difficulties ranging from wheezing to respiratory distress. The child may have evidence of chemical burns on their skin. Children living in meth homes may also have an unusual odor and may appear unclean.

Children being abused and neglected in meth homes may show any combination of the following signs:

  • Wary of adult contact

  • Use of behavioral extremes; aggressiveness or withdrawal

  • Frightened of parents

  • Reluctant to go home

  • Reports injury or neglect by parents

  • Consistent hunger

  • Begging or stealing food

  • Poor hygiene

  • Inappropriate dress

  • Unattended physical problems or medical needs

  • Extended stays at school; early arrival and late departure

  • Constant fatigue, listlessness, or falling asleep in class

  • Difficulty walking or sitting

  • Poor peer relationships

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Lags in physical development

  • Habit disorders: sucking, biting, rocking

  • Overly adaptive behavior: inappropriately adult or inappropriately infant

  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance

If you have contact with a child that you believe has been exposed to a meth lab or that you believe has been abused or neglected by other means, you should inform local law enforcement, child protection, or health care authorities.


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