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Effects of Methamphetamines

Methamphetamine continues to be a serious drug problem in Illinois and throughout the country.  Methamphetamine (meth) is a powerful stimulant that affects the central nervous system and is highly addictive.   Methamphetamine is easily made in small clandestine laboratories with over-the-counter ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, a common ingredient in cold medicines, and inexpensive but dangerous household substances such as lye and camping fuel.  These makeshift labs can be found in homes, cars, garages and other locations and are usually accessible to children. 


The chemicals used to manufacture or “cook” meth are highly toxic, flammable and explosive.  A child may inhale or swallow toxic substances that are left within their reach or inhale the fumes that are produced from manufacturing meth.  Children may also absorb meth and other toxic substances through their skin following contact with contaminated surfaces, clothing or food as a result of the cooking process. 


Children who are exposed to the chemicals used to manufacture meth may experience:

  • Irritation of the eyes, skin or mucus membranes

  • Respiratory difficulties, ranging from wheezing to respiratory distress

  • Chemical burns on the skin

  • Unusual odor and may appear unclean

  • Dizziness, nausea and fatigue

Some of the risks and dangers children are exposed to while living in a meth home are:

  • Fires and explosions

  • Guns, explosives and booby traps

  • Physical abuse and neglect

  • Sexual abuse

  • Accidental skin prick form discarded needles or other drug paraphernalia

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke of adults who are using meth

  • Social and emotional problems

It is not uncommon to find meth homes that lack heating, cooling, electricity, or running water.  They may be infested with rodents and insects such as cockroaches, fleas and lice.  Parents and caretakers who are using meth frequently fail to protect their children and fail to provide for their basic needs such as food, hygiene, dental and medical care, and appropriate sleeping conditions.  Meth using adults often become irritable, careless and violent, which puts the children at further risk of harm. 

Children exposed to environments where meth is used or manufactured may show some of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Wary of adult contact

  • Scared of parents

  • Behavioral extremes; aggressiveness or withdrawal

  • Poor hygiene

  • Reluctance to go home

  • Begging or stealing food

  • Unattended physical or medical needs

  • Excessive fatigue

  • Difficulty walking or sitting

  • Developmental delays

  • Takes on the parenting or caretaker role in the family

  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance

  • Advanced knowledge of meth or other drugs

  • Child reports incidents of injury or neglect

If you have contact with a child that you believe may have been exposed to a meth lab, or that you believe may have been abused or neglected, you should inform local law enforcement and call the DCFS child abuse hotline at 1-800-25ABUSE (1-800-252-2873). 

For more information or to schedule a training on The Effects of Methamphetamine on Children, contact Tarra Winters at 618-583-2116 or


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