Children Exposed to Meth: Long-Term Effects Still Unknown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Two children were inside a home on Joe's Creek in Boone County where deputies say meth was being made.

It's not the first time, and sadly, it won't be the last.

The children were taken into custody by Child Protective Services.

Haley Herron is an addictions counselor at Rae of Hope in Huntington. At the age of 19, she started using meth.

"They don't have a choice," Herron said about the children.

Herron knew she had a choice when she was making the drug and says she knew, to an extent, what kind of chemicals she was inhaling. She has been clean and sober for four years. She now has a 3-year-old son.

"I may not have been a mother in active addiction, but I can tell you I wasn't above it," Herron said.

According to Marshall University Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Sean Loudin, M.D., there is still a good deal to learn about the long-term health effects of children living in homes where meth is made.

He describes understanding the long-term effects as something still in its "infancy."

"We know they are irritants," Loudin said of the chemicals being used, he went on to say the neglect and nutritional needs of the children is also a major concern.

Loudin explained a study done in Sweden followed children whose parents used amphetamines. He says the overall IQ of the teenagers didn't appear to be affected, but their skills in math were the most significant indicator of a learning problem.

At schools, teachers, nurses and school counselors say there are several factors. Signs of the child being neglected, tired, hungry, dirty and having trouble in school are some indications, but the biggest indicator is a strong foul odor that almost smells of cat urine.

Herron says she has a hard time describing what happens when meth is made inside a home. In addition to her child not being born until she was sober, she says that no children were ever present in a home where she was cooking. She describes the situation as chaotic, dangerous, and "really hard to comprehend what you are doing because you are so fixated on the outcome," in other words, the high.

Herron says she is healthy now. She doesn't know what the long-term effects on her health will be. In the meantime, she continues to help other women with whom she can relate.

"Here at Rae of Hope we work with women who have perhaps put their children in dangerous situations, Herron explained. "And I am not in any position to judge, but I also know the disease of addiction is so powerful it overrides any primal instinct you have as a mother to take care of your child."

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