Methamphetamine: Bill Equating Meth Use with Child Abuse Passes New Mexico House

The New Mexico House voted 67-3 Saturday to approve a bill that makes using or possessing methamphetamine in a home where minors are present child abuse. At least three other states -- Iowa, Michigan, and South Dakota -- have already approved similar laws.

The bill, HB 117, amends the state's child abuse and neglect statute to include the following language: "Evidence that demonstrates a child has been knowingly, intentionally or negligently exposed to the use of methamphetamine shall be deemed prima facie evidence of abuse of the child."

While "meth equals child abuse" laws may be well-intentioned, critics say they do more harm than good. When Drug War Chronicle covered this issue in 2006, Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform called them cruel and "ineffective."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told the Chronicle.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws.

"This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told the Chronicle.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this."

The bill now heads for the New Mexico Senate.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Meh addict?

You may not be able to be a meth "addict" and a good parent but you can certainly be a meth user and a good parent. My father, a regular user of 15 milligram, time release Dexedrine spansules (obtained by prescription, of course) was an excellent parent as well a a university professor, critic and writer. For those too young to know, Dexedrine was a close relative of methamphetamine, once widely prescribed as a diet and energy pill. Even the sophisticated audience at DRC tends to fall into the trap of assuming that the users of drug X are "addicts". I would suggest there is no drug that does not have at least some responsible, non-addicted users.

Excellent point

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

Addicts?

It is well known that the drug warrior types say that any use of "illegal" drug is addiction. But the true definition of "compulsive use with negative social consequences", is largely ignored. ( I guess they can justify "marijuana addiction" because if you get caught, it is definitely a big social problem, to be thrown in jail, kid taken away, etc.!) The cure is worse than the disease! And, as you pointed out, amphetamines are "legal" class two drugs. So is cocaine!

Even diacetylmorphine is wrongly classified! Obviously it is a pain medication. But, change the name to "heroin" and all of a sudden it grows a new life!

Chronic pain patients, on drugs, even stronger than this, have been shown to have an addiction rate of somewhere between 0.008% and 2%. It is common practice for doctors to deny pain medication for those who need it, because of the drug war and its politics. Addiction has become a political ploy to deny the patient care and the pain management doctor of his freedom. Just Google it!

The law seems to have a split personality. But it is more like, plain, old, hypocrisy.

Desoxyn

The prescription drug Desoxyn is a form of methamphetamine. Will they be arresting the parents of ADHD kids who are "knowingly exposed to methamphetamine" - by their doctors?

Meth addicts are just the latest bogeyman of people trying to get elected on a "law and order" platform. Before that, it was crackheads; before that, it was heroine junkies; before that, it was marijuana-crazed jazz musicians. They are all just stereotypes used to frighten people into giving up their rights.

Frankly, I'm just as worried about my co-workers on Xanax and Adderall as I am about the meth enthusiasts in front of the building where I work. But none of them belong in jail.

"Well-intentioned" my ass

Meth equals child abuse laws are NOT well-intentioned. Child abuse charges merely give the state added leverage against suspected drug possessors in plea offers. Every parent's greatest fear is losing their children, so when the state "offers" to drop the abuse charges, most of us are all too eager to plead guilty even to things we didn't even do.

The state doesn't give a rat's ass about your children. It was the state, remember, who sent the SWAT team to your house in the middle of the night to pull your kids out of bed at gunpoint. And it's the state that will put them in a foster home, where they may or may not be housed with older sex offenders.

Nowhere is the evil of the drug war more evident than in the blatant use of our children as pawns. And that's ALL they are. Pawns in a war based on lies.

The "witch-hunt", by the way, has been going on for decades.

I used meth for 18 years,

including 4 years of almost daily use. My children grew up happy, healthy and loved and are now productive members of society.

In 26 years of being around meth and meth users, the only times I ever saw guns pointed at children, the guns were in the hands of police officers.

Isn't threatening children with guns child abuse?

For 4 years I lived next door to a foster home where the young children of suspected drug possessors were housed with teenaged sex offenders.

Isn't exposing children to possible sexual molestation child abuse?

The pretense of "protecting" children from their own parents makes the abuse that much more heinous.

Finally a Bill for the innocent

Does anyone find the statement that a meth-user can be a "good parent" ridiculous or is it just me? I heard about this Bill through a friend and decided to research it further. Low and behold after reading, what I believe is an HONEST effort to PROTECT the innocent, I ran into some comic relief, ie. your posts. The difference between meth and other PRESCRIPTION stimulants is that one is legal and one is not. One holds medicinal value (in present tense) and the other does not. A doctor prescribes and a pharmacists fills one and the other is scored from the crazy man who hasn't slept in days and talks to the fire hydrant. One is covered by insurance and the other can be bought for a cordless phone and answering machine exchange. Do you get where I am going with this? Being a drug-addict is a full-time job. Anything else becomes a hobby or sadly enough a burden. And that includes parenting your children, being a responsible employee, a wife, a husband, a friend will all come second to the unquenchable, insatiable need to get your next fix. For the mom who was/is a meth "user", you managed to use for that long and I highly doubt the story about your kids being happy, healthy, and let alone productive members of society why would you not seek help? Do your kids use? If they do does it make you proud of them? Probably not! So why on earth would you post the fact that you used meth for so long like it is some freaking badge of honor?! Then turn around and blame SWAT for busting your door down and scaring your kids. You invited them in to your house when you decided to use and more likely sell the crap. Would SWAT have come into your house if you weren't a meth-addict/peddler? No. I am a new foster-mom who bears the pain of a baby born addicted to meth. I stayed up with him at night when he wriggled and wiggled all night long. He never seemed comfortable and calm in his own skin. He is developmentally behind by 50%. Tell him that his mother didn't abuse him everytime she picked up that pipe and got her fix. You will never have to fear the law and its repercussions if you live by the law. Protect our children today or we fail them tomorrow.

Methamphetamine use

Children exposed to methamphetamine come to the attention of the system (teachers, doctors, case workers) in three ways. They have in utero exposure which increases (as does any amphetamine or cocaine) risk of low birthweight, prematurity, with all the health costs that entails, birth defects particularly stroke and gastrointestinal malformation, and withdrawal symptoms that range from fussiness and spitiness to writhing inconsolable agony. Infants and children who are in close quarters to cooking or drug manufacture present with the consequences of the products used to manufacture the drugs, which can include neurologic and behavioral problems, skin and tooth problems, and liver and digestive issues. Infants and children whose parents are parenting under the influence come to our attention because they are neglected, they ingest drugs and come in seizing or wired beyond belief, they are dirty and unfed and unprepared to learn in school, they have significant behavior problems, or they are dead from avoidable accidents, ingestion, or poor adult behavior. All three of these scenarios are by definition child abuse.

I agree with others that law enforcement, juvenile justice and child protection agencies are far from perfect. But so are many methamphetamine users. Many lack insight into their children's plight. All children have the right to grow up without fear, without bodily and emotional harm, and with their basic needs met. If folks have other solutions that would reliably get kids out of meth (or any drug abusive - not usage) situations, and provide the parents the time and services they need to kick before trying to parent again, I welcome them. But until then, if we need draconian laws to remove a child from an abusive situation, like anyone who believes that children are our future, I will live with the laws.

Meth.....

I am looking for any information, any new laws that have passed
in the state of Texas... regarding children who are removed
from their parents card because they tested positive (drugs_)
This is not the first time this has taken place, nor is it the first child
There are three children involved....
How many children does the state of Texas allow a Meth Mother
to have 3, 6, 9, exactly how many and how many times does
Texas give the children back to the Mother.....
These children need to be adopted in order to have a good life.
Can anyone help...
Thanks Sherry Hunt
[email protected]

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