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Substance abuse a major impact on Pike County children

Last week, a Troy man and woman were arrested on charges of chemically endangering and injuring their 1-year-old child by exposing the child to methamphetamines.

Sheriff Russell Thomas said the crime is not as common as it once was due to a decline in meth labs, but is still a serious issue.

“When people are on drugs, they couldn’t care less about their own health, family members’ health and even their children’s health,” Thomas said. “Their health deteriorates and their way of thinking deteriorates; and taking care of their children deteriorates.”

This was once an even more prevalent problem when meth was being cooked more often right at home in Pike County, but Thomas said more teeth has been added to drug laws in recent years, making it harder to get the materials needed to manufacture the drug legally.

Thomas said the two most common drugs in Pike County now are marijuana and “ice,” both of which are typically brought into the county, not made here.

But even drug use in the home can pose dangers to children and the side effects of substance abuse even more so.

“When children are involved, what we see more than anything is the parents really don’t care about their children; they’re being raised by grandparents or somebody a lot of times courts have taken children from them because of extended drug use.”

Patricia Faircloth, director of Pike County DHR, said substance abuse is the leading cause for children entering foster care in Pike County.

“This is followed closely by domestic violence, which is a co-occurring issue usually tied to substance abuse,” Faircloth said. “Methamphetamine has become the most common drug effecting families.  The breakdown illegal drug use causes to families leads to child neglect and abuse. DHR has seen an increase in reports statewide as a result of substance abuse.”

And children are presented to DHR injured by the manufacture of the drugs or exposed to them in some way, Faircloth said.

“We have had children presented to us having been physically harmed by the manufacturing and usage of methamphetamine,” Faricloth said. “Children are testing positive for meth due to exposure by the parents. Children have ingested illegal drugs due to the drug-infested environment they may be living in.”

A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) lists some of the adverse effects children have from being in an environment with methamphetamine use or manufacture.

“Children’s body size, higher rate of growth and development, and faster metabolism and breathing rate mean that children are more likely to absorb more of the chemicals and drugs into their bodies than adults,” states the study. “The developing brain and other organ systems are more susceptible to damage at specific maturational levels …

“Methamphetamine and many of the chemicals involved in its manufacture are absorbed directly through the skin. Because young children especially have more contact than adults with their physical environment, such as the floor, soil, and other surfaces, like beds, countertops, and low tables, children are likely to be exposed to more of the drug and contaminants in their homes.”

Faircloth said there is a team in place to protect these children in Pike County.

“PCDHR has great partnerships through a multi-disciplinary team which includes the CAC, District Attorney’s office, mental health, and law enforcement,” Faircloth said. “We all work collectively to protect children from abuse, provide services to families in our community, and seek justice for those who abuse and neglect children. Exposure to substance abuse at any level can effect a child’s brain development and impede physical and emotional growth. We see children struggle in school, if they are able to attend at all. Their overall health deteriorates as they become sick more often. The dysfunction in the home causes trauma to the child.”