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Why Moms Turn to Meth

The drug epidemic that began in rural America has marched into the mainstream. More than 12 million Americans have now tried methamphetamine, and former addicts include celebrities like Jodie Sweetin from TV's Full House. Currently, about a quarter of the female clients at the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, MN, are young moms addicted to meth, says women's unit supervisor and counselor Sheila Hermes. Julie Queler, founder of the Orchid Recovery Center for Women in Palm Springs, FL, notes the same trend: "About one-third of our clients are middle-to-upper income women ages 25 to 35, addicted to meth."

The highly addictive stimulant, which can be snorted, smoked, swallowed, or injected, has a particular allure for moms, agress Judy Murphy, cofounder of Moms Off Meth in Cedar Rapids, IA. "It's a very seductive drug because at first, the payoff seems huge: Not only can it help new moms lose weight after being pregnant, but it boosts their energy so much that they feel like Superwoman. And because meth lifts inhibitions, women may also gain a sense of greater intimacy with their partner, which in turn raises their self-esteem."

There are other factors behind America's meth epidemic: It's less expensive than cocaine and produces a longer-lasting high than that drug does. Typically, the stimulant causes an intense rush within minutes, followed by a burst of energy and a sense of well-being that lasts up to 12 hours. Meth is also easy to get because it's made from legal ingredients, some found in over-the-counter cold remedies. "Moms can make it in their own kitchens, instead of going to a dealer on the corner," notes Queler. "Their husbands may not even know they're using it."

Eventually the drug turns on you, however. Chronic meth abuse can lead to anxiety, hallucinations, paranoid, uncontrollable rages, heart problems, and even stroke. Meth use also rots teeth ("meth mouth"), wrinkles skin, and creates an intense itching that can result in scarring from scratching. Then there's the psychological toll: "Every mother I've worked with has huge guilt and shame about what she's put her children through," adds Murphy. Get more information on meth addiction and treatment.