The drug methamphetamine, also known as "meth," is cheap and easily obtained. This makes it a risk among those who feel overwhelmed by their circumstances, such as mothers or pregnant women. This addiction, whereas the drug itself is not costly, cost many of these women their children. In order to rehabilitate them it is perhaps better to work with them on a social basis than to send them to jail or to remove their children on a permanent basis.
Below the issues involved with meth addiction are considered, along with strategies that could be followed towards rehabilitation.
Reasons for Taking Meth
The pressure that society imposes on the modern woman is immense. Not only is a woman expected to be a career woman; she should also take good care of her home and her children. Both these things are almost mutually exclusive jobs, and without help, a woman cannot manage everything that needs to happen in her day. For single mothers, who are obliged to work in order to keep food on the table, things are even worse. Some of these women work at two jobs and come home exhausted, with the washing and the children waiting to be cared for.
This sense of overwhelming pressure from all directions then can drive a woman to distraction, and sometimes to drugs. What makes meth popular among mothers is its effects. Meth gives its abuser energy and a sense of mastery. A woman taking meth feels that she can do everything that is expected of her: care for the children as well as perform well at a career.
Women today find themselves in a situation where they are expected to be good at everything. While this is perhaps good from the perspective of Women's Lib, it is a difficult image to keep up. No woman can juggle job, children and home while looking good at the same time, all the time. The challenge of living up to this nearly impossible ideal is what makes them vulnerable to Meth. The drug is also particularly attractive for its appetite-killing properties. Keeping thin, taking care of the children and the home, as well as keeping up a fair job performance suddenly seem less difficult.
Women taking the drug thus feel more efficient in their various life roles. But this is only the initial effects. The longer-term consequences of meth abuse are much more devastating.
The Effects of the Drug
The problem is that the apparent benefits of the drug last only so long. The habit exacts a steep price for the initial thrill of feeling control. The drug is highly addictive, and can be smoked, snorted or injected. When mixed with coffee, some women refer to it as "biker coffee." The resultant euphoria is similar to the effects of cocaine, but it lasts longer.
Because of the deceptive feeling of efficiency resulting from the drug, mothers who use it are often high while in charge of their children. This includes tasks such as driving, cooking and other general household and possibly dangerous tasks while on the drug. Thus the women endanger not only themselves but also their children. Further long-term effects regarding the family is also that using the drug could result in divorce, leaving the mother without the support of spouse. The evil cycle here is that now the mother has to perform even better than before starting the drug. Another related problem is that the addicted person feels as if all her problems are solved by the drug, rather than being caused by it. This makes it difficult to see that she indeed has a problem.
But it is a problem, as shown by the various adverse effects of the drug on the body and on the personality. Paranoia is for example one of the problems developed as a result of using the drug. This manifests itself in a preoccupation with people close to the addict. Irritability, sleeplessness and restlessness are other signs of the drug. Physical effects of the drug include chest pain, high blood pressure and hypertension.
The drug is especially dangerous for pregnant women. Complications such as stillbirths and premature births can occur in childbirth, while cardiac defects as well as cognitive and behavior problems are evident in these women on a persistent basis. Another serious physical result of taking this drug is brain damage. Studies have indicated that brain cells are damaged by the drug, and that such damage persists for months after the drug is no longer used. This persistence in brain damage is another serious consequence of using drugs in order to be perfect in terms of motherhood and life.
One fortunate factor when considering rehabilitation is that the drug has no withdrawal symptoms. While there may be a craving to return to the hectic cycle stimulated by the drug, being rehabilitated requires little more than the desire to clean up.
As mentioned above, the first step in rehabilitation is the desire to be rehabilitated. However, the law often see the need to treat mothers addicted to this drug with extreme harshness. Harsh prison sentences have for example been imposed, and custody rights have been revoked. While these serve as effective tactics to impose upon the women the fact that the drug is detrimental, it does little towards rehabilitating them in a way that helps them to function better as part of society, and as mothers.
In fact, harsh sentences do not appear to discourage the use of the drug, since surveys have shown that the drug is still the preference among women of child-bearing age, and women with children. Also, in order to avoid such penalties, women with the addiction fail to seek help as a result of the fear of losing their children. This further strengthens the cycle of drug abuse, and exacerbates the problem. Sending women to prison for their addiction merely reinforces their idea that without chemical substances they are somehow not adequate.
It would perhaps therefore be more beneficial if institutions specifically focused on rehabilitation and reintegration into society could be used as positive forces in the lives of these women. Prison life hardly serves as a positive force, and the likelihood of a return to the drug after finishing a prison sentence is higher than after finishing a time in an institution focused on healing the addict.
Institutions such as the House of Hope in Utah for example serve to help meth-addicted women and their children. This facility is focused on leading the women away from their harmful addictions and towards a more effective paradigm of raising their children. It is interesting that the House is the first one of its kind in the county. In a country that is supposed to focus on individual freedoms and rights, the treatment given to mothers addicted to substances appears far too restrictive.
The House of Hope focuses on a more positive paradigm of rehabilitation. In fact, mothers referred to the institution are often given another chance with their children. Children are brought to the institution to live with their mothers in a positive, rehabilitative environment. Because of the lack of withdrawal symptoms, it is easier to help these women recover through programs that focus on the abilities that they do have as mothers, workers and guardians. This reinstates the mothers into society, without detracting large amounts of years from their lives that could have been spent as positive influences on their children.
In terms of children as well, it is better to focus on healing an addicted mother than to punish her. Institutions such as the House of Hope allows the opportunity for the family unit to survive. Meth destroys the family, as seen above. Prison however does nothing to restore the connection, whereas rehabilitation centers do. The importance of children to their mothers should also be taken into account. It is in fact often the desire to be better as a mother that initially provokes the use of the drug. The fact that mothers are allowed to keep their children while in treatment for the addiction, serves as an attracting force to the House of Hope.
When prison or revoked custody rights are threats, women would not seek treatment or even admit their problem. If these fears can be removed, the chances for rehabilitation are better. Ultimately, a better nationwide rate of health can be achieved.
The effect of an institution such as the House of Hope is also positive with regard to pregnant women. The stigma of giving birth in prison and the fear of losing the child right after birth is no longer attached to seeking help for the problem.
The House of Hope supports a positive parenting paradigm by allowing mothers to live at the institution with up to three children under the age of 12. The program provides a 90-day program of intensive rehabilitation.
The above institution is an example of a more effective treatment for mothers with drug problems. The penalty system…