In its destructive effect on rural families and their children, methamphetamine may be in a class of its own, based on the first study from an ongoing research project in seven Central Illinois counties, conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
If the children of alcoholics often find themselves in a "thunderstorm" of family problems, then the drug methamphetamine brings a "tornado" by comparison, says one of the researchers. The professionals and caregivers who pick up the pieces often lack the knowledge or resources to deal with the childrens trauma and its consequences, the study found. "These kids are at a very high risk for mental health and substance-abuse disorders, and yet we have very little descriptive information about their psychological development and well-being," said Wendy Haight, the Illinois social work professor who is leading the research.
Despite the spread of methamphetamine use since the late 1980s, and in Illinois for at least a decade, this study may be the first to look at the culture and family dynamics it creates, especially in rural areas, and the effect of that on the children of users, Haight said. "Even though our study is rooted in a particular community, it has wider implications in terms of how we approach this problem, looking at the unique rural context," she said.
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