Child abuse and foster care admissions increase when parents use methamphetamines

July 2, 2012

Methamphetamine abuse leads to an increase in child abuse and neglect, which causes an increase in foster care admissions, according to a study from Baylor University.

The study, published online in the journal Economic Inquiry, found that a 1 percent increase in meth use led to a 1.5 percent increase in admissions. It is the first study to provide evidence for meth abuse's causal effect on foster home admissions.

"Our findings suggest strongly that the social costs of parental meth use include maltreatment and growth in foster care placements," said Scott Cunningham, Ph.D., study co-author and assistant professor of economics at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business. "To address this, child welfare policies should be designed specifically for the children of meth-using parents."

To measure the effect of meth use on foster care admissions, Cunningham and co-author Keith Finlay, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics at Tulane University, collected monthly data on foster care admissions and exits, meth drug treatment admissions, retail meth prices, and a variety of other potentially relevant factors from January 1995 to December 1999.

The study centered on federal laws that severely restricted two key ingredients used to produce methamphetamine: ephedrine, which was restricted in 1995, and pseudoephedrine, which was restricted in 1997.

"The consequence of each policy was to cause a temporary scarcity of methamphetamine in the market, driving prices up and purity down," Cunningham said.

The 1995 restriction caused a dramatic spike in meth prices, but the effect was relatively short lived. After six months, prices returned to their pre-restriction level. The 1997 regulation had a smaller but more sustained effect on prices—lasting approximately a year.

"Public health professionals have observed these large social costs of methamphetamine production and use," Finlay said. "Our paper is one of the first to provide plausible causal evidence of these effects that are not borne by users but by children."

The study used foster care enrollment data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), a federally mandated database that aggregates detailed case information on each child in foster care and each child who has been adopted under the authority of all state child welfare agencies. AFCARS also indicates whether a child was removed as a result of neglect, physical abuse, parental drug use or parental incarceration.

The U.S. foster care population increased from approximately 280,000 to 408,000—a rise of over 45 percent due primarily to increased admissions in the 1980s and 1990s. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, from 1986 to 2010, there was a stark increase in the foster care population from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s caused by a rapid growth in entry with no associated uptick in exit.

From August 1995 to December 1995, white meth treatment self- admissions fell 26.5 percent due to the 1995 ephedrine regulation. The drop was temporary since drug producers substituted pseudoephedrine and meth self-admissions grew 25.6 percent from December 1995 to February 1998. That growth caused 2,257 children to enter foster care, according to the researchers.

"Given the large social costs of meth use on child maltreatment, policymakers face a significant challenge to reduce its use," Cunningham said. "Regions with intensive meth use should consider greater resources for meth treatment and child welfare services. These areas have historically been rural or exurban and so may already be underserved. Our study also highlights the social benefits of policies restricting consumer access to methamphetamine ingredients, like pseudoephedrine."

Explore further: Methamphetamine use increasing again, researchers find

More information: Follow this link to read the entire study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2012.00481.x/full

Related Stories

Methamphetamine use increasing again, researchers find

January 25, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Use of methamphetamines is on the rise nationally after a decrease a few years ago, according to university researchers.

Study of 'meth babies' finds behavior problems

March 19, 2012
The first study to look at methamphetamine's potential lasting effects on children whose mothers used it in pregnancy finds these kids at higher risk for behavior problems than other children.

Recommended for you

Marijuana use may not aid patients in opioid addiction treatment

December 4, 2017
Many patients who are being treated for opioid addiction in a medication-assisted treatment clinic use marijuana to help manage their pain and mood symptoms.

For opiate addiction, study finds drug-assisted treatment is more effective than detox

November 23, 2017
Say you're a publicly insured Californian with an addiction to heroin, fentanyl or prescription narcotics, and you want to quit.

Study finds medical cannabis is effective at reducing opioid addiction

November 17, 2017
A new study conducted by researchers at The University of New Mexico, involving medical cannabis and prescription opioid use among chronic pain patients, found a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use ...

Insomnia linked to alcohol-use frequency among early adolescents, says new psychology study

November 8, 2017
Insomnia is linked to frequency of alcohol use among early adolescents, according to new Rutgers University–Camden research.

Large declines seen in teen substance abuse, delinquency

October 25, 2017
More than a decade of data indicates teens have become far less likely to abuse alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs, and they also are less likely to engage in delinquent behaviors, such as fighting and stealing, according ...

Trying to get sober? NIH offers tool to help find good care

October 3, 2017
The phone calls come—from fellow scientists and desperate strangers—with a single question for the alcohol chief at the National Institutes of Health: Where can my loved one find good care to get sober?

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.