NE Researchers Study Second-Hand Meth Effects

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A Nebraska researcher is pushing for more studies on the second-hand effects of methamphetamine.

Authorities say the drug is the most serious abused drug across the state. They say most users smoke it.

In his years at the Nebraska State Patrol, Lt. Dennis Leonard has seen the effects methamphetamine has on users.

"They tend to become more aggressive and they go long periods in which they're awake," he said.

Leonard says it's not uncommon for children to be exposed to meth, but researchers say not much is known about its second-hand effects.

"We found being exposed to methamphetamine smoke in the second-hand matter can cause some lung injury and changes in pulmonary function. We don't know if these are permanent changes and we don't know if chronic exposure will cause long term health consequences," said Dr. Sandra Wells, assistant professor in the University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health.

Researchers also don't know if their results in their studies on animals are the same effects children could see.

"They're often wards of the state. They go into foster care. It's very difficult to find medical homes for them to track them medically," said Wells. "Our preliminary data do suggest that there could be concerns about these exposures and we really should be monitoring these children more closely."

Wells says she believes her study is the first to look at the effects of second-hand meth. She started her research at the University of Montana.

Now Wells is working on a large study to monitor children exposed to meth. Lt. Leonard says those kids could have more than just physical problems.

"For children especially, those psychological effects can be long term and devastating. Their parents not providing them with the nurturing they need, with food at times, with cleanliness," said Leonard.

He says Leonard says meth labs have decreased in the state, making the drug more expensive and less available to some users.
But Leonard says, the drug's purity has increased in the state as more meth is imported form the Mexican border.

"I think we all need to be aware because we all may be coming in contact with children who are living in homes where drugs are being abused," said Wells.

The signs to look for could be discovered in this research.