Hands smoking meth


A pregnant woman is torn between drugs
and the baby she's carrying

By Rachel Cassandra

Headphones recommended.
For the full audio, click here.

Hands smoking meth

Fresno's needle exchange is a 1960's era bus that parks on a dead end street for two hours every Saturday.

People bring their dirty syringes and exchange them for clean ones. No questions asked.

The exchange gives away about 19,000 syringes every week to 300-400 people.

Drug users call these syringes “rigs.”

According to drug treatment rates, drug use in Fresno is about twice California's average.

I came here to find someone who can talk to me about what it’s like to live with addiction.

I’m interested because it’s something that runs in my family.

Amanda in front of CPS

I spend a long, hot day at the exchange talking to anyone who will speak to me about their drug use.

I’m ready to go home but decide to talk to one more person.

That's when I meet Amanda.

Amanda is five-and-a-half months pregnant.

She's homeless and addicted to heroin and methamphetamine. She’s 30 years old.

She wants to keep the baby, and she’s terrified.

Duration :30

CPS, or Child Protective Services, can't get involved until a mother has given birth.

After that, the agency opens a case when an investigator believes a mother’s drug use poses substantial risk to a child.

Amanda knows she needs to stop using before the baby is born.

Amanda in front of CPS

Amanda’s three other kids, ages 14, 12 and 4, live with their dads.

Her youngest child tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana when she was born.

Amanda shares custody with her kids' dads and she sees them regularly. But she doesn’t feel like she can take care of them right now because of her drug use and her unstable housing situation.

Duration :43

All messages are actual texts between Amanda and me.

I hope you had fun with your daughter!

Oh ya her dad just picked her up so I'm sad now

Aw :/

Well I'm glad you got to spend some time with her.

Ya me to. .i really missed. Her

Hi Amanda! Let me now when you're up and ready for me to come over.

Hey good morning I'm hopping in the shower now

I'm so hungry this morning

Amanda in front of CPS

Amanda and I did most of our interviews in my car or hers.

I used a hand-held audio recorder and took photos and videos with my phone.

I found this story complicated to report at times because I was so closely following Amanda, and was often concerned with her wellbeing.

Amanda Pregnant

Amanda found out she was pregnant during an unrelated doctor's visit.

The doctor was upset with her because she was so far along.

Amanda wonders if her pregnancy has a greater purpose.

“Maybe that's one of the reasons God got me pregnant—so I can get off this shit.”

Amanda Pregnant

Amanda lives on "Motel Drive."

It's a row of motels serving people struggling in the margins of Fresno's economy.

She moves around from room to room, switching motels if she lapses on rent. Each room costs $45-55 per day.

Amanda in front of CPS

Amanda is a sex worker.

Duration :17

Her clients pay about $40 per date.

About $20 a day goes to drugs. It used to be more, but she cut down after she found out she's pregnant.