DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- To outsiders, Debra Breuklander appeared to be a tireless single mother of three. She had an immaculate home in a middle-class suburb, perfect credit and was a homeroom mom at her children's schools.
She also was taking methamphetamine and selling the drug to make ends meet.
"I thought I was 'Super Mom' and I was doing everything right," said Breuklander, 43, now serving a 35-year prison sentence. "In actuality, my thinking was so twisted. I was doing everything wrong."
Breuklander is among a growing number of women who have abused meth, a highly addictive stimulant that produces a euphoria similar to cocaine, but lasts longer and is made from common household ingredients.
Experts and users say meth appeals to women because it's relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain, and it gives them energy to take care of their children or feel more efficient in everything they do.
"There's no comparable drug that we've ever seen as long as I've been in substance abuse that appeals to women as much as meth does," said B.J. VanRoosendaal, spokeswoman for the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse.
Nationally, women made up 47 percent of patients in substance abuse treatment centers who identified meth as their primary drug of use in 1999, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Breuklander, a former nurse who was on disability for a degenerative back disease, said her relationship with meth began with financial troubles. Her boyfriend at the time was selling meth and she joined in, selling it to a group of friends.
"It all looked glamorous and wonderful and there was such a demand for it," she said.
"I think for a lot of women, especially single mothers, it gives you the energy that you think you need to keep the house, the kids, the yard, the cars, the groceries, the laundry, everything going," she said. "At least, that's how it took me over."
Breuklander said everyone thought she was fine because she didn't look like a drug user.
"I did not look like an addict, I did not function like an addict, but I was an addict and that's a scary thing," Breuklander said.
Meth "can cause you to look like you're highly efficient, highly effective in your daily living when in fact, you're going downhill fast," she said.
Breuklander has been treated at a substance abuse program at Mitchellville and now is a mentor there. Nearly 100 women are either in the inpatient care program or in after care, which helps prepare inmates for their return to the outside world.
Breuklander is grateful to the program, but has regrets.
"I have three children. I have missed two of their high school graduations. I've missed their birthdays, I've missed important things in their life," she said. "It ruined my life."
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