Drug abuse is unbelievably tragic. It’s harmful and scary and dangerous enough for adults, but combined with the unsettling fact that there are pregnant and addicted mothers out there and it just makes all of it even sadder.
Babies born to drug-addicted mothers have so much to overcome in their new lives. Whatever drug that their pregnant mother was addicted to has entered their tiny systems and if the mother is addicted to narcotics, it’s even worse. The newborns experience the same things that a drug abuser would experience when coming off the drug of choice “cold turkey” (abruptly).
Any substance that enters the mother’s bloodstream is passed into the bloodstream of the baby, and when that substance is a narcotic, the impact on the newborn baby is much more traumatic. Perhaps you have seen or heard about “crack” babies. Crack babies are born to mothers addicted to crack (a smokable form of cocaine). Almost everybody has heard of heroin babies. Now another drug of choice has joined addicted newborn babies and that drug is meth.
[box type="note"]Methamphetamine (or crystal meth) is a stimulant that is highly addictive. Studies have shown that it is more appealing to women than men, and of the women who seek treatment for meth abuse, roughly seven percent are pregnant.[/box]
The results from the first active study of its kind on potential effects on babies born to mothers who are meth addicts were published online on March 19, 2012.
“The National Institutes of Health paid for the research, including a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse,” said an article on the Huffington Post. The study was headed by lead researcher Linda LaGasse at Brown University’s Center of the Study of Children at Risk.
The findings of the study weren’t terribly large, but are worth examining further. The study showed results that were “very worrisome” said Linda LaGasse, who is the lead researcher at Brown University’s Center of the Study of Children at Risk. Studies included children whose ages ranged from three to five. Both the age groups showed more anxiety, depression, and moodiness than “normal” children their age.
The five-year-olds who were studied from the time they were three that had been exposed to meth were more aggressive and had more attention problems, which were similar to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Part of the study also showed that the “acting out” behavior problems that five-year-olds not addicted to meth had disappeared between the ages of three and five, which is a natural occurrence.
The five-year-olds that had been exposed to meth, however, did not change at all; in other words, their aggression and lack of ability to pay attention did not go away. Other internalized symptoms like sadness, anxiety and withdrawn behavior stayed the same in the five-year-old meth-exposed children, as well.
In a nutshell, the study shows that children exposed to meth at birth were at a much higher risk than other children of emotional and mental issues. More information about this dangerous drug and how it affects babies addicted to it will emerge as more studies are conducted and as the meth babies grow older. Just because the findings were not as catastrophic as they could have been, doesn’t mean that the behavioral problems won’t get worse. LaGasse stated methamphetamine has stronger effects on the brain, so it may be more likely to cause lasting effects in children
Studies have shown that crack babies show a great improvement in behavior as time progresses. Furthermore, current studies show that there seems to be relatively no damage to children exposed to cocaine as an unborn child. Studies of three-to-five year olds that were exposed to heroin as a newborn showed that environment seemed to play a bigger factor in future behavior problems than does being born to a heroin-addicted mother.
[box type="important"]The Federal Government has estimated current meth use at ten millions users. Less than one percent of those users are pregnant women. There is not yet enough evidence to draw a sound conclusion as to what behavior problem meth-exposed babies will have in later life. Only time and further studies will be able to definitively tell.[/box]
This article was written by Jillian Thompson of DrugRehab.org. Jillian works with Teens attending various long term drug rehab centers and as a full-time mother she knows the importance of drug education.