The Long-term Effects on Babies of Meth-using Mothers
A new study shows that methamphetamine may cause more lasting issues than crack cocaine for babies whose mothers used during pregnancy.
We all know meth is dangerous. Adults who are chronic users can even bear telltale signs like discolored skin and rotten or missing teeth. Then there are the locations where meth is manufactured. You hear stories on the news of busts happening in seemingly quiet rural or suburban neighborhoods, or worse, of explosions when the meth-making operation goes bad.
Often overlooked in all the talk about methamphetamine are the babies who are born addicted to this dangerous drug. Now, the first study to look at methamphetamine’s potential lasting effects on children whose mothers used it in pregnancy has been released, and it finds these kids are at a higher risk for behavior problems than other children.
The behavior issues — which can range from anxiety and depression to moodiness — may not be huge, but they have researchers worried. Since methamphetamine is a stimulant, similar to crack cocaine, meth babies are born showing similar signs of addiction as “crack babies,” which includes low birth weight, drowsiness and stress.
This study shows that this may be where the similarities end. Long-term studies on children of cocaine-using mothers have produced conflicting results when it comes to determining whether these kids have lasting behavior problems.
What is the possible difference attributed to? Some researchers suggest that since methamphetamine has stronger effects on the brain, it may be more likely to cause lasting effects in children. The study, published recently in Pediatrics, was funded by the National Institutes of Health with help from a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Current data suggests that more than 10 million Americans have used meth, with fewer than 1 percent of pregnant women using. More studies will need to be done to clarify and expand on the results, but considering meth’s epidemic status in the US, the drug will likely be a topic of interest to researchers for years to come.
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By Wendy Lee Nentwig