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Kids of Meth-Using Moms At Risk Of Behavioural Woes

STEVEN REINBERG | HEALTHDAY NEWS

CHILDREN exposed to methamphetamine while in the womb face a higher risk of developing behaviour problems, a new study suggests.

These problems can include depression, anxiousness and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“This is the only study on methamphetamine that looked at children at birth and followed them into childhood,” said study author Linda LaGasse, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Brown University School of Medicine.

Mothers’ prenatal use of methamphetamine, “over and above other bad things that cause trouble with children, has an effect on behaviour,” LaGasse said. The stimulant drug is thought to be even more potent than cocaine because it lasts longer in the body, she explained.

“Methamphetamine goes right into the placenta and affects the brain,” she said.

Dr James C Garbutt, professor and medical director of the Alcohol & Substance Abuse Programme at the University of North Carolina, said that “these data suggest that exposure to methamphetamine in utero might lead to behavioural problems in children, and this is something that needs to be noted and considered for future research.” “Of course there are many other reasons not to use methamphetamine including its serious consequences for physical and mental health and its overall destructive power for individuals and their families,” he added.

LaGasse’s team tested 166 children of mothers who used methamphetamine during pregnancy, comparing them to 164 similar children who had not been exposed to the drug.

To determine that results were truly related to methamphetamine use and not other factors, the researchers took into account tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use among both groups of mothers.

Researchers also looked at the extent of their mother’s methamphetamine use, age and other environmental risk factors.

Children’s caregivers filled out a checklist that researchers used to assess behaviour when they were 3, and again at age 5
At both assessments, “methamphetamineexposed children were more emotionally reactive, that is nervous and disturbed by change, as well as anxious and depressed,” LaGasse said.

By age 5, these children also showed signs of ADHD and other acting-out behaviours.

Moreover, children whose mothers were heavy methamphetamine users had both types of problems at both evaluations.

Dr Bruce Goldman, director of substance abuse services at Zucker Hillside Hospital, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Glen Oaks, New York, commented on the study.

“The finding is not overly surprising,” he said.

“It’s only commonsensical that with women who are using methamphetamine through pregnancy that there would be some long-term impact on their babies.” That’s true with other drugs, he said.


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