Meth use may affect baby's behaviour

Meth use may affect baby's behaviour

Women who use methamphetamine during pregnancy may be placing their unborn children at risk of developing behavioural problems during childhood, a new study has claimed.

Studies of children exposed to the cocaine-like stimulant drug in their mothers’ womb have already linked the exposure to stunting foetal growth, increasing newborns’ stress level and affecting their motor development.

Now, a team at the Brown University in the US who looked at babies of meth-using mothers since birth found that the drug’s exposure could also take a toll on a child’s mood and behaviour. They are more likely to suffer from anxious and depressed moods by age three, and at five years, these meth-exposed kids are more likely to “act out” behaviourally and show symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the team reported in the journal Pediatrics.

These findings are alarming, because behaviours seen at these young ages tend to persist, said study researcher Linda LaGasse, an assistant professor of pediatrics, said.

“It is not just about 3 to 5, it’s setting the groundwork potentially for the future unless something interrupts it,” LaGasse told LiveScience.

Methamphetamines, also known as speed or ice, create a feeling of energy and euphoria.

According to a 2009 estimate, some 1.2 million Americans aged 12 and over had used meth at least once that year. Nearly 7 per cent were pregnant women. For the new study, the researchers used data from public health studies that had recruited mothers and their babies, and examined the behaviours of children who had been exposed to meth in utero. Mothers reported whether they had taken meth during pregnancy, and the babies’ first stools were tested for signs of meth exposure.

At follow-up interviews when the children were 3 and 5 years old, the caregivers responded to questions about the children’s behaviours and moods.

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