Study Finds Infants Born Addicted to Meth Have Behavior Problems

meth A study, that is the first of its kind, finds that babies who are born addicted to methamphetamine are at a higher risk for behavior problems than are infants whose mothers did not use the drug during their pregnancy. The study must be repeated before the results can be confirmed.

This new study was paid for the National Institutes of Health, and the funding included a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The study followed children from when they were three years old until when they were five years of age. It built upon previous research that was done by researcher Linda LaGasse on the same group of children.

There were a total of 330 kids in this study. They lived in the Midwestern and Western parts of the United States, where it was believed that the use of methamphetamine is the most common. The mothers in the study were recruited shortly after they gave birth. The mothers were living in Des Moines, Iowa; Honolulu, Hawaii; Los Angeles, California; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Mothers who were in the study were asked questions about prenatal methamphetamine use. The stools of the newborns were collected and tested for evidence of the drug. The mothers, (and other caregivers of the children), completed checklists that asked about how frequently the children exhibited several different types of problematic behaviors.

The effects in the children who were exposed to the drug were compared to the effects of a control group of children whose mothers did not use methamphetamine. All of the children in both groups were considered to be high-risk, and many of them were living in disadvantaged homes.

When the children in the study were three years old, their scores for anxiety, depression, and moodiness was a little higher in the kids who were exposed to methamphetamine. When the children turned five years old, the group that was exposed to the drug continued to have slightly higher scores for anxiety, depression and moodiness.

Interestingly, at age five, in addition to the those behaviors, the kids who were exposed to methamphetamine also had more aggression and more attention problems (that were similar to ADHD), than the control group did. The mothers were not asked if their child had been diagnosed with ADHD. They were only asked about the behaviors their child exhibited.

Methamphetamine is stimulant that is similar, in some ways, to crack cocaine. Previous research has shown that infants exposed to methamphetamine do have some similarities to infants that were exposed to crack cocaine. The babies are smaller in size than infants who were not exposed to the drugs. They are also more prone to drowsiness and stress, when compared to babies who were not exposed to drugs.

Image by Michael Allen Smith on Flickr