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Kids exposed to methamphetamine prior to birth have more cognitive problems

Harold Mandel's picture
Examining a newborn baby

Methamphetamine use by pregnant women can cause catastrophic cognitive problems for their kids as they develop. It would seem like a common sense understanding that pregnant women should stay away from all illicit drugs. It would also appear reasonable to assume that by instinct pregnant women would gravitate away from doing anything which could harm their developing children. However, many women place the cognitive development of their kids at risk by using methamphetamine while they are pregnant.

Researchers designed an investigation to examine child behavioral and cognitive outcomes after prenatal exposure to methamphetamine, reported The Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers enrolled 412 mother–infant pairs in the Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle study. 204 of the mother–infant pairs were methamphetamine-exposed and 208 were unexposed to methamphetamine. Exposure to methamphetamine was determined by maternal self-report and/or positive meconium toxicology. Maternal interviews were used to assess behavioral and cognitive outcomes using the Conners' Parent Rating Scale–Revised: Short Form.

The researchers found that children exposed to methamphetamine had significantly higher cognitive problems subscale scores than comparisons. The exposed children were found to be 2.8 times more likely to have cognitive problems scores that were higher than average on the Conners' Parent Rating Scale–Revised: Short Form. The researchers concluded that prenatal methamphetamine exposure was associated with increased cognitive problems, which may have an affect on academic achievement and which may lead to increased negative behavioral outcomes.

Researchers found kids exposed to the potent illegal drug methamphetamine before birth had increased cognitive problems at age 7.5 years, reports the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute in a discussion of this research. To date this is the only long-term, National Institutes of Health-funded study of prenatal methamphetamine exposure and child outcome. The findings of this study highlight the need for early intervention to improve academic outcomes and lower the potential for negative behaviors.

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The finding was compelling that children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure were more likely to have cognitive problem scores than children who were not exposed to the drug in a test which is often used for measuring cognitive skills, the Connors’ Parents Rating Scale. Lynne M. Smith, MD, a lead researcher at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and corresponding author of the study, said, “These problems include learning slower than their classmates, having difficulty organizing their work and completing tasks and struggling to stay focused on their work.” Smith says that these problems can lead to educational deficits for these kids and potentially negative behavior as they try to cope with not being able to keep up with their classmates.

Methamphetamine use among women of reproductive age is a serious concern. About 5 percent of pregnant women aged 15-44 have reported current illicit drug use. The use of methamphetamine during pregnancy can cause a blocking of nutrients and oxygen to the developing fetus. This can also potentially lead to long-term problems because the drug can cross the placenta and enter the fetus’s bloodstream.

In previous research in Sweden there was evidence of lower IQ scores, poorer school performance and aggressive behavior in kids with prenatal methamphetamine exposure. The Swedish study tracked the kids through age 15, but this study didn’t compare them to kids who had no prenatal methamphetamine exposure. It is hoped that by identifying deficits early in the child’s life, intervention can occur sooner to help kids overcome these deficits to offer them a greater chance for success in school and in life.

It has been my experience that drug abuse is such a rampant problem in the United States it's almost considered anti-American not to be involved in the drug culture as kids are growing up in the country. It must be kept in mind that any problem of this nature which is this pervasive means we are dealing with corrupt and brutal elements in our society which are so sinister that clearly the well being of a fetus or young child is not of any more concern to them than adult lives in relation to the enormous profits involved in the illicit drug trade.

The drug dealers will hook pregnant women on their poisons and waste the lives of them and their unborn kids as quickly as they will do this to students and other members of our society. It is therefore my suggestion that aside from investing more heavily in educational initiatives to make people more aware of the illicit drug problem, we also invest much more heavily in a war against illicit drug dealers. It would seem to me the illicit drug dealers represent as much of a potential threat to every life in our society as the terrorists.