Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs
Obviously, exposure to drugs prenatally is bad for a baby’s brain. A baby’s brain is growing and developing while you are pregnant, so when drugs are introduced, it can disrupt this growth. The amount of disruption depends on how much you use, how often, and at what point during the pregnancy the baby is exposed to drugs.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Marijuana
Marijuana crosses the placenta, so when you smoke pot, your baby is affected too. It contains toxins that can keep your baby from getting enough oxygen. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact effect of marijuana on your baby’s brain because many mothers who smoke pot during pregnancy also abuse other substances.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Cocaine
Cocaine also crosses the placenta and the elimination of cocaine is slower in a fetus than in an adult. Cocaine can cause defects in the brain, developmental problems, and learning difficulties in your baby. Babies can become addicted to cocaine in utero and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are born including tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasm, and feeding difficulties.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Heroin and narcotic painkillers
Use of heroin or other narcotic painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, or Morphine during pregnancy can cause bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) and infant death. These drugs are highly addictive, and use during pregnancy can also cause your baby to become addicted. When they are born, they can suffer from withdrawal symptoms like irritability, convulsions, diarrhea, fever, sleep abnormalities, and joint stiffness.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: PCP
PCP can cause numerous problems with your baby’s brain. It has been linked to brain damage, and can cause dependence if used frequently. Withdrawal symptoms include lethargy and tremors.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Methamphetamine
Taking methamphetamine during pregnancy can result in problems similar to those seen with cocaine use during pregnancy. The use of methamphetamine can cause the baby to get less oxygen, which can inhibit brain development. Methamphetamine is also highly addictive, and your baby may become dependent and suffer from withdrawal.
Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Anatomy
Even though behavioral studies clearly show that exposure to drugs, alcohol and tobacco when a baby is in utero is bad for a baby’s brain, specific effects on the anatomy of a baby’s brain have been hard to identify. This is because mothers don’t often limit themselves to one substance. In addition, other demographic factors, like poverty, can influence a baby’s brain on drugs.
However, a recent NIH study has shown that prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol, marijuana or tobacco can affect brain structure well into adolescence. More than one million babies born every year in the United States has been exposed to at least one of these substances.
The MRI’s in the study, done on adolescent children who had been exposed to substances prenatally, showed that there were indeed changes in the anatomy of the brain. The exposed children had reduced cortical brain matter and total brain volumes. The effects were shown to be additive: the more the substances the baby was exposed to, the greater the reduction in brain volume.
If your loved one is in need of addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
Drug Addicted Babies
Legal prescription drugs abuse and addiction is a rising problem in the United States. Deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses are now greater than those caused by heroin and cocaine combined. And, in the case of pregnant women, newborns are paying the price. Much like the “crack-baby” epidemic of the 1980’s, the last decade has seen an alarming increase in the number of prescription drug addicted babies.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports some shocking statistics about prescription drug abuse in the U.S. The study estimates that the number of drug addicted babies born in the U.S. has tripled in the last 10 years. One baby is born addicted every hour. Officials are calling prescription drug abuse the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.
Most of the babies are born addicted to prescription painkillers such as Opana, Roxicodone, and Vicoden. Prescription drug addiction in newborns is very dangerous, even life-threatening. Drug addicted babies usually must stay in the hospital to be weaned off the drugs. Often, drug addicted babies are given narcotics, such as methadone, to manage withdrawal symptoms, and the risk of overdose is high. Prescription drug addicted babies may cry excessively and have stiff limbs, tremors, diarrhea and other problems that make their first days of life excruciating. In addition, prescription drug addicted babies are prone to problems like stunted growth, birth defects, and seizures.
The growing number of prescription drug addicted babies also has a heavy economic cost. Most drug addicted babies are covered by Medicaid. In 2009, care for these babies cost over 720 million dollars.
One of the problems with this growing trend is that women who are addicted to prescription drugs often don’t know they are pregnant right away. After the fetus has become dependent on prescription drugs, trying to quit while pregnant can cause a miscarriage. For this reason, many women wait until after they have delivered to get off prescription drugs.
Sometimes women who take prescription drugs for chronic pain conditions do not understand the risk of taking these medications while pregnant. They assume that because they have been prescribed by a doctor, they will be safe. Many women who take daily prescription painkillers aren’t offered any alternative treatment for their pain while pregnant.
A lot of of the women who have prescription drug addicted babies became addicted to opiates before pregnancy and are simply unable to stop. Often, they don’t have the resources to seek addiction treatment. Most experts agree that we need a better way to screen for addicted mothers and funding to get them the help they need. Alternatively, because many of the mothers are young, inexperienced women in their teens and early twenties, they may be reluctant to seek treatment for their addiction out of fear the authorities will take their babies away.
Prescription drug addicted babies are just one of the casualties of the prescription drug addiction epidemic in the United States. In some areas of the country, like Florida-widely considered the epicenter of the prescription drug addiction epidemic, death from prescription drug overdose has become more prevalent than death from car accidents. About 12 million Americans—about 1 in 20 teenagers and adults—use prescription painkillers in a way that’s not prescribed.
If you or someone you know needs drug or alcohol treatment, call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at www.palmpartners.com.