Crystal 'meth babies' are born smaller and more prone to anxiety, depression and moodiness, results of first ever study reveal
100,000 women in U.S. are consuming crystal meth during pregnancyTheir children are more likely to suffer from drowsiness and stressAt much higher risk of developing serious behavioural problems
16:51 GMT, 19 March 2012
Children whose mothers use crystal meth during pregnancy will be more prone to anxiety, depression and moodiness in later life, scientists have revealed.
So-called 'meth babies' are also more likely to weigh much less when they are born and suffer from drowsiness and stress in their formative years.
Researcher Linda La Gasse said the combination meant they were at higher risk of developing serious behavioural problems than other children.
Study: Children whose mothers use crystal meth during pregnancy will be more prone to anxiety and depression
But while there was certain similarities to 'crack babies', whose mothers consumed crack cocaine while pregnant, 'meth babies' could be in greater danger.
This was because, she said, meth has a strong effect on the brain and is therefore more likely to have longer-lasting effects in children.
The first study to look at methamphetamine's potential effects was conducted by Brown University's Centre of the Study of Children at Risk and published online today in Pediatrics.
Government data suggests more than 10million Americans have used meth, with around one per cent of users being pregnant women.
Poison: Crystal Meth is the street name for methamphetamine, the most hyper-charged member of amphetamine family which is usually smoked through a pipe
Weight: The average size of babies whose mothers use crystal meth (left) and those who do not (right)
This means there are 100,000 pregnant
women snorting, swallowing or injecting the highly addictive
euphoria-inducing drug across the U.S.
Joseph Frascella, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse's behavioural division, said the research was 'groundbreaking'.
WHAT IS CRYSTAL METH
Street name for methamphetamine – hyper-charged member of amphetamine family
Odourless, white crystalline powder – but some forms have strong ammonia smell, because of solvents used to make it
Increases arousal in nervous system: pumps up levels of norepinephrine and dopamine
At low doses boosts alertness and blocks hunger and fatigue; higher doses causes exhilaration and euphoria; very high doses cause agitation and paranoia
Physically increases heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
Anxiety, emotional swings, and paranoia are common psychological effects of chronic use
Overdose is a huge risk: Symptoms include fever, convulsions, and coma
Death can result from burst blood vessels in the brain (triggered by spikes in blood pressure) or heart failure
High tends to last 4-12 hours with users continuing to take the drug for days – sometimes addicts stay awake for days, eat very little and in heightened state of arousal
But because the study is a first, the
results should be viewed cautiously and need to be repeated, he said. A
total of 330 children, from aged three to five, were tracked in the
Midwest and West, areas where meth use is most common.
Mothers were recruited shortly after
giving birth in Des Moines, Iowa; Honolulu, Los Angeles, and Tulsa,
Oklahoma. They were asked about prenatal meth use and newborns' stools
were tested for evidence of the drug.
Effects in children exposed to the drug were compared with those whose mothers did not use meth.
Both groups were high-risk children, with many living in disadvantaged homes.
Mothers or other caregivers completed a widely used checklist asking how often children showed many kinds of troublesome behaviour.
At three-years-old cores for anxiety, depression and moodiness were slightly higher in meth-users' children.
These differences persisted at age five.
The older children who had been exposed to meth also had more aggression and attention problems similar to ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Mothers were asked about symptoms, but not if their children had ever been diagnosed with behaviour disorders.
More than half of the mothers who had used meth during pregnancy also used it afterwards. These women also were more likely to use other drugs during and after pregnancy and to be single mothers.
But the researchers said accounting for those differences and others in the two groups' family lives did not change the results.
Research: This table compares characteristics in mothers and children who have been exposed to meth (left) and not exposed (right)