Greater fetal brain damage with methamphetamine than with alcohol
Expecting mothers have been warned about the dangers of drinking while pregnant. The Mayo Clinic states that “as many as 40,000 babies are born with some type of alcohol-related damage each year in the United States.” Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) can cause serious problems in an unborn child, such as brain damage, which can lead to developmental delays and learning disorders. The child can also suffer from heart defects, poor coordination, slow physical growth, and deformities of her joints, limbs, and fingers.
HealthDay News reports that while drinking during a pregnancy can cause severe damage to the fetus, methamphetamine use during pregnancy has even more effects. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant and is classified as a Schedule II drug. Methamphetamine is available as a prescription drug, though the Institute notes that “most of the methamphetamine abused in [the United States] comes from foreign or domestic superlabs, although it can also be made in small, illegal laboratories.”
The study, which is published in The Journal of Neuroscience, performed brain scans of 21 children who were exposed to methamphetamine and alcohol, 13 children who had only prenatal alcohol exposure, and 27 controls. The results found serious damage to the caudate nucleus, a part of the brain involved in motor control, motivation, and memory. While children with FAS have a smaller caudate nucleus, children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure had an even smaller caudate nucleus. The brain scans also revealed that the cingulate cortex, a brain structure involved in control and conflict resolution, was larger in children exposed to methamphetamine.
The prenatal damage can be prevented by avoiding alcohol and methamphetamine during the pregnancy. Women who need help with their addiction can go to a recovery center, such as the Alcohol and Drug Recovery Centers (ADRC), which are affiliated with St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT.
March 18, 3:28 PM
Hartford Women's Health Examiner
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch