Substance Abuse and Development

Substance abuse can be defined as the overindulgence in addictive substance or the reliance on an addictive substance, especially illicit drugs like crystal methamphetamine and others. Methamphetamine, or meth, as it is popularly called is a highly addictive stimulant that creates a feeling of energy, heightened alertness and euphoria. It is synthetically prepared, using toxic and flammable chemicals and side effects include irregular and rapid heartbeat, hyperthermia, convulsions, stroke, insomnia, high blood pressure, restlessness, and tremors . Meth can be smoked, swallowed or injected.

The developmental results of fetal exposure to meth in utero can have long-lasting implications for brain structure and function because this toxins from the drug passes through the placenta and into the baby, potentially creating growth and birth defects in utero and painful withdrawal symptoms after birth. Moreover, meth is a medication that is notably unsafe to consume during pregnancy because it can alter fetal development through a wide variety of systems. For example, meth use during pregnancy can harm the way a child develops in utero. In a case where the substance crosses the placenta, it can directly act on its molecular target in the fetus. It will move straight to the uterus and/or the placenta and the effects could include revising activities in the placenta; this means that meth use can put a woman at risk for having a baby with low birth weight, small size for growth age and a high risk for neurodevelopmental complications. A fetus is very sensitive to drugs and cannot eliminate substances as effectively as we can. Hence, the stimulants can build up to immensely high levels in the baby’s system and cause permanent damage. A child in the womb of a drug abusing woman is exposed to great danger and what happens to the baby after birth will have a great impact on their development.

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Therefore, a baby exposed to meth could experience mental and physical abnormalities, heart defects and birth defects. After birth, the child may have reduced fine motor skills, cognitive disabilities, likely be hypertensive, aggressive and restless. Often these children have problems with many of their body’s systems, because they haven’t had time to fully develop. Methamphetamine emerges to cause long-term basic deficits to the parts of the brain that control memory and motor coordination. Children who has been exposed to meth are subjected to physical and emotional crisis. The need of appropriate stimulation in early life denies their brain and neurology the chance to develop as they should, leaving them with academic difficulties and delays. The lack of consistent interaction and care in their early years forces their capability to trust others and to form relationships. Children who has been exposed to meth postnatally require developmental and mental health interventions, along with stable, nurturing caregivers. They are also required to receive a medical evaluation prior to being placed in substitute care. Children who have been exposed to meth prenatally will suffer damages to their developing brains. Getting professional help from someone that understands the effects of drug exposure on a child’s physical and mental health is imperative to ensure that the child receives the services they need. Therefore the primary care pediatrician’s role is to address prenatal substance exposure that include prevention, identification of exposure, recognition of medical issues for the exposed newborn infant, protection of the infant, and follow-up of the exposed infant. The DHHS, National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children are examples of some social agencies may assist endangered children exposed to drugs abuse persons and or the families

In conclusion, meth use when pregnant is not only a danger for the unborn fetus, but it also puts the mother at risk of life-threatening pregnancy complications such as uncontrolled high blood pressure. However, there is an indication that the physiological damage created by methamphetamine use is reversible with long-term abstinence.

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