The Effects of Prenatal Drug Exposure on Child Development

(Have So Far)
Drug use in our society is prevalent. About 15% of babies each year are born addicted to illegal drugs. 6% of pregnant women in the US alone use illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, and more while pregnant. Drug addiction can affect a woman both mentally and physically, which in turn affects their unborn child. According to the CDC, every 25 minutes, a baby is born suffering from opioid withdrawal. Drug abuse is one of the most frequent causes of infant morbidity; it is also a preventable cause.
Illegal drugs such as these seriously affect the growing child for years. The effects of exposure to illegal and legal recreational drugs are perplexing. Associations with growth restriction, medical risk, cognitive detriment, and behavior dysfunction have all been reported. 
The 6% of pregnant women in the US who use illegal substances such as cocaine, heroin, and more, allow the drugs to easily cross the placenta and enter the baby’s circulation through the thin central membrane. Other factors that affect the fetus include; mothers on prescription medication or illicit drugs or mothers who are dependent on alcohol. According to the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, drugs affect the fetus in many ways and can lead to abnormal growth, maturity alterations in the neurotransmitters, alterations in the receptors, and abnormal brain organization.
It was also found that in utero, drugs can cause abnormal brain organization leading to mental disorders later in life such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The official journal studies show that the effects of illegal drug exposure on the fetus can lead to a significant increase in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.
In the journal “Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology,” a study was performed to determine the effects of prenatal exposure on children at school age. A group of patients aged six years was used for the study. All had been exposed to illegal drugs in utero, resulting in withdrawal symptoms at birth. The study found that children with prenatal exposure to illegal drug use manifested “reduced body weight, length, and head circumference as infants at birth.” Most of these children suffered from developmental delays as well as behavioral and cognitive abnormalities. In addition, the same study also showed that “drug-exposed children begin school later and require more special education services compared with children of the same age who had not been exposed to illegal drugs.”

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