impact of drug abuse on longerterm development

(22 Posts)
prumarth Fri 25-Apr-14 14:06:07

There seems to be fairly consistent information on the internet regarding foetal alcohol syndrome but I am struggling to find information on the impact of drug abuse on a baby - most notably heroin and cocaine.
I've found information on the immediate withdrawl but have drawn a blank on longer term potential issues.
Can anyone point me in the direction of any layperson insight into this or experiences of children impacted by drug abuse pre- birth?

morethanpotatoprints Fri 25-Apr-14 14:10:36

I don't know OP.
Did you see the programme last night?
I would like to know about this too, but have no real knowledge.
I have a friend though who was adopted and this was her as a baby, she grew up to be a well rounded person so maybe the doctor last night was right about nurture and good parenting making a difference.
I'm not sure if anybody could be certain of the end result.

Have you tried looking on the website it usually gives info of where to go for further info. Can't remember what side it was on.

MyFeetAreCold Fri 25-Apr-14 14:24:33

Hello prumarth, I've struggled to find anything useful too. If anyone's got something to read, I'd love to see it.

Someone on here mentioned sugar cravings (and that would match my experience !) but that's quite literally all I've seen.

RhinosAreFatUnicorns Fri 25-Apr-14 14:38:36

I haven't found much, other than it "may" cause "behavioural issues". I found the difficulty with looking beyond the short term, was the issue is separating other factors that may have played a part.

AngelsWithSilverWings Fri 25-Apr-14 14:59:41

I struggled to find much info online when we were adopting my DD ( she was exposed to heroin and methadone and goodness knows what else in the womb)

The medical advisor told us that she may show signs of learning difficulties but these may now show themselves until she is in secondary education.

She is almost 6 now and is doing fine at school ( performs within normal range )

She is one of the less able pupils but is also the youngest in her year group so I've no way of knowing if the drugs had anything to do with anything. She is progressing all the time and I believe she will do ok at school but will never be top of the class.

In every other way she is a completely healthy child with no behavioural issues at all.

KristinaM Fri 25-Apr-14 15:21:06

If you google phrases like

Prenatal substance abuse

You will find there is a lot of medical and other academic research on this

For example, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/3/e1009.full.pdf

FriggFRIGG Fri 25-Apr-14 15:30:44

I only have anecdotal evidence.

My DSIS adopted DN,who was addicted to heroin at birth.
She is a bright,funny,healthy,intelligent,well rounded child now at 6,and an incredibly thoughtful and well behaved child.

Obviously she is one child out of thousands,so feel free to ignore.
But I do believe nurture has a big part to play in these situations.

fasparent Fri 25-Apr-14 16:30:42

From many years of experience there seam's too be little lasting problems, withdrawal at birth can be quite upsetting may last up to
3 months, few may have problems with larynx hence there droopy tongue's and pitched crying (like a seagull). This all CORRECTS with development, some may develop very slight speech impediment a squeaky but sweet voice,
Have baby 3 months at the moment is now a sweet cheeky baby meeting all the milestones , was 3lbs at birth is normal weight now.

Not too say there may other unrelated future problems as with any child
"O" for a Crystal ball.

Maryz Fri 25-Apr-14 16:39:58

Nurture and good parenting can only do so much though.

If there are fundamental changes to the brain during vital formation, that will more than likely cause issues for children as they get older. A number of years ago there was little credence given to the significance of FAS; I wonder will we come to realise that there are more long-term effects to prenatal drug use as more of these children are followed as they grow.

Devora Fri 25-Apr-14 17:54:47

My dd went through a very nasty withdrawal and was 7 weeks in NICU. Her fc reported that she continued to have problems - pain, constant crying and needing comfort - till she was 6 months.

she's now 4 and no learning difficulties evident but there are some behavioural and attachment issues. It is of course very hard to disentangle the effects of different drugs, alcohol, early trauma, adoption etc.

drspouse Fri 25-Apr-14 19:13:39

This is a reasonably readable review of long term behaviour/developmental consequences. The long term effects are very, very different to alcohol and the evidence does seem reasonably good that the effects are not as severe. People HAVE known about FAS for a really long time, and they've known that children don't always "look" FAS, it was just rarely diagnosed because it was hard to prove. It's not that researchers and doctors have suddenly said "gosh, prenatal alcohol exposure is bad, we didn't know that". They knew.

I have heard some scare stories from adopters about how adopters could not POSSIBLY cope with a "drug baby" from birth because WITHDRAWAL and TOO DIFFICULT and best to leave that kind of case to foster carers - when trying to put potential adopters off concurrency/foster to adopt. Although it must be very difficult caring for a newborn addicted to opiates, it does pass and there is medical help for the baby available. I don't know if that is in your options though.

The above article seems to suggest that more long term problems are seen when children remain in the care of their biological families which suggests it has a lot more to do with postnatal care.

The other thing to bear in mind though is that a lot of drug users are self-medicating for a behaviour or mental health issue and those are often genetic. This may be an undiagnosed issue too.

scarlet5tyger Fri 25-Apr-14 19:56:03

I'm a foster carer who's looked after lots of babies who were born addicted, to a variety of drugs. I think the first thing to say is that I have never worked with a mother who abused drugs but not alcohol. So baby is likely to suffer from problems associated with alcohol as well as those associated with drugs.

Most experts advise that the biggest effects of drugs are seen at birth, or when the child starts school, or when they become a teenager. The effects vary but I'd say most courses I've been on (and my own experience) agree that behavioural issues, temper, addictive personality and digestive problems are common.

As others have said, attachment problems are also common - even children who come to me straight from the hospital tend to have attachment problems to some degree. Hardly surprising when they spend so much of their first few months in constant pain.

prumarth Fri 25-Apr-14 20:46:59

Thank you all for your advice and links. Special thanks also for personal stories and sharing sensitive information from your own children. As always, your support is hugely appreciated. Xx

drspouse Fri 25-Apr-14 21:19:55

While it is true that it is rare to use drugs but not alcohol our SW says that many women have a "drug of choice" and there is definitely a relationship between the amount of alcohol drunk during pregnancy and the effects on the child. Despite what some people say, low levels of consumption have NOT been shown to adversely affect children. It seems to have more to do with the amount drunk at one sitting (even if that's only a few times during pregnancy).

Floraclare Fri 25-Apr-14 21:49:58

I work for an addictions team and it is not uncommon for people to use only heroin and rarely drink - and they will most commonly take benzodiazepines alongside opiates. However, it is far more rare to use crack cocaine/cocaine and not drink or take other drugs, mainly as you need something else to bring you down.

However, it is most common to see drug users that use multiple drugs.

Alcohol is far more toxic to a fetus - however, I have seen someone recently who was drinking up to 2 litres of cider through both her pregnancies - and her school age children seem to be doing well.

AndIFeedEmGunpowder Fri 25-Apr-14 21:58:45

I am close to someone who was born addicted to heroin.

They are now in their 30s, very successful (top of professional field, good salary) and have a happy family of their own.

I don't think anyone would guess. I think nurture is incredibly important.

Devora Fri 25-Apr-14 22:00:01

Scarlet, interesting that you say digestive issues - my dd certainly has them and has since birth, along with temper and behavioural issues (too early to tell on addictions, unless you count the dummy). I've asked various doctors whether her repeated attacks of acute abdominal pain could be connected to her neonatal addiction, since her fc says she was in pain for pretty much her first six months, and they've treated me like an idiot.

I agree also about withdrawal being itself a complication in attachment. My dd, like many others, spent nearly two months in hospital, in agony, with no primary carer - I don't know why a fc wasn't assigned to her earlier, but one wasn't, and she didn't have birth family visits either. I don't understand how newborns can be allowed to go through that level of trauma without comfort - other than, presumably, what the nurses managed to squeeze out of their busy days - but that's what often happens.

scarlet5tyger Fri 25-Apr-14 22:17:53

Devora, I'm no doctor but I'd carry on asking your daughters doctors about her digestive problems. I've seen them too many times in children who were born addicted for there not to be a link.

It's sad to think of babies being left with no primary carer too - when I began fostering I'd be assigned to a baby before they left hospital, go to visit them daily, do baths and feeds at the hospital (usually around birth parents visits so quite tricky) and also get chance to talk to their nurses. This is happening less and less as money gets tighter (LAs don't want to pay a foster carer a full allowance when they're only visiting a baby in the day time, especially if they can wait until baby is due to be discharged from hospital) but as you know those first few weeks are so important for a baby in pain (and they are in pain).

fasparent Fri 25-Apr-14 22:41:07

My Two FAS Kids were very high on the spectrum BW 1lb 12oz, hole in heart, skeletal problems, central nervous system dysfunction's, Secondary problems short term memory, severe learning problems. growth problems, rugby ball eyes problem, SID's Etc.
Despite all this is now 24 in full time employment, passed her test, drives her nice car, is independent and is on no benefits.
There is too much negativity around FAS, thanks for there being no credence around FAS 24 years ago Maryz . Would dread too think where our dd would be today with all this professional knowledge as apposed too Education and a good schools parentpartneship's.
But true too say all children are effected in different way's and intervention's have too be found too suit the individual child., and work on strategy's and strength's as with any child.

fasparent Fri 25-Apr-14 23:20:48

Agree with you very much Devora, The neo natal social care system seems too be a bit out dated in this area , many baby's 0 too 6 months can be exposed too Post Traumatic Stress Disorders which can cause
attachment problems sometimes not becoming evident until they are teenagers. Important too form attachment's early for substance abuse baby's and any other baby with significant problems. though would not be possible sadly for some dependant on their medical condition.

Maiyakat Sat 26-Apr-14 19:09:37

Devora my fear is that the greatest impact on DD from her drug exposure in utero is the time spent on SCBU without a primary carer. The thought of her there alone makes me want to weep. She also is rather attached to her dummy - I'm wondering if it's because babies who are withdrawing tend to suck excessively, and so they get stuck in the habit. I'm not planning on having that battle anytime soon!

Devora Sat 26-Apr-14 22:50:15

Makes me weep too, Maiyakat sad. I think that's why I got so furious at the saga about dd's uncorrected tongue tie and her current speech therapy. You can see at a glance that she has a strong tongue tie and I just can't fathom how it got missed when she was in SCBU or - if is wasn't missed - why they decided not to bother with it. If she'd had a mum with her, I bet it would have been treated then and we wouldn't be going through months of speech therapy now.

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