Sunday, November 29, 2009

Effects of drugs and alcohol on the fetus

On WLDY’s radio program I introduced the topic that will occupy us in the next few weeks of the column. It is about the use of drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and how the maternal use of these affects children in all stages of their growth.

Let’s start prior to conception. Teenagers who drink and experiment even a little with drugs will have changes in their developing brain. The area of the brain related to judgement is greatly affected. This translates into risk taking behavior, conflict with parents, poor judgement when driving, and aggressive relationships with peers leading to sexual assault. The same outcomes from drinking and drug experimentation are true for older teens and adults.

The fertility of males is negatively affected and the genetic code transmitted by sperm has an increased rate of mutation. A child conceived by this sperm would suffer the effects of this genetic mutation. These measurable effects are an increase in the number of children with birth defects, children with hyperactivity and attention deficit, and children who grow up to be drug and alcohol users themselves. Men, you make a big difference. The difference you make is your choice.

The maternal effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use are even more observable in children. A pregnant female who smokes has a smaller, less healthy newborn. Newborns who are small and unhealthy grow into children who are sick and less bright than their healthy counterparts. This is not just about avoiding the common cold or the occasional stomach upset. This is about the beginning of a series of illnesses that are lifelong and goes with the affected person to the grave.

The use of addictive drugs such as crack and prescription drugs have an observable effect even before birth. The fetus is addicted and experiences withdrawal just as the mother does. At birth the harsh withdrawal from the addition is evident in the seizures and inability to take in nourishment. Addicted babies die or are saved to live of mental deficiencies.

Next week I’ll share what I know about fetal alcohol syndrome.

Toad House Publishing

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