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Methamphetamine Use Triples Among Pregnant Rehab Patients

New research shows that more pregnant women in rehab programs are there because of methamphetamine use than any other drug. In 1994, 8 percent of all admissions of pregnant women were for methamphetamines; by 2006, that percentage increased to 24 percent. “Methamphetamine is the primary drug that compels treatment admission,” said Dr. Mishka Terplan, author of the study and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “It’s the most common drug, including alcohol.”

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive stimulant that can be taken orally, snorted, or smoked. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, about 731,000 Americans over age 12 currently use methamphetamines, and in 2006, more than 400,000 women of child-bearing age reported using it. In 1994, the number of pregnant women admitted to treatment centers was 18,034; in 2006, the number increased to 22,383. During that time period, alcohol and cocaine use declined and methamphetamine and marijuana use increased.

The study also found that the percentage of pregnant women seeking treatment (24%) was higher than that of men (7%) and non-pregnant women (12%). “Most women decrease or stop use during pregnancy,” said Terplan. “But, they’re aware of the stigma associated with abuse behavior and they may be reluctant to seek care. They may also have concerns about losing their children. We really need to provide clinical environments in which women are comfortable disclosing their use and we need to have referral resources. Pregnancy is an opportunity to intervene not only in maternal health, but in the family's health.”

Terplan also said that what isn’t helpful is subjecting these women to the criminal justice system, as this occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s when studies suggested that babies born to women who used crack would inherit devastating health consequences. “What we need is a public health intervention because there are not enough mother and child treatment programs available,” said David Deitch, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of the Phoenix House drug treatment centers.

It isn’t yet clear how methamphetamines affect fetal development, but one study found that babies born to mothers using methamphetamines may be slightly smaller. Another study found that methamphetamine exposure may cause small structural changes in children’s brains. However, it is still unknown what the long-term effects of the drug may be.

Posted on May 21st, 2009
Posted in Methamphetamines

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