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Drug Combinations Permeate the Placenta and Put Baby at Risk

The fact that illegal drugs can physically hurt the body is not new knowledge, but the extent to which this damage can occur is still being studied. For some the damage could be very minor. For still others, the damage may go beyond themselves.

A release in Science Daily examined research from Zurich University Hospital’s Department of Obstetrics that suggests that cocaine and heroine increase permeability of the placenta. Exposure to the drugs also causes an increase in the passage of other chemicals into the fetus.

This study included the use of a perfusion technique to examine human placental tissue function in the lab. In the process, researchers found that the exposure to cocaine and/or heroine when methadone is present, increased the transfer of a test chemical called antipyrine throughout the organ.

Atoine Malek, team leader, said in Science Daily, "As the consumption of illegal drugs, especially cocaine, is increasing in many countries, our results concerning cocaine and heroin causing an increased antipyrine transfer may improve the practical management in monitoring pregnant women."

As those fighting an addiction to controlled substances find it nearly impossible to abstain during pregnancy, treatments often include methadone to limit the amount of damage to the developing child. The challenge here is that methadone can also be dangerous for the fetus. In their study, Malek’s team found that although narcotics do not increase transfer of methadone, they did allow the transfer of other test substances, suggesting that the barrier function of the placenta could be compromised.

According to Malek, "More toxic substances or bacteria and viruses may cross the placenta and harm the fetus. Previous studies have reported increased prevalence of infectious diagnoses in cocaine-exposed infants."

Malek argues that his study demonstrates the danger that pregnant mothers expose their unborn child to when they cannot abstain from their drug of choice. He does recommend that the addict exclusively use methadone as combining it with other drugs could easily cause harm to the child.


Posted on June 22nd, 2009
Posted in Women

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