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Addiction: Pregnancy and crystal meth

Methamphetamine or crystal meth as it is more commonly called, is a powerful and dangerous drug that has taken the nation by storm. Not only does it affect teens, professionals, celebrities and your neighbors, it also affects pregnant women and their unborn children. It is devastating to think that someone would have a crystal meth pregnancy, but it is happening at alarming rates.

The facts on pregnancy and crystal meth
Photo courtesy of grietgriet/Morguefile

What is methamphetamine?

Methamphetamine is a central nervous system stimulant. It affects the neurochemical mechanisms that are responsible for blood pressure, body temperature, regulating the heart rate, appetite, attention and mood. It also affects responses associated with alertness or alarm.

Effects of using crystal meth

Some of the effects of crystal meth include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Extended periods of not sleeping,
  • Compulsive behavior, such as cleaning baseboards or doing puzzles for 8 hours straight.
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Tremors and convulsions
  • Excessively fast speech and movements
  • Slurring of words
  • Aggression
  • Increased sexual urges and activity
  • Loss of inhibition, doing things that one would not ordinarily do
  • Feeling of bugs crawling on or under the skin
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Open sores from picking at the skin
  • Loss or damage to teeth, commonly referred to as "meth mouth"
  • Dry mouth and lips, constantly licking the lips or applying chapstick
  • Cold sores around mouth, redness under nostrils and large, hard bumps inside the mouth, the gums and cheeks.
  • Psychosis
  • Brain damage
  • Coma
  • Death

Why people use meth and treatment statistics

With all of these side effects, some temporary and others permanent, why would anyone use crystal meth? Especially a woman who is expecting a child? The answer is that many users are simply unable or unwilling to stop. Typical rehab programs are only 30 days. That might be enough time to get the drug out of the system, but not nearly long enough to correct the behavior and triggers that caused the person to use in the first place. Long-term treatment is often required and then there is still no guarantee of a complete recovery. Crystal meth has such a hold on users that the relapse rate is 92%, according to the University of Nebraska. That means that even if a user does quit, the chances of them staying sober is only 8%.

Children born to mothers who used crystal meth

Many unborn children will show the effects of drug abuse while they are still in the womb. Others may appear normal, but have effects show up when they are 5, 10 or even 15 years of age. As for newborns with mothers who used crystal meth during pregnancy, they are often premature, have a low birth weight and suffer respiratory distress. The baby's blood pressure can rise rapidly, which can cause brain hemorrhages or strokes even before they are born.

A crystal meth pregnancy could cause gastroschisis (a condition in which one is born with a hole in the abdomen, causing the intestines to be outside the body.) Developmental and skeletal abnormalities can also occur and there have been reports of some missing their limbs when they are born.

Problems in older children

Even if the baby seems normal, some children will exhibit problems when they are older. ADHD, learning disabilities, a low IQ, behavioral problems are common. There are even children who cannot tolerate stimuli such as light and human touch. Some go on to develop mental illnesses and uncontrollable rage. Although there are no studies to confirm this, it is something that people have observed.

Crystal meth is a serious problem in the United States and the rates of users keeps skyrocketing. It is not only important to get treatment and quit, but your chances of staying sober rise when you learn the root cause of why you started using in the first place.