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Mother Day plea - Drug Addiction and Child Development: The Consequences

Alcohol related defects to the organs are most likely to occur when a mother drinks during her first trimester but any alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous
Alcohol related defects to the organs are most likely to occur when a mother drinks during her first trimester but any alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous
Flickr Photo/Venessa Nina

Drug addiction and child development are not terms that fit together positively. Drugs used by a mother during the prenatal period are extremely dangerous for a baby and can cause serious and long-term developmental delays.

When a pregnant woman takes drugs of any kind she is posing a risk to her unborn baby. This is why prenatal care is so vitally important. Even aspirin and cough syrup can have harmful effects on fetal and later child development. Of course, under a doctor’s care and advice it can be safe to take certain medications

Imagine if a basic medication such as aspirin can harm a developing baby,how harmful addictive and more potent drugs can be.

A pregnant woman who is addicted to alcohol, meth, or other drugs during pregnancy should seek help for her addiction. If a woman refuses to seek support for her addictions she may lose the pregnancy (miscarry). If she manages to make it through the whole nine months of her pregnancy, not only will the birth be a high-risk birth, but her baby may have seriously-troubling disabilities.

Addictive drug use can cause a host of improper development issues for a baby. The following are some addictive drugs and the consequences they can have on fetal and baby development.

Alcohol addiction during pregnancy can cause various developmental delays that range from mild to very severe.

Mental retardation
Emotional and psychological problems
Negative behavioral issues in school
Various defects involving organ and facial development
Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS)

Alcohol can cause long-term damages to a baby’s development that will leave them disabled and incapable of a normal life.Alcohol related defects to the organs are most likely to occur when a mother drinks during her first trimester but any alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous. A recent study showed that even one drink a week can have negative developmental consequences for a baby – no matter when during pregnancy that alcohol is consumed.

Street Drugs During Pregnancy

Street drugs encompass many kinds of illegal drugs. Among them are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, PCP and LSD (hallucinogens), methamphetamine, and any other illegal drug mixes. If it’s illegal, you can be certain that it’s completely unhealthy for your baby’s development.


The most dangerous part about smoking marijuana during pregnancy is that it cuts down on the oxygen your baby receives. Everyone needs a proper amount of oxygen to develop health cells– both brain and body so this is bad. Learning difficulties, behavioral issues, and low birth weight are all common among babies who had mothers who smoked during pregnancy.


What are the risks of use of “T’s and Blues” and opioid painkillers during pregnancy?
This is the street name for a mixture of a prescription opioid (related to morphine) painkiller called pentazocine and an over-the-counter allergy medicine. Individuals who abuse the mixture inject it into a vein. Babies of women who use T’s and Blues during pregnancy are at increased risk of slow growth and may suffer withdrawal symptoms.

Babies of women who abuse prescription oral (taken by mouth) opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), also may undergo withdrawal. (


If a baby’s mother does heroin during pregnancy the baby is almost always born with severe withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms are bad; including convulsions tremors, fever, sleep abnormalities, diarrhea, and joint stiffness. However, the biggest development problem for babies of heroin addicted women is death. Many babies simply don’t make it to term if their mother is addicted.


Long-term cocaine use during pregnancy conclusively can cause physical and mental disabilities. Cocaine use during pregnancy can cause developmental problems like physical deformities of the genitals and kidneys as well as affect brain development which of course causes learning disabilities.


Long-term studies on meth addiction are inconclusive as related to most baby disabilities. It blocks oxygen, so it’s thought to lead to learning disabilities. Inconclusive studies or not, meth is absolutely considered unsafe during pregnancy though. Use of this drug is known to lead to miscarriage, premature births and withdrawal symptoms at birth. There also have been cases of birth defects, including heart defects and cleft lip/palate, in exposed babies.

Additional Sources~

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
(800) 622-2255
Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator
(800) 662-4357

March of Dimes

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All articles by Wendi Swindell are under copyright and cannot be reposted in part or completely without written permission by the author. For permission, email


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