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Posted by: Candice | 2009-06-24

Affects of herion on a fetus

Hi,

Please could you provide me with information on the affects that herion have on a fetus in later development.

Kind Regards,
Candice

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Our expert says:
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<br>The spectrum of adverse effects of heroin dependence to the foetus range from premature delivery, through growth restriction to stillbirth (in other words death). Nor does the problem stop at delivery, as such babies suffer serious withdrawal symptoms, needing treatment which may last several days, even weeks. More than half of heroin dependent babies are born prematurely; a substantial proportion of these do not make it. The heroin dependent mother needs to seek medicial and rehabiliative initiatives as a matter or urgency.<br>

Here is my response Candice, and I hope I have understood you more clearly this time:

It is virtually impossible to discuss the long-term effects of heroin abuse in gestation on child development without also discussing the environmental factors contributing to the development of children. These factors include: nutrition, familial conditions (substance abuse, child abuse, etc.), socioeconomic status, and issues related to general healthcare. It seems that the higher the socioeconomic status, the better opportunity a family has for good healthcare and nutrition. Additionally, empirical studies and clinical experience show that addiction or substance abuse interferes with parenting and contributes to developmental, behavioural, and health problems.
While exposure to heroin/opiates in the womb might cause damage to the developing foetus, environmental factors might further damage the development of the child, leading to secondary disabilities. Secondary disabilities include: mental health problems; inappropriate sexual behavior; disrupted school experience; trouble with the law; confinement through incarceration for a crime or inpatient treatment for mental health, or alcohol and drug abuse problems. The potentially chaotic lifestyle of the addicted mother tends to lend itself to a home environment containing neglect and poor parental influences. Often times, a woman who abuses heroin during pregnancy will abuse heroin after the birth of the child. Drug and alcohol abuse by any member of the family can lead to chronic instability, disharmony, and possible violence such that a child's psychosocial, developmental, behavioural, and learning competencies can become seriously compromised. Additionally, "substance-using mothers have been found to have less prenatal care (and) were more likely to be hospitalized as a result of violence" (Askin, 2001). Barry Zuckerman et al reported that "a preliminary study of school performance of older heroin-exposed children…as many as 40 percent required special educational classes, and 25 percent needed to repeat one or more grades" (Zuckerman, Frank, & Brown, 1999). However, it can not be determined whether or not this low performance is a result of early exposure to heroine, or environmental factors.
The developmental and environmental issues involving children exposed to substances in utero has a direct affect on the field of education. Children from substance-abusing backgrounds are considered "At Risk". The term "At Risk" indicates that these children have the potential to be referred for special services due to some type of learning impairment. The risk associated with these children relates to possible cognitive damage, possible developmental delays from damage incurred in utero or incurred due to the home environment. The need for special services is applicable to students who have been left with severe cognitive impairments as a result of exposure to drugs in the womb. Additionally, physical adaptations might be necessary in classrooms and buildings for students left with severe physical disabilities as a result of exposure to drugs. Emotional and educational programs must be implemented to support children suffering from these ailments and to possibly lessen the future occurrence of these issues through education. Additionally, recent brain-based research has shed light on the way people learn. By utilizing strategies advocated through this research, students, whether they have been exposed to drugs in utero or not, will benefit from the strategies employed.
Infants born addicted to heroin and methadone typically exhibit presence of neonatal opiate abstinence syndrome (NOAS). This syndrome is "characterized by dysfunction of the central nervous system, autonomic nervous system, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory system" (Kandall, 1999). The specific symptoms of NOAS include: irritability, tremulousness, hypertonia, excessive crying, voracious appetite, exaggerated sucking drive, abnormal coordination between sucking and swallowing, regurgitation, pulmonary aspiration, and abstinence associated seizures (Kandall, 1999). The quantity and severity of the symptoms varies, therefore, the treatment of NOAS must be tailored to specific situation. Some treatments include providing the drug for the child to wean him off the drug without causing severe health problems. For children inflicted with ailments as a result of exposure to drugs in utero, early intervention is a necessity. In the case of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, early intervention assists in preventing many of the secondary disabilities, as discussed previously. Some benefits of early intervention include: better preparation for learning in elementary school, decreased special education placement, and a decrease in the number of children failing to progress to the next grade level. Developmental services for at-risk children should start in the neonatal period in order to be the most effective. A holistic approach in early intervention has also proven to be quite effective because it considers the entire family unit's social, emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health. Working with an entire family unit strives to prevent disturbances in the environmental influences on the child thus avoiding the issues described previously.
Recent brain-based research points to many important issues about the ways in which humans learn. In relation to cognitive impairment incurred due to exposure to heroin/drugs prior to birth, brain based research has confirmed the notion that nerves continue to grow after birth. This is especially beneficial for children who were exposed to serious drugs prior to birth because it suggests that they are able to grow more, unexposed nerves throughout life. Additionally, "brain research also suggests that the brain learns best when confronted with a balance between stress and comfort: high challenge and low threat" (Available: www.designshare.com/Research /BrainBasedLearn98.htm). This relates to the environmental issues that are believed to impact the development of children exposed to heroin/drugs prior to birth. Children who suffer from stress at home are more likely to display stress in the classroom. Brain research suggests that this will impede a student from learning because of the added stress. "The brain needs some challenge, or environmental press that generates stress…to activate emotions and learning" however "too much and anxiety shuts down opportunities for learning" (available: http://www.designshare.com/ Research/BrainBasedLearn98.htm). "Practically speaking, this means that designers and educators need to create places that are not only safe to learn, but also spark some emotional interest through celebrations and rituals" (available: http://www.designshare.com/Research/Brain BasedLearn98.htm). With the knowledge of recent brain-based research, educators will be able to build functionally appropriate learning environments that will enhance students' ability to build on prior knowledge and expand their own learning abilities. Curricular programs that promote education on contemporary issues are a necessity to prevent poor decisions relating to drugs and pregnancy in the future. Many children who have been exposed to drugs in the womb receive special education services. Research has suggested that students with disabilities appear to be more susceptible to the risks associated with a wide range of contemporary issues in our society today…such as substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, suicide, delinquency, and child abuse. A curriculum that includes programs aimed at teaching students how to deal with various contemporary issues could aid in preventing these students to make poor choices when faced with decisions regarding substance abuse and pregnancy.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Candice | 2009-06-26

To respond to the response. If the child was born at full term and is now 3 and a half years old. If we were unaware of whether the mother used herion during the pregnancy would we be seeing specific developmental delays in the toddler???

Thus does the herion use have an effect on later development or only in terms of still birth and withdrawal symptoms

Reply to Candice

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