Drug Addicted Mothers and the Well-Being of Children

Addiction comes with many negative effects - both to the person who has a substance use disorder as well as to many others around them. In particular, there is a co-relation between drug addicted mothers and the well-being of children. Read on to find out more:

Children and Addicted Mothers

There are many long term adverse effects that can happen to babies who are born to mothers who abuse drugs and drink alcohol. In fact, substance use during pregnancy tends to be dangerous in different ways.

In particular, children born to mothers who regularly abuse substances might come to the world dependent on these substances. When a baby is exposed to opioids in the uterus, they might be born with NAS - or neonatal abstinence syndrome.

NAS is comprised on various problems that occur because the baby would start going through opioid withdrawal immediately upon their birth. This condition could also refer to the conditions that occur when newborns start withdrawing from the substances that they developed dependence to in utero.

Various studies have shown that using methamphetamine, cocaine, alcohol, opioids, and tobacco cigarettes while expecting a baby could affect the baby's fetal development. Additionally, babies who are exposed to these substances in utero could end up suffering various developmental problems. These include but are not limited to:

  • Altered brain development
  • Birth defects
  • Impaired growth

Prenatal substance exposure could also have a negative impact on the child's achievements, cognition, language, and behavior in the long term. Further, taking these substances while pregnant could increase the risk that the mother could suffer pre-term labor or a miscarriage.

The NSDUH - National Survey on Drug Use and Health - for 2017 estimated that 194,000 expectant mothers aged between 15 and 44 used illicit substances in the month before the survey. This number also included an estimated:

  • 12,000 women who abused tranquilizers
  • 161,000 women who took marijuana
  • 261,000 women who drank alcohol
  • 32,000 women who abused pain relief medications
  • 334,000 women who smoked tobacco cigarettes
  • 8,000 women who took cocaine

Although these numbers are astonishing, it is not exactly surprising that the relationship between drug addicted mothers and the well-being of children is a mostly negative one. Some of the problems that occur in children born to such mothers include:

1. Physical Problems

If you have been using nicotine, alcohol, cocaine, opioids, or any other substance of abuse while expecting a child, there is a high risk that the following could occur:

  • Abnormal neurobehavioral
  • Birth defects
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Pre-term birth

Your baby could also be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. If this happens, they will display any or all of the symptoms listed below:

  • Blotchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive sucking
  • Fever
  • High-pitched and/or excessive crying
  • Hyperactive reflexes
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Irritability
  • Poor feeding
  • Quick breathing
  • Seizures
  • Slow weight gain
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vomiting

Babies born to substance using mothers might also end up suffering many other problems in the long term. These problems could be as a result of birth defects and growth failure. They often involve the intestines, kidneys, heart, and brain. Infants who are exposed to substances of abuse while their mothers were pregnant also have a high risk of suffering from SIDS - or sudden infant death syndrome.

Drinking alcohol while expecting a baby could also lead to long term growth stunting, birth defects, and impaired fetal growth. The child might also be born with FASD or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

FAS or fetal alcohol syndrome is the most severe form of FASD. Even so, any type of FASD could lead to different psychiatric and physical problems in the baby, including but not limited to:

  • Abnormal facial features
  • Bone problems
  • Hearing difficulties
  • Heart problems
  • Issues suckling
  • Kidney deficiencies
  • Low body weight
  • Poor coordination
  • Problems with sleep
  • Problems with vision
  • Shorter than average height
  • Small head size

When babies are exposed to amphetamines in utero, they may suffer from decreased fetal growth, heart defects, and facial clefts. If you abuse opioids while expecting a baby, they could also be born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. The child could suffer impaired growth.

The physical effects of parental substance abuse tend to start even before a baby is born. This is why it is important to understand the relationship between drugs addicted mothers and the well-being of children.

If you drink alcohol or use drugs while expecting a baby, there is a high risk that you could cause them severe harm. They might also end up suffering from various physical defects, including organ malformation and growth stunting.

Unfortunately, many expectant mothers are so ashamed of the fact that they abuse drugs and drink alcohol that they do not seek any help for their addiction. This is primarily due to the social stigma attached to this behavior. Unfortunately, this only means that their children are brought into the world at high risk of suffering from various adverse effects.

These mothers might also not be able to observe and take good care of their children due to their ongoing substance abuse and addiction - which is highly likely to continue until the children are well into their teens and/or young adulthood.

To this end, these children might not seek medical help when they are ill. Further, the mothers might stop providing them with the basic dentistry and optical care because they are focusing their finances on funding their drug and alcohol habit.

The children might also develop illnesses linked to anxiety because their mothers are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. These conditions include migraines, asthma, and ulcers. If these conditions are left untreated, they could turn out to be debilitating.

While intoxicated, the mothers could also lose all sense of morality. This is why it is not too surprising that they could step beyond the boundary of what is considered appropriate. If they are upset, angered, or under the influence of substance, they could also lash out to their children. It is for this reason that many children born to such mothers often experience incidents of sexual, physical, and verbal abuse.

These children could also be caught up in such mistreatment that they end up suffering from physical scarring. Emotionally and psychologically speaking, the home environment could also lead to the development of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The emotional complications arising from being in an unsupportive and tumultuous home environment caused by a mother's addiction could also make the children feel unimportant and unloved.

Paired with the abuse that they most likely experience, these effects could cause negative feelings to build up in the children. Later on in their lives, they could suffer from episodes of depression that could turn into a physical action such as suicidal attempt and self-harm.

2. Behavioral and Emotional Problems

Abusing substances like illicit drugs, opioids, alcohol, and nicotine has also been linked to long term behavioral, psychological, and emotional problems. This is particularly if the child was exposed to these substances prenatally. The problems might affect their:

  • Achievement
  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Language

Apart from the physical effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, the babies could also suffer the following social and psychiatric issues:

  • Attention problems
  • Delays in language and speech
  • Difficulties in school
  • Hyperactivity
  • Intellectual disability
  • Learning disabilities
  • Low IQ
  • Memory issues
  • Poor judgment
  • Poor reasoning skills

If you smoke while expecting a baby, there is also a high risk that they could suffer from neurobehavioral issues, as well as long-term adverse consequences on behavior, language, achievement, and cognition.

Drinking alcohol during problems, on the other hand, is associated with long term impacts on these segments of life. It can also cause the babies to suffer from various neurological effects.

On the other hand, exposing your baby to marijuana may cause them to experience infant neurobehavioral alterations. It could also increase their risk of suffering in their achievements, behavior, and cognition.

In case you were abusing opioid drugs while pregnant, your baby could also suffer neurobehavioral changes during their infancy, as well as many other behavioral effects that could carry over into the long term.

Exposing babies to cocaine in utero has also been associated with negative impacts on behavior, language, executive function, and infant neurobehavioral. Neurobehavioral alterations have also been observed in infants born to methamphetamine abusing mothers.

Additionally, when a mother is addicted, they will be focused on getting their next batch of drugs and bottle of alcohol. As a result, there is a high risk that they might ignore their families, as well as the emotional needs of their children. This could lead to many problems arising from social disconnection, trust issues, and feelings of shame.

The negative impact of drug addicted mothers on the emotional well-being of children will start from the moment that these children come into the world. Children and parents need to bond and to feel connected.

If the mother is constantly using drugs and drinking alcohol, this could alter their perception. As a result, they might not always be able to provide their children with the attention that they need to grow up emotionally.

When these children are babies, they will communicate in some rudimentary ways - including through laughs and cries. In case the mother is too intoxicated to pick up on these cues, they would not be able to provide their babies with the care they need. As a result, the baby may stop displaying these cues - and this pattern could follow them all the way into their childhood.

Due to this lack of attention and care, the child might grow up displaying various dependency and trust issues. Their feelings of empathy and remorse might also be limited because their mothers did not show these feelings when they were growing up.

The children could also suffer from depression. This is because they did not experience love and care within the home environment. The fact that their homes also lack in nurturing, security, routine, and predictability also means that the children could suffer emotional stunting and under-development.

When these children reach maturity, they might have to take care of their mothers. They may also blame themselves for the addiction that their mothers were struggling with. This reversal of roles tends to be stressful and will cause a great deal of depression and anxiety to these children.

3. Psychological Problems

The relationship between drug addicted mothers and the well-being of children also extends to the brain. These children, for instance, could end up suffering from a host of mental health problems.

Many of them are born into families that are characterized by unclear communication, insecurity, and chaos. The negative home life could later impact the ability of these children to perform well in their academic life.

If they lack the support that they need to keep them putting in the effort and working hard, there is a high probability that they will just stop trying to succeed at school. These children could fail their classes, get expelled, or even turn out to be truant.

These children might suffer due to the mental deficiencies that were caused by their mother's substance abuse and addiction. This is particularly true if the mothers were still taking drugs or drinking alcohol when these children were in utero.

The children could also start thinking that their mothers' actions do not come with any negative repercussions. As a result, they would believe that they do not to respect and obey other figures in authority. Many of them could also exhibit certain behavioral problems while acting out to get the attention that they should have received from their mothers.

These children could also end up developing substance use problems of their own. This is because many people mimic the behavior of their parents. Many of them also believe that what their parents do is socially acceptable.

As a result, children born to drug addicted mothers might start taking drugs and drinking alcohol because they think that it is the right thing to do - much in the same way that their mothers used to. They could also turn to these substances in a bid to cope with all the problems and stresses that they are experiencing in their lives.

In some cases, these children could understand that substance abuse is a negative trait. As a result, they won't engage in this behavior. Later on in their lives, however, they could end up dating and marrying people who are addicted to these substances. This is particularly true for girls born to addicted mothers.

This is because of the fact that their locus of control and self-worth was already destroyed by the early addiction of their parents. As a result, this could take them down the unhealthy road that is marked by abuse and mistreatment arising from associating with romantic partners who are addicted.

Getting Help

Now that you understand the relationship between drugs addicted mothers and the well-being of children, it is advised that you seek help as soon as you realize that these problems might relate to you. Check into an addiction treatment program if you are an addicted mother. If your mother was addicted, it is recommended that you seek counseling and therapy services to overcome the adverse effects that you suffered from their condition.













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