University of Maine Students Researches Methadone’s Effects on Infants
Babies born to drug addicted mothers often have a rough beginning, even when their mother’s addiction was clinically managed on a drug like methadone. According to BDN Maine, these babies are born drug dependent and 70% of them spend weeks in intensive care being treated for withdrawal symptoms, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).
Few studies have tracked these babies for more than the earliest weeks of their life, but a University of Maine doctoral student wants to push that research further. Beth Logan uses the data from her Maine Infant Follow-Up Project to show that well managed maternal methadone therapy is not associated with developmental problems in the first year of life, but frequent methadone increases may may be linked with the babies’ ability to sit up, crawl, and walk, which are important factors in determining mental functioning and the ability to learn.
The findings conclude that is important for a pregnant mother to be on a well managed methadone treatment plan, without frequent increases in dosing. Logan and her research teammates have used 110 mother-baby groups in the longitudinal study that began in 2006. Logan also notes than many opiate dependent mothers also have other risk factors that can determine the child’s development, both before and after birth. These may include low income, low educational attainment, psychiatric illnesses, and exposure to domestic violence. Furthermore their lifestyles tend to often include the use of alcohol and drugs, poor nutrition, poor prenatal care, frequent changes in housing, and lack of community and family support.
In the study, Logan noticed that while nearly all of the babies born to parents that were not opiate dependent were standing and cruising at nine months, 40% of the babies born to opiate dependent mothers were still having trouble crawling and sitting. Logan hopes to continue the research until the babies have reached 36 months.
Read the full story here. Photo of Beth Logan courtesy of University of Maine.