Drug abuse, especially on the part of mothers, is a significant public health concern that impacts not only on the user but also on the infant born and the whole family. The effects that drug abuse has on children has been given more weight over the years in the entire world hence there have been many initiatives to curb the menace to avoid the effects which come with it to babies born to mothers who are addicted to drugs.
Findings from research indicate that babies born to substance-abusing parents have a higher risk of developing mental, physical and behavioral problems at some stages during their growth. These children are at high risk of being affected by a variety of issues such as neglect as well as abuse by their mothers. These always impacts negatively on their emotional and physical well- being. Furthermore, parental drug abuse is always linked to ongoing unaccepted vices in the society such as adolescent drug abuse hence it is essential to find ways in which these negative impacts of drug abuse by mothers can be dealt with.
It is estimated that about 225,000 of the infants are prenatally exposed to the effects of the use of the illicit substances by their mothers each year (Keegan et al., 2010). This exposure is always the first point in which children come into contact with the illegal drugs and hence the adverse effects of these drugs on their health. The physiological manifestation of infant's exposure to these illicit drugs by their mothers may include increased irritability by the infant, low birth weights of the infants, infants experiencing feeding difficulties as well as stunted growth and cognitive development of the infants. The nature and severity of these manifestations vary depending on the duration of the use of the illicit drug by the mother, the type of illegal drug abused by the mother as well as the frequency of the use of the drug by the mother.
For instance, babies exposed to methamphetamine use are found to exhibit low arousal and being small for their gestational age, increased physiological stress and poor quality of movement. On the contrary, prenatal opioid use has been found to lead to neonatal abstinence syndrome. This is a condition whereby infants experience withdrawal symptoms of the opioid after birth since they are no longer exposed to the drugs as before they were born. Some problems associated with other drugs may not manifest themselves in children until at later stages in their development. Examples of this are poor language development, emotional issues (e.g., anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal), negative behavioral manifestations (e.g., pre-teen substance abuse, delinquency, and aggressiveness). All these are always associated with prenatal cocaine exposure (World Health Organization, 1992).
Drug abuse by mothers also impacts on the well-being of the family which also directly affects children born to these mothers directly. These impacts can be particularly severe since it affects motherhood practices as well as the care of the children. It is always found that mothers who engage in substance abuse exhibit improper parenting practices which subsequently leads to negative behavioral manifestations in children born to these mothers such as delinquency. These improper parenting practices are sometimes in the form of harsh treatments such as threats and wiping of children by their mothers when they are high on these illicit drugs in response to the in wrongs done by the children and in the name of "showing them the right way in life."
As much as children should be shown the right way of living in the society as they grow up, harsh corporal treatment from mothers who take these illicit substances should not be used as a punishment to the wrongdoing of their children. Treatments such as hitting a child with a belt further instill fear in the child hence leading the child to live in depression and anxiety. They, therefore, tend to do things in awe of the consequences of not getting things right; hence they do not feel free to express themselves when they are around such parents.
More often than not, this fear always leaves these children at risk of being neglected by their parents since there is that widening gap between mothers to child bond. Since these mothers also are not in the right state of mind to realize that it is their way of life which alienates them from their children, they often take it for granted and assume that everything is normal. This vice thereby leads to the risk of parental neglect whereby the mothers fails to take care of the basic needs of the child such as clothing, shelter, and food. This is always rampant among babies born to mothers who use methamphetamine.
The relationship between child neglect by the drug addict mothers and these problematic behaviors in society are well known. However, it is complicated to establish the underlying mechanism which can explain the nature of this relationship. Since there are those families, who have the father as the sole breadwinner and do not abuse drugs, those families where both the parent's abuse drugs as well as those families where the child has only a single mother who abuses illicit drugs.
In conclusion, irrespective of the type of family a child is born in, motherly care plays a significant role in a child's development stages from infancy through adulthood thus if a child is unfortunate to be born to a drug-abusing mother, it is inevitable that they will undergo numerous effects as opposed to those born to sober mothers. With this reasons, public awareness should be advocated for and mothers informed on the risks that their behavior (illicit drug abuse) pose to the health of their children before and after birth so that children should not fall victims as they are the future of the next generation hence deserve the best parental care.
Keegan, J., Parva, M., Finnegan, M., Gerson, A., & Belden, M. (2010). Addiction in pregnancy. Journal of addictive diseases, 29(2), 175-191.
World Health Organization. (1992). The ICD-10 classification of mental and behavioral disorders: clinical descriptions and diagnostic guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization.
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