Have Questions?
1-877-882-9275
We Have Answers!

Get Help - Find a Rehab Center Today

Speak with a certified drug and alcohol counselor

For help finding an addiction treatment center, Call us!

All calls are 100% confidential and free

1-877-882-9275

100% Confidential Help Request

Contact us now to get immediate help: 1-877-882-9275

Article Summary

Crystal Meth Causes Birth Defects

Affects Fetuses at All Stages of Development

A single prenatal dose of methamphetamine – commonly known as speed – may be enough to cause long-term neurodevelopmental problems in babies, say University of Toronto researchers.
In research published in the August 2005 issue of Free Radical Biology and Medicine, University of Toronto pharmacy and pharmacology professor Peter Wells and his colleagues determined that exposing pregnant mice only once to methamphetamine led to delivery of offspring with long-term neurodevelopmental problems, including reduced motor co-ordination. Methamphetamine is a potent and addictive stimulant.

"We've known for a while that meth abuse during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight, cleft palates and other malformations but this is the first research demonstrating that even a single exposure can cause long-term damage," says Wells.

"It's pretty remarkable that a single low dose can have such an effect.
"It's an important finding, given the increasing use of club drugs among women of childbearing age. It has clinical implications, because it shows that the fetus is exquisitely sensitive."

Exposure to Free Radicals

The developing fetus appears to be vulnerable to DNA damage from methamphetamine exposure because it hasn't yet developed the enzymes that protect it against free radicals – highly activated, destructive oxygen molecules that have been implicated in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, says Wells. This vulnerability lasts from the embryonic stage through the later fetal period, times when organ structures and mental functions develop.
"People usually think the last trimester of pregnancy is when developing brain function is most susceptible to damage, but in this case the brain is also affected by methamphetamine even in the earlier embryonic period," says Wells.

Meth Has Toxic Effects on Fetal Brain

Wells' next step will be to study women and their babies who have been exposed to drugs like methamphetamine that enhance free radical formation to see if the human damage is consistent with his mouse findings. He will also try to determine whether the methamphetamine causes other lasting damage in mice, such as impacts on learning and memory.

"Methamphetamine has very different toxic effects in the fetal brain than in adult mice, which surprised me," says Wells. "In adults, you can see actual structural degeneration of the brain."

National Non Profit Helpline - 1-877-882-9275
Our National Non Profit Helpline is a 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service for individuals and families faced with mental and/or substance use disorders.

All calls are strictly confidential

Our service provides referrals to licensed treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. You don't have to struggle alone with addiction. Help is just a phone call away. Call 1-877-882-9275 now to get the help you need and deserve.

1-877-882-9275

Organizations We Support