Dr. Rizwan Shah (see
biography) shared her research
findings concerning the impact of prenatal Meth exposure and the medical
effects on children when Meth is used in their homes. The following are
excerpts from an interview published in the Spring 2006 edition of The
Source, published by the
National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center, University of
A Brief Description of Dr. Shah’s Research:
“In 1998, I
received a small grant from NIDA to look at the outcomes of this clinical
population (infants prenatally exposed to Meth)…In addition, I am part of
a four-site national study through Brown University.”
“The data from our clinic are based on 109 kids extrapolated from…more
than 500. Of the 109, 61 were Meth exposed.”
Most Critical Findings of the Studies
- 40% of
mothers using Meth do not get any prenatal care, compared to 22% of
mothers using crack cocaine.
- About 16%
of the Meth using group had nutritional problems (anemia, poor weight
gain, etc.) which was lower than expected.
- About 34%
of the Meth using pregnant women had acute illnesses requiring a
Key Findings for Children
19% of the children born to Meth using
mothers were small for gestational age; their head size was also small.
25% of Meth exposed babies were born
34% of newborns exposed to Meth had feeding
problems (compared to 9% of crack cocaine exposed babies) related to
coordination problems with suckling and swallowing.
About 20% of Meth exposed babies displayed
muscle tone problems, including poor, disorganized quality of movement.
Current research also identifies differences
in Meth exposed children’s cry patterns, potentially indicating
neurotoxic effects of the exposure. More research needs to be done on
this aspect of the babies’ behavior.
Longer Term Outcomes
Developmental screenings in the first five
years of life show that Meth exposed babies, as well as cocaine exposed
children, tend to have an abnormality or delay in one of the four main
domains: gross motor, fine motor, language and social skills.
A majority of children exposed to Meth
achieved their developmental milestones within the normal range. When
they reached six to eight months of age, they were indistinguishable
from non-drug exposed children.
The home environment for children whose
parent(s) continue to use Meth is a huge factor in long-term outcomes.
A majority of these children experience neglect, malnutrition, potential
physical abuse, and exposure to inappropriate material (pornography).
In spite of normal cognitive ability, environmental exposure to drugs,
violence and abuse will effect the child’s academic and social
The primary interventions for Meth exposed
babies focus on educating caregivers in understanding and managing
behavioral symptoms. Intervention may also be needed to address specific
issues, including feeding, speech or muscle tone concerns.
As a group,
Meth exposed children are similar to children exposed to other drugs.
Their problems are fixable and short lived. Overall, environmental
factors contribute much more than prenatal drug exposure to the child’s
Living with Meth
Dr. Wells Papers
Dr. Shah Biography
Newborn's Hair Test of Mom's Meth
Use Restricts Fetal Growth