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Children born addicted have lower academic performance
Posted in Children, Cognition, Substance Abuse - 0 Comments

Substance abuse has escalated to such levels in the United States that it is affecting even the infants. Children born to mothers who abused drugs during pregnancy are at risk of being born addicted. Such children get afflicted with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) or fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). NAS refers to problems that affect a baby “exposed to certain drugs in the mother’s womb.”

A recent study in New South Wales, Australia, found that children with NAS perform at lower levels scholastically as they get older.

The study involved 2,234 children born between July 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2006. The researchers pulled test data and other academic barometers for measuring cognitive development. According to the study, children ages 8 and 9 fared poorly academically compared to their peers. As the children aged, the gap increased. By grade seven, 44 percent children with NAS failed to meet the basic standards for testing.

Is the cure as bad as the disease?

Children with NAS receive treatment that may last for days or weeks. The treatment involves weaning the infants from their addiction. Unfortunately, the weaning process involves some of the same drugs to which the infants are addicted. These drugs can have the same impact as opioids or other substances and prove harmful for the infants’ developing brain. The human brain does not complete maturation until 25; an infant’s brain is more like a primordial stew. Using power drugs like heroin or OxyContin might bring about significant damage, the study said.

With respect to NAS, expecting mothers transmit their drugs via the placenta to the fetus. Infants with NAS might exhibit various maladies, such as diarrhea, vomiting, low birth weight and withdrawal symptoms. Their cognitive deficits may be apparent or may take years to manifest.

Seeking treatment at the earliest

The authors concluded the study on a somber note. They said that data from a similar study if conducted during the current opioid epidemic, would not be available for seven to 10 years. Extrapolating the information they learned from the Australian study, the authors said, “…the high risk of poor academic performance in this vulnerable group of children is applicable to all countries, and strategies to address this risk and prevent poor adult outcomes and intergenerational vulnerability must be urgently addressed.”

Sovereign Health in Chandler, Arizona, is a female-only treatment facility. Many of our patients arrive having fled spousal and partner abuse. They also seek treatment for an addiction or behavioral health problem. Regardless of the reason, Sovereign provides a safe and nurturing environment for our patients to heal and regain their identity. Contact the 24/7 helpline listed on this webpage to find out more about our programs and our facility.

About the author

Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, Fichte and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at

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