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Abnormal stress response seen in toddlers exposed to meth in womb
Date:3/19/2013

en left the child alone for a maximum of two minutesa stressful experience for a 2-year-old. The researchers took saliva samples before and after the stressor to measure each child's cortisol levels.

They found that most of the children (68 percent) showed a blunted cortisol response. And that dampened response was related not only to higher meth exposure in the womb but also to the child's current environmentincluding whether the mother abused alcohol or had depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.

Until now, Lester said, such blunted cortisol reactions had only been seen in older kids. These findings suggest the effects of prenatal drug exposure and stress after birth take shape early: Methamphetamine stimulates the nervous system, so it may affect the developing stress-response system in the fetus. If a young child is then repeatedly exposed to serious stress, Lester explained, "the system wears down."

But the good news, he said, is that kids are "not doomed" by prenatal meth exposure. "If you put that child in a good environment, he or she has every chance of developing normally," Lester said. "I think it's important that these children not get labeled."

On the other hand, because many young kids exposed to meth in the womb may live in stressful environments, it is important to help families early, according to Lester. "Unfortunately," he said, "we are not doing a good job of getting to these children during early infancy."


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Contact: Amy Blustein
ABlustein@wihri.org
401-681-2822
Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
Source:Eurekalert

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