According to researchers when a fetus is exposed to crack or meth during the first and second trimesters of gestation, the pre-frontal cortex or front of the brain suffers damage. This area of the brain is considered the executive region that regulates decision-making, judgment, problem-solving and self-control. After birth, as the child grows, behavioral and learning difficulties begin emerging.
Scientists from the Study of Children at Risk at Brown University report that these children are more prone to developing anxiety, depression and mood disorders compared to children not exposed to the illegal drugs before birth. Researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse confirmed these findings after evaluating 330 children aged three to five years whose mothers were known to have used crack and or meth during pregnancy. The children involved in the study came from California, Hawaii, Iowa and Oklahoma. The study participants also included children who were not exposed to drugs.
By the age of three, exposed children more often exhibited symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mood disorders. These problems continued and were still apparent when the children reached the age of five. The older youngsters additionally demonstrated attention deficit problems and displayed greater degrees of aggression compared to the children in the control group. The researchers reported that the behavioral issues closely resembled youngsters diagnosed with ADHD.
When the children begin school, the behavioral problems continue and are accompanied by an array of learning difficulties. The students were initially mainstreamed into classrooms in the hope that socializing with other students would normalize behavior and enhance learning skills. However, the concept failed. Additionally, despite attempting to assist the children by placing them in special education classes, the youngsters continued having problems.
By observing the children, educators found that the students were not responsive to visual learning. The youngsters also could not grasp the concept of playing games with other students. They failed to recognize and respond appropriately to the body language and facial cues of others. The students additionally cannot comprehend cause and effect. Children exposed to drugs in utero also seemed to lack having a conscience and were incapable of showing remorse. These concepts normally develop in young children shortly after the first year of life. The inabilities confirmed to researchers that the deficits occurred due to damage involving pre-frontal neurons.
When confronted with stimulus-rich situations in which normal children thrive, the afflicted children easily become overwhelmed, which precipitated behavioral issues. Becoming more successful in the classroom required instructing the children in settings having intentionally lowered levels of stimuli. Unable to make decisions, the children were then presented with one activity at any given time.
Researchers in Wisconsin found that without proper schooling during their early years, the youngsters become more anti-social and violent. When investigating the backgrounds of teens housed in detention centers for committing various crimes, evaluators discovered that more than 90 percent of the youths were born to crack or meth addicted mothers.