November 28, 2006
Pregnant Women Who Smoke Increase Addiction Risk In Offspring

Here's yet another way (other ways including lowered offspring intelligence) that women who smoke cigarettes damage their unborn fetal children. Cigarette smoking causes fetuses to grow up into adults who are more likely to smoke.

The authors base their findings on over 3,000 mothers and their children, who were part of a long term pregnancy study in Brisbane, Australia (MUSP) in 1981.

They assessed the smoking patterns of liveborn children when they reached the age of 21 in relation to the behaviour of their mothers during the pregnancy.

Around a third of the women said that they had smoked during their pregnancy.

The proportion of the children who took up regular smoking was greater among those whose mothers had smoked during the pregnancy than among those whose mothers had not.

Children whose mothers had smoked while pregnant were almost three times as likely to start smoking regularly at or before the age of 14 and around twice as likely to start smoking after this age as those whose mothers were non-smokers.

Smoking patterns among children whose mothers stopped smoking while pregnant, but then resumed the habit, were similar to those whose mothers had never smoked.

Note that the kids born to mothers who temporarily stopped smoking while pregnant did not have a higher risk of developing nicotine addiction later in life.

This reminds me of a 2001 study on the effect of meth on developing brains. Fetuses exposed to meth become more prone to brain damage from using meth when adults.

Exposure before birth to methamphetamine, an increasingly popular "club" drug, renders males, even as adults, much more susceptible to the drug's brain-damaging effects, reveals a study performed in mice by researchers at the University of Chicago.

If males who were prenatally exposed to methamphetamine take the drug themselves as teens or adults, the increased toxicity could hasten the onset of brain disorders such as Parkinson's disease, warn the authors in the August issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, published electronically on July 13.

"No one who values his or her brain should take this drug," cautions neurotoxicologist Alfred Heller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurobiology, pharmacology and physiology at the University of Chicago and director of the study. "If you're male, and if your mother took methamphetamine -- and it's difficult to be certain she didn't -- you should not go near this drug."

My guess is that the biggest cost of addictive drug use comes from the effects on fetuses and babies exposed to the drugs their moms use. Lower IQs, higher irritability, and greater impulsitivty are just some of the ways that fetal drug exposure is causing lifelong costs for exposed offspring and for the rest of us since we have to deal with these damaged people.

Our ancestors did not undergo selective pressures to select for offspring better able to handle addictive drugs. If they had encountered these compounds over tens of thousands of years the compounds would probably not even be addictive. We'd have genetic variations that protect us from opioids, amphetamines, and nicotine.

My guess is that the biggest cost of addictive drugs comes from damage to developing fetuses and babies. Lower IQs, attention deficit disorder, greater impulsivity, and other cognitive changes are among the costs and probably reduce earnings potential as well as increase criminality and other behaviors that harm self and others.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 November 28 09:29 PM  Brain Addiction

Alex said at November 29, 2006 5:47 AM:

Well aren't the women who were able to stop smoking cold-turkey when they got pregnant a different kind of animal than the ones who couldn't even quit for 9 months at the risk of harming their child?

Surely the smokers most genetically predisposed to addiction would have made up a disproportionate number of the mothers who continued to smoke throughout pregnancy (and vice versa).

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