Strong Home Life Can Counteract Prenatal Effects of Methamphetamine

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Lynne M. Smith, MD FAAP
LA BioMed lead researcher
Vice Chair for Academic Affairs
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics Division of Neonatology
Medical Director, High Risk Infant Follow-up Program
Associate Program Director, Neonatal-Perinatal Fellowship Training Program
Co-Director, Third Year Medical Student Clerkship
Founding co-Leader, Schwartz Rounds at Harbor-UCLA
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Torrance, CA

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Smith: It is the first study of its kind, and it holds hope for improving outcomes for children exposed to the methamphetamine in the womb. The study found that while prenatal methamphetamine exposure can lead to targeted behavioral issues, a supportive home environment significantly decreases the severity and risk of these issues.

The study is a follow-up to the Infant Development, Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) study, which is a prospective, multi-center, longitudinal study of children exposed to methamphetamine in the womb. It is designed to address some of the limitations of earlier studies.

The IDEAL study enrolled children from Los Angeles; Des Moines, IA; Tulsa, OK, and Honolulu, HI, who had been exposed to methamphetamine in utero. Previous reports from the IDEAL study documented the outcomes up to age 5 and found emotional issues and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in the children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure.

The new study surveyed 290 children enrolled in IDEAL up to age 7.5 years and found a strong relation between prenatal methamphetamine exposure and rule-breaking and aggressive behavior. It also found a strong relation between adversities in the home and rule-breaking and aggressive behavior. Among the adverse conditions considered were maternal substance abuse, extreme poverty, changes in the primary caregiver, sexual abuse of the caregiver and maternal depression.

The researchers concluded that while prenatal methamphetamine exposure is strongly related to behavioral and emotional control issues, early adversities may be a strong determinant of behavioral outcomes.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Smith: While additional study is needed, these findings indicate that providing a supportive home life for children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure would reduce their behavioral and emotional control issues.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Smith: With the current study only following children up to age 7.5 years, the researchers said longer term studies will be needed for a more complete understanding of the developmental, emotional and social outcomes for children with prenatal methamphetamine exposure.

Lynne Smith, MD, corresponding author of the study, is an LA BioMed lead researcher whose research focuses on the developmental outcomes of newborns born at high risk.


J Pediatr. 2016 Jan 9. pii: S0022-3476(15)01482-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.11.070. [Epub ahead of print]

School-Aged Outcomes following Prenatal Methamphetamine Exposure: 7.5-Year Follow-Up from the Infant Development, Environment, and Lifestyle Study.

Eze N1, Smith LM2, LaGasse LL3, Derauf C4, Newman E5, Arria A6, Huestis MA7, Della Grotta SA3, Dansereau LM3, Neal C4, Lester BM3.

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Lynne M. Smith, MD FAAP (2016). Strong Home Life Can Counteract Prenatal Effects of Methamphetamine 

Last Updated on January 22, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD