Drinking alcohol while pregnant could have transgenerational effects

Soon-to-be mothers have heard the warning — don’t drink while pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued numerous statements about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, as it can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in newborns.

Despite this, many women drink during pregnancy, a choice that scientists have known for years could hurt these mothers’ children. Today, there is a new reason why an expectant mother should put down that glass of wine — drinking alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect her unborn child, but may also impact brain development and lead to adverse outcomes in her future grand- and even great-grandchildren.

Full story of alcohol during pregnancy and FASD at Science Daily

Why does prenatal alcohol exposure increase the likelihood of addiction?

One of the many negative consequences when fetuses are exposed to alcohol in the womb is an increased risk for drug addiction later in life. Neuroscientists in the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions are discovering why.

Through a research grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Senior Research Scientist Roh-Yu Shen, PhD, is studying how prenatal alcohol exposure alters the reward system in the brain and how this change continues through adulthood.

The key appears to lie with endocannibinoids, cannabis-like chemicals that are produced by the brain itself.

Full story of prenatal alcohol exposure and addiction at Science Daily

The cost of opioid use during pregnancy

A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome — often caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy — is increasing in the United States, and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs. The number of US hospital admissions involving neonatal abstinence syndrome increased more than fourfold between the years 2003 and 2012. In 2012, neonatal abstinence syndrome cost nearly $316 million in the United States.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a constellation of symptoms that occur in newborn infants exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. Infants affected by NAS typically show a number of neurological symptoms and behaviors (e.g., tremors, seizures) as well as poor feeding and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Standard management of NAS involves the administration of opioids for opioid withdrawal, with additional medications for stubborn cases or instances of multi-drug exposure. This drug administration has been performed traditionally in the hospital setting, consuming valuable and finite hospital resources.

Full story of opioid use during pregnancy at Science Daily

Report Finds Dramatic Increase in Proportion of Babies Born Dependent on Opioids

A new government report finds a dramatic increase in the proportion of babies born dependent on opioid drugs, such as heroin or prescription pain relievers. Between 2000 and 2009 the number of infants born to women who had used opioids increased nearly fivefold annually–from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 hospital births.

The report also found that an annual average of about 21,000 pregnant women ages 15 to 44 misused opioids in the past month, according to HealthDay.

Full story of born babies dependent on opioids at drugfree.org

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