The Effects of Drugs on Children Born to Addicts

Drugs taken by an addicted mother can cause severe problems for the baby.
Drugs taken by an addicted mother can cause severe problems for the baby. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Among other effects, a child born to an addict can die or have deformed body parts as a result of the drugs absorbed from the mother's system. The pregnant mothers may not be fully aware of what is happening to the fetus, not just while taking drugs, but also if attempting to achieve withdrawal. A majority of the effects aren't just temporary, Some children live with them all their lives, if they live at all.

Born Addicted

Children that make it through the pregnancy can be born addicted to the same drug the mother is addicted to. As a result, they'll have to go through similar withdrawal symptoms that adult addicts experience, including diarrhea and tremors, which means the week or so after birth can be horrible for them. A mother who tries to quit cold turkey is also dangerous. She could cause a miscarriage.

Learning Problems

Children born to addicts are often at risk for developing learning problems, especially if they are born with a low birth weight. They can have difficulty retaining knowledge and learning new skills, which means they may have problems keeping up academically or socially with others in their age group. These issues could persist even as the child gets older.

Deformed Body Parts

While the child is in utero, drugs can cause the organs and body parts to form incorrectly. The genitals, limbs, kidneys and facial features are just some of the parts of the baby that can be malformed due to the effects of drugs. The child can also be born with a smaller head, which in turn, may also mean having a smaller brain.

Premature Birth

Addicts who take drugs while pregnant may cause their baby to be born premature. A full-term birth is typically around 40 weeks. A child born before 37 full weeks is considered premature. There are a slew of problems associated with premature birth, including an increased risk of mental retardation, behavioral problems and hearing loss.


A drug-addicted mother could have a miscarriage or stillbirth as a result of the drugs in her system. Cocaine users have an increased risk of experiencing placental abruption, which is one of the causes of stillbirth. After being born, the child could also die from health problems and complications that developed as a result of the mother's drug use.

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