Effects Of Ecstasy Abuse During Pregnancy
A recent study conducted at Case Western Reverse University School Of Medicine in partnership with two UK Universities, sheds light on the devastating effects that ecstasy has on fetal development and toddlers.
Ecstasy is a generic term for various substances with similar action spectrum. The group includes MDMA (methylene-dioxy-metilamphetamine) and MDE / MDEA (methylene-dioxy-etilamfetamine), among other substances. All these compounds are marketed under the same name “Ecstasy”, as well as the mixtures that contain added caffeine, amphetamines or LSD.
Biochemically, ecstasy acts on the neurotransmitter release process. Pure MDMA acts especially on the neurotransmitter called serotonin. It affects emotions, activity, sensory impressions, motor activities, brain associations and acoustic and visual sensations. The multinational study, published in today’s issue of Neurotoxicology and Teratology, links ecstasy use during pregnancy with malfunctioning chemical signaling responsible for determining the baby’s gender as well with poor growth and development.
“The potential harmful effects of ecstasy exposure on prenatal and infant development have long been a concern,” said Lynn T. Singer, PhD, study leader.
In their study, researchers included 96 women who were interviewed regarding their ecstasy addiction problem and screened for any behavioral symptoms that may have emerged due to the drug abuse. Scientists then compared at the moment of birth and after fourth months , healthy infants born of unaddicted mothers and infants exposed to ecstasy during pregnancy. The stage of development as well as the cognitive development of infants were taken into account. Researchers observed some neurochemical effects of ecstasy that affected the normal motor functioning of babies. Surprisingly, substance abuse also led to a predominance of males at the moment of birth. Normally the male to female gender ratio at birth is 1:1.
After four moths, infants born of ecstasy addicted mothers presented developmental delays, poorer quality of coordinated movement, balancing their heads with delay or presented delays in normal eye-hand coordination when compared with their not exposed counterparts. The study also highlighted a possible link between the doses of ecstasy taken by the mother during pregnancy and poorer quality of coordinated movement or developmental delays of the child after birth.
Serotonin is a substance derived from an amino acid, tryptophan, synthesized by the intestinal cells. It is a neurotransmitter of the central nervous system. Previous studies have shown that altering the action mechanism of serotonin during fetal development can lead to adverse long-term effects of the child’s memory and learning skills.
Now scientists expressed their desire to continue with their research and investigate the long term effects of ecstasy exposure but lack the needed financial support as that their study is only funded to collect data up to 18 months after an infant’s birth.