Archive for Effects of Drugs and Alcohol

Addiction: Alcohol Consumption Risks During Pregnancy

By Denny Coates

Denny Coates is a leader in the personal development field and Author of Conversations with the Wise Uncle & Conversations with the Wise Aunt. Denny is also the Creator of ProStar Coach, online virtual gym for personal development. Denny’s commitment to helping people excel is exhibitted in his blog and other writings. Denny is sought after as a speaker and a coach by top corporations and organizations on a variety of personal development topics.


Brain Damage Caused By Alcohol and Drug Consumption – In the Womb and During Adolescence

During the nine months of a mother’s pregnancy, a fertilized egg progresses step by step until the baby is ready to come into the world. This is the most complex and sensitive period of the child’s growth. If alcohol or drugs are passed from the mother’s bloodstream into the womb in the wrong quantity or at the wrong time, the physical development of the child can be disrupted. The consequence is often a newborn baby with physical problems, including abnormalities in the brain.
According to a front-page report from the November 13, 2011, San Antonio Express-News, the Children’s Research Triangle has conducted screening at more than 100 sites nationwide this past year. Dr. Ira J. Chasnoff, a pediatrician there, concluded, “Drinking alcohol can be devastating to the developing fetus. It causes structural and functional changes in the brain. In San Antonio alone, nearly 100 of the 400 women screened were using a substance that harms the developing brain.”

Nationwide, every year nearly 40,000 babies are born with disorders related to use of alcohol during pregnancy. The most serious disorder is “fetal alcohol syndrome” (FAS), the leading cause of mental retardation in the U.S. FAS also causes malformed facial features. In addition, three times as many children again are affected by “alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder,” which is a serious form of brain damage marked by behavior and learning disabilities. These children are often misdiagnosed as having ADD.
This can happen if a mother uses alcohol or drugs at the wrong time – when the unborn baby’s brain is in a crucial phase of development. That’s why most doctors caution a mother to avoid using these substances during pregnancy. The consequences can be permanent – tragic for the child and the family. The afflicted child will never be completely normal.
After birth, a child’s brain goes through many more phases of development as the child’s brain gains perceptual abilities, then physical abilities, then language abilities, and beyond. Once removed from the womb and weened from the breast, a child is relatively safe from a mother substance abuse.
Until the child reaches puberty.
The problem is that during the past decade scientists have discovered that a young person’s brain is still changing and developing throughout adolescence. Significantly, the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in analysis, reasoning, foreseeing consequences, problem solving, conceptual thinking, planning and self-management, is “under construction” throughout adolescence. Essentially, the foundation for intellectual thought is being wired during this sensitive 12-year period.
The problem is that this is the same phase of growing up that many young people experiment with alcohol and drugs. All this partying and “sowing wild oats” used to be thought of as a harmless phase that teenagers ultimately outgrow. But thousands of young people are killed every year in alcohol-related incidents. Some escape death, but “get in trouble.” Traffic accidents and teen pregnancy, for example. Many more become alcoholics.
As tragic as these consequences are, there is one more that is just as awful – or even worse – and is almost never acknowledged. Teenagers who drink too much at this time of life can cause permanent brain damage. I’m not talking about the old scare that drinking alcohol will kill off a few hundred brain cells. No, it’s much worse than that. A sensitive period of brain growth is underway, and alcohol entering the brain can dramatically disrupt the growth process. The result could be a permanent degradation of brain function of the prefrontal lobes – the area that coordinates higher-level thinking.
Cruel comments such as, “Old Harold is a couple cards short of a full deck,” are often directed at adults who “aren’t very bright.” We now know that the inability of an adult to connect the dots quickly could have been caused by too drinking alcohol or using drugs during adolescence.
Most people now know how dangerous it is to an unborn child for a mother to drink alcohol or use drugs during pregnancy. What almost no one knows is that exactly the same dangers exist when a young person abuses the substances during the ages from 12 to 24.
If you’ve read this far, you are now¬† one of the people who knows.
These books coach teens about these topics…
Conversations with the Wise Aunt (for girls)
Conversations with the Wise Uncle (for boys)
Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .