Alcohol Use More Dangerous Than Meth During Pregnancy
Arizona Capitol Times
March 14, 2008
Doctors: Alcohol use more dangerous than meth for expectant mothers
By Anjanette Riley, email@example.com
Alcohol consumption is more dangerous for a developing fetus than any other drug, including meth. That might surprise many Arizonans, but it's common knowledge in the medical community.
"It is exactly opposite of what people might expect, but fetal-alcohol syndrome is far more prevalent, and the fetus is much more at risk from fetal alcohol syndrome," said Frank Scarpati, director of Phoenix nonprofit Community Bridges.
A fetus exposed to alcohol is at risk of lifelong disabilities and disorders, while the same is not true for meth use during pregnancy, Scarpati said.
"Fetal-alcohol syndrome and fetal-alcohol-spectrum disorders create documented lifelong physical, mental and psychological disorders," he said, "Methamphetamine use does not."
The increased level of long-term damage is due to the chemical make-up of alcohol.
"Alcohol causes more damage to the developing baby's brain than any other substance because the alcohol molecule is very small and it passes right through the placenta to the babies system. It passes through instantly so when the pregnant mom takes a drink, within minutes the babies blood alcohol content is the same as the mother's ," said Teresa Kellerman, director of the FAS Community Research Center.
Prenatal exposure to alcohol causes disorders that range from neurological and behavioral problems to physical birth defects such as malformation of the heart, according to a report released in 2007 by the Fetal Alcohol Resource Center.
"The biggest problem with alcohol is the many different areas of damage that can occur," Kellerman said.
An estimated 12.4 percent of the 102,042 babies born in Arizona in 2006 were born to mothers who drank during their pregnancy, according to the report. That means more than 12,000 children born that year faced a greater risk of disorder.
Roughly 1,020 babies are born each year in Arizona with a diagnosable fetal-alcohol disorder, according to the report.
Scarpati said treatment for alcohol addiction is much more dangerous to the fetus than meth-addiction treatments.
"The mother's attempt to detox from alcohol during pregnancy puts her life and the life of the unborn child at risk. Methamphetamine withdrawal does not," he said.
Lawmakers' efforts to force meth-addicted expectant mothers into treatment are misguided and completely ignore the larger problem of alcohol abuse during pregnancy,
"If these Legislators were truly interested in protecting the unborn fetus, they would have expanded protection and produced a Bill entitled ‘Protecting Unborn Children from Drug, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Nicotine Addicted Mothers,'" Scarpati said, "Doctors have know for years and years that alcohol was more dangerous to the fetus, but alcohol is the accepted drug of choice in our country and people don't want to look to close at themselves."
FAS Community Resource Center