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SAMHSA News - July/August 2004, Volume 12, Number 4

Drug-Abusing Mothers Place Their Children at Risk

photo of mother's hand holding child's handChildren born and raised by addicted mothers face a high risk of developing significant physical, academic, and emotional problems, according to a recent study looking at families during intake to residential substance abuse treatment programs.

The study, published earlier this year in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, examined data from the Residential Women and Children/Pregnant and Postpartum Women programs, funded by SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) between 1996 and 2000.

"Children of Mothers with Serious Substance Abuse Problems: An Accumulation of Risks" was written by seven authors. These authors are Nicola A. Conners, Ph.D., Robert H. Bradley, Ph.D., Leanne Whiteside Mansell, Ed.D., Jeffrey Y. Liu, M.P.A., Tracy J. Roberts, M.P.A., Ken Burgdorf, Ph.D., and also James M. Herrell, Ph.D., M.P.H., of CSAT.

The 4,084 children age 17 and younger analyzed in the study were identified as vulnerable to a wide range of risk factors from conception through childhood.

A majority of the children experienced prenatal exposure to alcohol, drugs, and cigarette smoke. Nearly a quarter of the children had health problems—asthma and problems with vision and hearing were two to seven times more common than among children in general.

During early childhood, these children faced numerous roadblocks to success, including maternal mental illness, caregiver instability, child abuse and neglect, and little involvement with fathers.

Of the 2,746 mothers surveyed, a majority were chronic drug users who had been using alcohol or other drugs for an average of 15.9 years before entering a treatment program. Most of the women—85.9 percent—had been in treatment before. Crack/cocaine was the most common (50.4 percent), followed by alcohol (13 percent), amphetamines (11.1 percent), and heroin (8.8 percent).

A majority of the women were unemployed (88.9 percent), lacked a high school degree or GED (51.7 percent), and relied on public financial assistance (70.6 percent). In addition, 32 percent of these women had been homeless in the 2 years prior to entering treatment.

"There is some evidence to suggest that most women lacked social support from non-drug-involved family, friends, or partners," the authors state in the article. ". . . Three-fourths of women (79.3 percent) reported that their family members were involved in alcohol or drug-related activities, and 42.9 percent reported having fewer than two friends that did not use drugs."

For the complete article, see Conners NA, Bradley RH, Mansell LW, Liu JY, Roberts TJ, Burgdorf K, Herrell JM. Children of mothers with serious substance abuse problems: an accumulation of risks. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2004;30(1):85-100. End of Article

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Inside This Issue

Older Adults: Improving Mental Health Services
  • Part 1
  • Part 2
    Older Adults—Related Content:
  • From the Administrator: Mental Health for Older Americans
  • Resources for Older Adults
  • Targeted Capacity Expansion Sites
  • Countering Stigma
  • Prescription Drugs & Alcohol Don't Mix
  • Increases in Substance Abuse Treatment
      Chart—All Admissions, 2001
  • Safety Tips on Medicines & Alcohol

    Stigma and Mental Illness: SAMHSA Raises Awareness

    SAMHSA Unveils Strategic Prevention Framework

    In Brief…
  • HIPAA Publication
  • Publications in Spanish
  • Children's Program Kit
  • ADSS Cost Study

    Behind the Numbers: SAMHSA's Survey on Drug Use

    For Many Youth, Summer Means First-Time Substance Use
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  • Chart—First Time Substance Use
  • Young Drivers Report

    SAMHSA Releases Updated Directory of Treatment Programs

    Tip 40—Buprenorphine Treatment: Guide for Physicians

    Treatment Admissions Increase for Opiates, Marijuana, Methamphetamine

    Drug-Abusing Mothers Place Their Children at Risk

    Non-medical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers Increases

    Recovery Month Toolkit Now Available

    SAMHSA Revamps Agency Web Site, Improves Usability

    SAMHSA News

    SAMHSA News - July/August 2004, Volume 12, Number 4

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