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More P use found in mothers

MARYKE PENMAN
Last updated 05:00 21/01/2014
Andrea Quinn
Maarten Holl/Fairfax Media

METH BUST: Detective Andrea Quinn with a kilo of methamphetamine discovered as part of a multi-million dollar seizure.

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Methamphetamine use among Kiwi women of child bearing age is on the increase, a researcher says.

Development psychologist Trecia Wouldes says intervention is vital to educate women of the dangers if they take P during pregnancy.

The Murrrays Bay woman is leading research at the University of Auckland looking at the behaviour and development of 110 children exposed to methamphetamine prenatally.

The research is part of the Infant Development Environment and Lifestyle (IDEAL) Study, which comprises of four US sites and one in New Zealand - the largest of the five sites.

It is the only study of its kind worldwide.

Dr Wouldes says the study began when the Alcohol Drug and Pregnancy Team at the National Women's Hospital noticed a high number of mothers exhibiting comorbidity - a link between psychiatric problems and drug use.

In 2001 the number of referrals due to methamphetamine use was 10 per cent. By 2003 that number had grown to 59 per cent.

"When we looked at what drugs that was associated with for the majority it was P. At the time there was nothing in the literature to say how that was going to impact their children."

Mothers, some of whom have had two or more children while on P, have been recruited from North Shore, Auckland and Waitakere hospitals.

Most of the mothers are from low socio-economic backgrounds and are generally not well educated, she says.

Dr Wouldes says the aim is to monitor their children until they reach puberty.

The New Zealand mothers are not only more likely to have psychiatric problems related to their methamphetamine use, but have also been found to drink more alcohol than their US counterparts.

Dr Wouldes says it is typical for substance abuse to entail a combination of drugs. Alcohol and methamphetamine is a common cocktail, she says.

"When we asked the women why P over other drugs they said because they can party all night, drink without getting drunk and get up in the morning and go to work. They also said it helps to keep them slim, so in that sense it is very much a women's drug."

So far the effects of methamphetamine on children seem largely behavioural and therefore treatable, Dr Wouldes says.

Of particular concern is the "double whammy" that sees these children go on to be raised in a high risk home environment.

Results so far indicate a higher rate of preterm births, growth retardation and possible outcomes such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

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