As illegal meth use has made a comeback across the U.S., pregnant women have not been spared, doctors say. New research shows rural areas in the South, Midwest and West have been hit hardest.
A new study reveals that amphetamine use among pregnant women is on the rise, especially in rural areas. And opioid use by mothers-to-be is more than keeping pace.
Researchers at the University of Michigan recently studied about 47 million U. S. births in the United States. Their findings, published in the American Journal of Public Health, show that the number of births affected by amphetamine use doubled between 2008 and 2015, from 1.2 incidences per 1000 births in 2008 to 2.4 in 2015.
In contrast, opioid use by pregnant women quadrupled between 2004 and 2015. The 2004 numbers were 1.5 opioid affected births per 1000 deliveries. By 2015, opioid affected births had jumped to 6.5 per 1000 deliveries.
“In total, we identified 82,000 deliveries that were affected by amphetamine use disorders. We were surprised to find that amphetamine use accounts for such a significant portion,” said Lindsay Admon, M.D., M.Sc., an OB/GYN researcher at the University of Michigan’s Michigan Health facility and the study’s lead author. “Our findings suggest that both amphetamine use and opioid use are growing public health crises that negatively affect birth outcomes for both mother and child.” (NPR link)
Amphetamines even more risky to pregnant women than opioids
The chance of severe maternal health problems or death from methamphetamine use is 1.6 times the rate from opioid use. Use of methamphetamines by pregnant women significantly increases the incidence of preterm delivery, preeclampsia, heart failure, and heart attack.
There are established medical protocols for treatment of opioid abuse during pregnancy. Medications such as methadone and buprenorphine (Suboxone) are available, and they can be quite effective. No such medications exist for treatment of amphetamine use during pregnancy.
Rural America hardest hit by meth use by pregnant women with least access to help
There’s increased access to methamphetamines and decreased access to addiction treatment facilities in such localities. “We need to devote more resources to prevent and treat substance abuse and pregnancy, especially in low income and rural communities,” said Tyler Winkleman, M.D., M. Sc., the study’s senior author.
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