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Children's Health

Drug addication effects for a 2 year old

01/27/2009

Question:

I have custody of a 2 year old who was subject to crack and alchol when the mother was pregant with her, Now she has major behavior problems. She is a very smart child but has no attention spam at all. she also has anger problems. This causes it to be very difficult to deal with. PLEASE help me find some way to HELP her. I would prefer to give her natural herbs if possible. Thank You !!

Answer:

She is a very lucky little girl to have someone to care for her who wants to help her in non-harmful ways. Having cared for similar children in practice, I understand a little bit about how difficult it can be to deal with these challenging behaviors. If I can be exhausted after 30-45 minutes with the child, I can only imagine how a parent feels after 24 hours of care day after day. 

Despite a large body of research on children who are alcohol and drug exposed during  prenatal life, we actually don't know the clear and separate effects of each drug mothers use and the additive effects of alcohol. We do know alcohol exposure can cause both Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). The Nemours Foundation has an excellent article on both of these topics at the following web address: http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/brain/fas.html.

Both behavior problems and problems with attention are extremely common in children who are alcohol and drug exposed. The very sad truth is that there are no known cures for these problems that could have been prevented had the child's mother not taken drugs and alcohol when pregnant. There is no known safe level of drug and alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

On top of the drug and alcohol exposure, the little girl may also have been exposed to a neglectful environment in her birth home or a great deal of moving about in foster care. Both of these intensify the young child's behavior and self control problems as well as their social, emotional, and cognitive development.

The best treatment is to obtain counseling and support for yourself and enter your child into an early intervention program. All states have them and they are a mandated entitlement, meaning you can't be refused care for her developmental and behavioral problems. In addition, evaluation by a developmental and behavioral pediatrician or a child psychiatrist would be an excellent way to identify specific problems and begin their treatment. It is critical to begin early intervention services as soon as possible since they are most effective in the first 3 years of life.

There are no data to support the effectiveness and safety of any herbal supplements or treatments in helping children with these problems. Herbal preparations are often unsafe for use in children because of the immature function of their liver and kidneys in processing these compounds. Even a supplement like Leatonin to help with sleep has the down side of decreasing or even stopping the body's own production of melatonin ultimately impairing the child's sleep rather than improving it.

However, there are excellent data supporting the long term effectiveness and safety of medications and therapies commonly used in the care of children with these issues. I know this is not what you had hoped to hear from me. I urge you to consider  mainstream therapies such as methylphenidate, behavior management, and occupational therapy because they are backed by substantial research and long term testing.

The decision clearly rests in your hands. Whatever choices you make, acting now is truly important because behavior and learning problems tend to worsen over time without early intervention. These are important issues to discuss with your child's doctor. You will also find developmental and behavioral specialists at almost every dedicated children's hospital or medical center anywhere in the US. Something you may want to consider is contacting Michal Hogan, RD, LD, CLT  at (614) 944-5123 or toll free: 866-396-4483 or via e-mail at NutritionResults@aol.com. She has wide experience in working with children with attention and behavior problems and identifying delayed food hypersensitivities that contribute to their difficult behavior. There is no one combination of therapies that works best for every child. What is important now is that you more forward now to help this child.

I hope this is helpful and I wish you all the best in your efforts to help your child.

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Response by:

Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN Mary M Gottesman, PhD, RN, CPNP, FAAN
Professor of Clinical Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University