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Methamphetamine Use in Pregnancy Detectable in Hair

Newborn hair samples show placental transfer of methamphetamine and other chemicals from mothers abusing drugs

FRIDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who use methamphetamine during pregnancy can transfer the drug through the placenta to their babies, according to a report in the September issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood -- Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Facundo Garcia-Bournissen, M.D., of the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues analyzed hair samples referred to their laboratory for drug testing from hospitals throughout Canada between 1997 and 2005. The survey included more than 34,000 tests representing more than 8,000 individuals.

The investigators found that 396 individuals and 11 mother-baby pairs tested positive for methamphetamine. Levels of the drug in mothers and neonates correlated significantly. Of the 171 individuals who tested positive for methamphetamine and who were also tested for other drugs of abuse, 83.5 percent tested positive for at least one other drug (65 percent for cocaine, 37.6 percent for marijuana and 30.2 percent for opiates).

"Because neonatal hair grows in the last trimester of pregnancy, a positive hair test for methamphetamine in the baby is a biomarker of maternal addiction, as the mother has long known she is pregnant by the seventh month of pregnancy," the authors write.

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