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HOME PATENT MEDICINES AND ANALGESICS: ALCOHOL OTHER DRUGS AND WOMEN AND DRUGS COMING OFF DRUGS: HOW FAMILY AND FRIENDS CAN INTERVENE COMING OFF DRUGS: TELL-TALE SIGNS OF ... COMING OFF DRUGS: HOW THE FAMILY REACTS-SUSANNA'S STORY TRYING TO CONTROL THE ADDICT USING...
 

OTHER DRUGS AND WOMEN AND DRUGS

There are other drugs that can cause dependence. Anaesthetists and dentists occasionally become addicted to laughing gas, or other gases. In the United States, the so-called 'designer drugs', including one with the inappropriate name of 'Ecstasy', are fairly common on the streets. Amyl nitrate - or 'poppers', sometimes used as an extra during sex - is also widely available but not commonly used continuously.

Some addicts will try literally anything. 'I would take whatever was offered,' admits one recovering addict. 'If I was feeling cautious, I would ask what it was first. But I wasn't usually feeling cautious.'

Women and drugs-Women who become addicted to drugs and drink face special dangers. Neither drugs nor drink are safe for pregnant women. They may affect the development of the baby within the womb, even in the first few weeks after conception. Indeed, even before conception, drug-using can affect the health of the mother-to-be, since most addicts have a lifestyle characterised by poor nutrition.

Drugs or drink may cause withdrawal problems for the newly born baby too. They may also pass through the mother's body into the breast milk, which can cause a further problem.

The exact dangers of either drugs or drink in pregnancy are not yet fully known. Research is still going on.

Heroin-Heroin addicts have a higher number of stillborn babies. They also give birth to babies who are smaller in size than ordinary babies. When they are born, such children have to go through heroin withdrawal in the first days of their life. Generally they are less healthy, and seem less alert. Restlessness, agitation and more frequent crying have been reported. Their poor start may affect them for their first year.

Methadone-Babies born to methadone-addicted mothers are not as small as those born to heroin addicts, but they suffer withdrawal symptoms which may be more prolonged than those affecting heroin addicts' babies. In general they have as bad a start in life - or even a worse

one - as the babies of heroin-addicted mothers.

Cannabis-Some research suggests that cannabis may cause birth defects and a lower birth weight for babies in the womb. Babies may have the facial appearance that goes with the 'foetal alcohol syndrome' - flattened face, short upturned nose and slanting eyes. It is possible, however, that this is caused by the fact that cannabis-addicted mothers may be drinking heavily as well.

Tranquillisers and sleeping pills-These may cause birth defects in the early stages of pregnancy. If their mothers have been taking tranquillisers, newly born babies are sometimes drowsy, displaying the 'floppy-baby syndrome'.

The babies of tranquilliser-addicted mothers may have to go through the painful withdrawal process. Their withdrawals are much more prolonged than their mothers'.

Barbiturates-Some research suggests barbiturates produce birth defects in unborn babies. These drugs cause painful withdrawal reactions in the newly born babies of barbiturate-addicted mothers.

Alcohol-Alcohol can cause birth defects, including brain damage, to babies in the womb. It also slows down the growth of the foetus. There is strong evidence to suggest that even medium to heavy drinking, let alone alcoholic drinking, can cause reduced birth weights and brain mass in otherwise normal babies. A recognisable 'foetal alcohol syndrome' is found in newly born babies, who have a flattened face, slanting eyes and upturned nose.

Withdrawal effects have been seen in the newly born babies of alcoholic mothers. These babies have tremors, sometimes even seizures, in the first few days of life.

Other drugs-There are reports of birth defects among babies whose mothers have taken LSD, PCP and amphetamines, but research is still fragmentary. Withdrawal effects from amphetamines and PCP have also been detected in the newly born. Little is known about' the effects of cocaine upon the unborn or the newly born child. The other opiate drugs, like codeine, can cause withdrawal in newly born infants.

Despite the lack of research, it is now abundantly clear that babies born to addicted mothers are at risk. Drug addicts who become pregnant should seek medical advice as early as possible. Abrupt withdrawal from drugs, or fluctuations in the amount taken, may harm the unborn baby. The pregnant addict should always get expert medical advice about her drug-taking, whether she is thinking of stopping using drugs or intending to continue. Medical advice and supervision from a doctor specialising in treating pregnant addicts is essential.

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WHAT MAKES AN ADDICT DECIDE TO STOP?

Let's pause here and consider why addicts decide to stop using drugs and get well. Such a decision isn't an easy one for them. Addicts fear withdrawal and they cannot conceive of a life without drugs. So why do they stop taking drugs?

STOP HELPING THE ADDICT STAY ILL...

LET THE ADDICT SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES...

INTERVENING TO MAKE THE ADDICT SEEK HELP...

LETTING THE ADDICT KNOW HOW YOU FEEL...