Who are Children of Addiction?

Terms such as “crack babies” and “fetal alcohol syndrome” have become part of modern society’s vocabulary. We know what that means: babies born to mothers who used alcohol or drugs while they were pregnant. But what happens to those babies born addicted? If they survive, do they live normal lives?

Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” Exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero can leave long-lasting effects on a child’s brain.

How Are Children of Addiction Different?

When the fetal brain is exposed to a drug such as cocaine in the first or second trimester, the drug can affect the development of the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for decision making, problem solving, self-control, and judgment. Children whose brains have been damaged in this way often exhibit inappropriate or violent social behavior, mood swings, the inability to learn by watching others or to understand cause and effect, and lack of conscience or remorse. Babies born addicted may become overwhelmed by excess stimuli — such as the busy atmosphere of a preschool or an elementary school classroom — and they become easily distracted or frustrated, and they act out.

Many of the symptoms displayed by children of addiction mimic the symptoms of other frequently diagnosed disorders such as ADHD and Behavioral Disorders. Just like these other disorders, the problem lies in their brain function. The difference is that babies born addicted have been significantly affected by substance exposure, creating a host of symptoms that are very difficult to treat.

What Do the Brains of Children of Addicts Look Like?

Actually, the brains of children who were babies born addicted look remarkably like the brains of the addicts themselves.

Babies Born Addicted

Each row represents high beta waves of children in our practice who were born with drugs in their system.

Addiction changes the brain over time. First it alters the way the brain registers pleasure, and then it corrupts normal functions such as learning and motivation. In a qEEG, or Brain Map, professionals can use EEG data to map the rhythms and waves of the brain; Brain Changers performs a QEEG on each of its clients, and we have observed that the brains of children of addiction look very similar to addicts’ brains themselves. The pre-frontal lobes are not the only areas affected in these children.There is an “addiction center” of the brain that is lit up in these cases .This has been observed in children of parents who used marijuana, methamphetamines, alcohol, and other drugs.

If a baby was exposed to parental drug use during pregnancy, or if the child is exposed to fumes produced by drugs as a young child, the addiction center of the brain is “lit up” on the qEEG. As children, these individuals often exhibit symptoms typical of severe ADHD, Anxiety, Behavioral Disorder or Rage. They may have been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. As teenagers, they may begin to experiment with drugs or alcohol themselves; because of the nature of their brains, this calms natural cravings they experience because of the addiction center of the brain being so active. Children of addiction are the largest group of children likely to become addicts themselves.

What Can Parents Do?

Many foster or adoptive parents of children who were babies born addicted come to professionals such as those at Brain Changers because they are at a loss as to how to help these children. These families have offered safe and loving homes, often from birth, yet, love does not solve the problems for children of addiction. If you are one of these parents, there are several important things to remember!

First of all, don’t blame yourself! The child’s behaviors are a result of their brain function, not of anything you did. These symptoms are not caused by poor parenting, lack of discipline, or negative school experiences.

Additionally, it is important to clearly understand the following:

  • Children of addiction do not recognize social cues.>
  • They are unable to learn by watching healthy behaviors.
  • They don’t experience remorse or empathy.
  • They do not understand cause and effect.
  • These children do not simply outgrow their symptoms.

Next, rest assured that Brain Changers can help! We utilize a Holistic Medicine approach which includes neurofeedback to reteach the brainwaves that have been altered by substances to behave normally again. Through combining Neurofeedback and  Counseling,  these children learn more appropriate behaviors and healthier ways to interact. Children of addiction can learn to focus better, respond to social situations more appropriately, and express anger in healthier ways. They can learn empathy and love, and most importantly, the cycle of addiction can be broken through retraining the addiction center of the brain! Each of these modalities can be done independently, but the greatest benefit comes from a combination of therapies toward improved health and wellness. Please call the office for more information regarding how we can help you reduce or significantly diminish symptoms and enjoy greater health!

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