News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday March 19th 2019

Study looking for tik abuse by pregnant women shows worrying levels of alcohol abuse

Yugendree Naidoo

Concerns over tik abuse by pregnant women in Cape Town revealed in a small 2006 study have been overshadowed by an expanded study released this weekend that shows a higher rate of alcohol abuse than expected.

A study of 100 pregnant women attending antenatal clinics in the Tygerberg area, conducted by the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Research Unit of the South African Medical Research Council in 2006, found ten (10 percent) of the expectant mother used the drug methamphetamine (tik) during pregnancy.

The worrying findings led the MRC to expand their study to 332 pregnant women admitted to Tygerberg antenatal clinics in 2007.

Releasing the expanded study’s findings for the first time on Saturday at the 2010 International Anxiety Disorders Symposium held at Spier, principal investigator Dr Bavi Vythilingum from the University of Cape Town’s psychiatry department indicated that the percentage of pregnant women using tik had decreased, but the high percentage of women using alcohol during pregnancy was a matter of “serious concern”.

Vythilingum said 20, 2 percent of the 332 women studied admitted to using alcohol while pregnant, and 85 percent of these were alcohol dependent.

Four percent (13 women) of the women interviewed via a questionnaire admitted to using a combination of drugs, namely tik and dagga, during their pregnancy.

But the figures for drug abuse could be higher, she said, as some women did not answer the questions on drug abuse.

An interesting observation, she said, was that 33 percent of the sample group indicated they were depressed, providing evidence of a “strong association” between depression and substance abuse.

She said it was evident that depression resulted in the abuse of alcohol and drugs and therefore recommend that depression be highlighted as a possible indicator for substance abuse when assessments of foetal health were being made by antenatal clinic staff.

Vythilingum said the need to conduct further research on the effects of tik on the unborn child meant a further phase of the study would commence next month, focussing on tik and non-tik users.

Commenting on the findings, Emmeranchia Gordon, a social worker at the Mitchell’s Plain office of the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (Sanca), said tik abuse was prevalent amongst pregnant teenagers.

Gordon said the office “often” encountered clients who admitted to using tik during their pregnancy.

She said in her experience tik abuse and depression were closely linked, as well as the abuse of alcohol.

According to FASfacts, South Africa has the highest incidence of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) in the world, with the rural areas of the Western Cape and Northern Cape being hardest hit.

De Aar in the Northern Cape had recorded 122 FAS babies for every 1,000 live births compared to the national average of 20 FAS babies for every 1,000 live births.

A recent study by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) on the effects of methamphetamine on unborn babies found that the drug is even more damaging to the development of an unborn child than FAS.

“It shows for the first time that individuals whose mothers abused methamphetamine (tik) during pregnancy, with or without alcohol abuse, had structural abnormalities in the brain that were more severe than those seen in children whose mothers abused alcohol alone,” said the study, released in March this year.

It also noted that exposure to tik in the uterus reduced the size of the region of the brain essential for learning and memory, motor control, and punishment and reward functions.

Tags: mrc, tik, tygerberg

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3 Responses to “Study looking for tik abuse by pregnant women shows worrying levels of alcohol abuse”

  1. alchohol abuse would always lead to liver cancer if not properly treated .

  2. Daniel Evans says:

    alcohol abuse is also deadly if you are not able to treat it at the right time :..

  3. Thembisa Ntisa says:

    ALCOHOL is very dangerous i really don’t get it WhY PEOPLE are killing themselves in this manner….people dont risk your lives….

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