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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 8, 2001

UH-Manoa gets share of meth study grant

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

The University of Hawai'i-Manoa has been awarded a federal grant worth as much as $1 million to study the effects of prenatal methamphetamine exposure on Island babies.

The university will be part of the first large-scale study on the topic, according to UH-Manoa.

UH-Manoa is one of six sites across the United States that will share in a five-year, $6.57 million federal grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The areas targeted for the research grant "Prenatal Methamphetamine Exposure and Child Outcome" have a "reported high use of methamphetamine in their populations," said Dr. Chris Derauf, program director of the Integrated Pediatric Residency Program of the University of Hawai'i at Manoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine.

A 1999 study showed that about seven out of 1,000 Hawai'i babies are born to mothers who have used methamphetamine, a stimulant and common illegal drug, said Derauf, who added that the estimate is on the low side.

Between 0.7 percent and 5 percent of Hawai'i babies may be exposed to methamphetamine before birth, Derauf said.

The study will look at mothers' methamphetamine use during pregnancy and its potential effect on infant and child behavior and development, Derauf said.

"A lot of research has been done on prenatal cocaine exposure, but little on prenatal methamphetamine exposure," Derauf said. "With the increase in use of methamphetamine across the nation, there is concern about what impact it has on children's development."

The study has three goals: to determine the developmental consequences of prenatal methamphetamine exposure from birth to age 3; to describe the environmental characteristics of methamphetamine exposed children; and to determine how the drug and the environment affect the outcome of these children.

In Hawai'i, the study will be conducted at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, where the John A. Burns School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics and the Integrated Pediatric Residency Program are based. The three-year study will probably start in the spring or summer, Derauf said.

The Hawai'i study will involve 112 infants, 56 born to mothers who used methamphetamine during pregnancy and 56 born to mothers who did not. The latter will serve as the study's control group.

These infants will participate in the study from birth for the next three years as researchers and physicians monitor their development and behavior.

Participation in the study will be offered to any mother who meets the eligibility requirements and offers consent. A federal certificate of confidentiality will be used in the study to protect the privacy of those participating who may be using drugs.

"This study will enable us to advance our scientific understanding of this emerging problem and enhance our ability to develop appropriate interventions for these children and their families," said the study's principal investigator, Barry M. Lester, professor of psychiatry and human behavior and pediatrics at Brown Medical School in Rhode Island. "This is a problem that needs to be addressed, and the first step in that process is research."

It is estimated that 11 percent of children in the United States live with at least one parent who is an alcoholic or illicit drug user. In 1999, an estimated 4.3 million people used methamphetamine, an increase from 2.5 million in 1997.

"This study will hopefully allow us to develop strategies to optimize the health and development of infants who may have been exposed during the mother's pregnancy," Derauf said.

The grant was awarded to the Emma Pendleton Bradley Hospital and Brown Medical School in Rhode Island, and will be administered to six subcontracted sites: the University of Maryland in Baltimore, University of California at Los Angeles, University of Hawai'i-M?noa, University of Oklahoma at Tulsa, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and the Iowa Health System in Des Moines.