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A new study suggests that young children whose mothers used methamphetamine in pregnancy are at higher risk of behavior problems compared with children whose mothers didn’t use the drug.

Use of the drug during pregnancy can lead to anxiety, depression and moodiness in children at age 3, the study found. Lead researcher Linda LaGasse called these findings “very worrisome,” the Associated Press reports. She said it is not known whether these problems persist long-term.

The study included 330 children whose mothers were recruited shortly after they gave birth. The mothers were asked about meth use during pregnancy, and their newborns’ stools were tested for the drug. The children’s behavior was evaluated at age 3 and again at age 5. The children’s behavior was compared with a group of children whose mothers had not taken meth, but who also came from disadvantaged homes.

At age 3, children whose mothers had used meth scored slightly higher for anxiety, moodiness and depression, and these differences were still apparent at age 5. The meth-exposed children also showed more aggression and attention problems age at 5.

The study authors conclude in the journal Pediatrics that early detection of methamphetamine-associated behavior problems could lead to the development of better prevention and intervention programs for these children.

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