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Cigarette smoking is dangerous, as it affects the health of those who inhale the smoke directly as well as passively. Also, maternal smoking, during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the physical health of the child. The child may develop an increased risk for respiratory disease, ear infections and asthma. A recent study, conducted at Turku University Hospital in Finland apparently exposed that, prenatal smoking can also cause psychiatric problems. It may lead to an increase in the need for psychotropic medications in childhood and young adulthood as well.

The study authors probably noticed that, adolescents who had been exposed to prenatal smoking were at a greater risk, for use of all psychiatric drugs. This included the ones used to treat depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and addiction compared to non-exposed youths.

“Recent studies show that maternal smoking during pregnancy may interfere with brain development of the growing fetus. By avoiding smoking during pregnancy, all the later psychiatric problems caused by smoking exposure could be prevented,” explained, Mikael Ekblad, lead author of the study and a pediatric study author at Turku University Hospital in Finland.

To conduct this study, information from the Finnish Medical Birth Register was collected by Ekblad and his colleagues. The information dated from 1987 through 1989 of children, born in Finland. It included data on maternal smoking, gestational age, birth weight and 5-minute Apgar scores of all these children. They even thoroughly examined, the records on mothers’ psychiatric inpatient care from 1969-1989 and children’s use of psychiatric drugs. It then probably appeared that, 12.3 percent of the young adults had used psychiatric drugs, and of these, 19.2 percent had been exposed to prenatal smoking.

Psychotropic medication was required, by 16.9 percent youth adults whose mothers smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day while pregnant. 14.7 youths whose mothers smoked less than 10 cigarettes a day were next in the list followed by 11.7 percent youths who were completely unexposed to cigarettes by their mothers

Ekblad shared that, “Smoking during pregnancy is still quite common even though the knowledge of its harmful effects has risen in recent years. Recent studies have shown that smoking during pregnancy has negative long-term effects on the health of the child. Therefore, women should avoid smoking during their pregnancy.”

The risk for usage of medication seemed to be similar, in both the genders and remained constant even after adjusting for risk factors at birth, such as Apgar scores and birth weight, and the mother’s previous inpatient care for mental disorders.

Exposure to smoking in the mother’s womb itself further increased the risk, for using all psychotropic drugs, especially stimulants used to treat ADHD and drugs for addiction. 0.6 percent of youths exposed to more than 10 cigarettes a day seemed to suffer the most. Followed by 0.4 percent of youths who were exposed to less than 10 cigarettes a day and a 0.2 percent of youths suffered the least as they were unexposed to cigarettes completely. Among those undergoing treatment for depression, 10.3 percent of youths were those who were exposed to more than 10 cigarettes per day. 8.6 percent of youths treated for depression were the youths that were exposed to less than 10 cigarettes in a day. However, 6 percent of youths treated for depression were also completely unexposed to cigarettes.

The study was presented on May 4 at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.