ORONO – The opioid epidemic affects people across our country and state, and now a study conducted at the University of Maine is showing that it can have a big effect on the relationship between a mother and child.
Opioid dependency affects the brain in many ways.
“Opioids shut down the stress circuitry, which is why for people with extreme stress, such as extreme poverty, are vulnerable to addiction to drugs like alcohol or opioid,” said University of Maine Psychology Professor and Researcher Dr. Marie Hayes.
According to a study conducted by researchers at UMaine, there are 2.5 million childbearing women who are affected by opioid addiction in the United States.
Dr. Hayes and a team of researchers found that mothers being treated for opioid dependency weren’t as responsive or sensitive towards their babies. They believe it has something to do with oxytocin levels.
“We know that oxytocin is present in social interactions that are positive, like between parents and their children, fathers and infants, mothers and infant,” said Dr. Hayes.
The reduced oxytocin release caused opioid-dependent mothers to show a lack of attachment to their child when compared to non-dependent mothers with similar socioeconomic backgrounds.
But how might this affect the child in the long run? It’s a question that Dr. Hayes says would need to be evaluated with more experimentation.
“You might surmise that the quality of the attachment relationship may not be optimum because it’s during this three to six month period when these babies were tested, that the mother is the leader or the father is the leader in this attachment response,” said Dr. Hayes.
For more information about the study, you can visit https://umaine.edu/news/blog/2019/11/06/opioid-dependent-mothers-with-reduced-oxytocin-levels-give-fewer-gentle-touches-to-babies/.