ADHD and Nicotine

Everyone has heard about the dangers of exposing fetuses to nicotine. Low birth weight, birthing complications, and other problems have been proven through years of research and study. Now, researchers are warning about a new problem for parents who decide to use nicotine during pregnancy. You may not just be affecting your children, but your future grandchildren as well.

A new study is finding that children whose parents were exposed to nicotine while in the womb, could develop Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). There is even evidence to prove that as the parent it could have been your parents that were exposed and it can still effect your children. The worst part: you, your mother, and your grandmother never had to spoke a single puff during pregnancy for it to affect your child.

According to researchers at the Center for Brain Repair at the College of Medicine, tests of the hypothesis on mice, there is transgenerational transmission through the mother line. There was no transmission through the father’s line. The research builds on work that already shows how stress, fear, or hormone imbalances are passed along generational lines. The group began because of the astonishing rate at which the neurobehavioral disorder is growing. Currently, ADHD affects roughly 10 percent of children and 5 percent of adults in the United States.

“Some reports show up to a 40 percent increase in cases of ADHD in a single generation. It cannot be because a mutation occurred; it takes several generation for that to happen,” Said Pradeep G. Bhide, senior researcher, of the findings.

The team found that one possible factor is the increase in the number of women that smoked while pregnant. The spike started when smoking was fashionable shortly after World War II. While there has been research that shows a correlation with those who smoke heavy during pregnancy and children with ADHD, this is the first study to show the correlation between generations that smoked and their grandchildren’s ADHD.

“We are seeing that changes occurring in my grandparents’ genome because of smoking during pregnancy are being passed to my child. So if my child had ADHD it might not matter that I did not have a disposition or that I never smoked,” Bhide explains. “It’s not that every child born to a mother who smokes has ADHD, and it also isn’t true that every person with ADHD will transmit the genetic material responsible. But our work has opened up new possibilities. The next question is how does transmission to future generations happen? What is the mechanism? And the second question is, if the individual is treated successfully would that stop the transmission to future generations?

As of right now the study is limited to mice. However, mice often serve as a proxy for human phenotypes for years. The study will have to be completed on humans before many will accept the findings. So far, Bhide and his associates’ study is conclusive for mice. Their research opens the possibility that nicotine can do more harm than previously believed.

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