Can a Mom's Touch Protect Her Kids from Drugs?


Does more touching from the mother mean less drugs in the future?

By Tara Weng,


We all know how much a parent's influence and modeling behavior can have on children, but a new study reveals that from a very early age, a mother's touch may actually prevent drug use in her kids much later on in their lives. The study, which appears in theJournal of Neuroscience, indicates that if babies are nurtured effectively (they used rats as models) it increases the production of a molecule in the brain's immune system called Interleukin-10, or IL-10, leaving them less susceptible to drug cravings as adults. Researchers say the study shows for the first time how the nurturing behavior of mothers can actually strengthen their offspring's immune system in the brain.

Scientists from Duke University, along with researchers from the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences, exposed baby rats to morphine then studied their follow-up cravings for the drug. They found that the pups who were well nurtured by their mothers showed less cravings for morphine after the initial dose than those who were left alone. The researchers are encouraged that the nurturing can profoundly change the behaviors and response to drugs.

Related: Alcohol and Marijuana... Not My Kids!

Dr. Mark Hutchinson, from the University of Adelaide's School of Medical Sciences, explained the significance of the drug-response on the brain. "Morphine activates the glial cells of the brain to produce inflammatory molecules, which signal a reward center of the brain, contributing to addiction," he reports. The neuroscientists suggest through their study that babies who are nurtured adequately show an increase in the molecule in the brain's immune system (IL-10.) Scientists say the more IL-10 produced in the brain, the less likely morphine causes in an increase in craving or relapse even weeks after being exposed to the drug. The animal subjects who experienced "high-touch" mothering produced four times the molecule than the others.

Though the research is still in its early phase, scientists are excited by the initial findings and plan to further their study and expand on addditional mother/child brain connections, including the long-term effects of maternal stress on the brain's immune response.

What do you think? Do you believe a mom's touch can help keep her kids off drugs?

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This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.