Prenatal Exposure Curbs Cognitive Development. (Cocaine)

Article excerpt

Scientists know the effects of cocaine on the adult brain and cardiovascular systems, but what about the effects of prenatal exposure on infants? A study by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, and University Hospitals of Cleveland (Ohio) followed 415 cocaine-exposed infants to determine how prenatal cocaine exposure affects child development outcomes. They were compared to nonexposed infants on cognitive and motor development until age two. Cocaine exposure does affect a child's cognitive development, but not motor development, they found.

Mothers and infants were recruited over a two-year period from a high-risk population screened for drug use. Urine samples were obtained immediately before and after labor and delivery, and analyzed for the presence of cocaine metabolites, cannabinoids, opiates, PCP, and amphetamines. Urine tests for drugs were performed on all women who received no prenatal care, appeared to be intoxicated or taking drugs, had a history with the Cleveland Department of Human Services in previous pregnancies, or self-admitted or appeared to be high risk for drug use according to interviews by hospital staff. Meconium was collected from infants' diapers and screened for drugs.

Researchers found that, for all trimesters, cocaine-using women availed themselves of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco more frequently and in higher amounts than nonusers. …