Handbook of Psychological Services for Children and Adolescents

By Jan N. Hughes; Annette M. La Greca et al. | Go to book overview

9
Prenatal Drug Exposure
Psychoeducational Outcomes
and Prevention Models
LEADELLE PHELPS

Intrauterine exposure to drugs may result in a wide variety of negative outcomes having notable social consequences. Because drugs vary in their teratogenic qualities (i.e., capability of producing abnormal structures in the embryo), the consequential effects may range from severe mental retardation and physical abnormalities to only subtle neurological markers. Thus prenatal drug exposure can be a serious social and public health problem deserving of concerted prevention and early intervention efforts. Yet there is a paucity of such prevention and intervention programs, and none have been empirically validated. In order that we may better understand the necessity of prevention (i.e., in this case, before pregnancy) or early intervention (i.e., during pregnancy to limit neurological involvement), the biological bases and psychoeducational manifestations of prenatal drug exposure are reviewed in this chapter. Because the two primary sources of intrauterine exposure are alcohol and cocaine, and because each results in significantly different outcomes, the two drugs will be discussed independently.


Prenatal Alcohol Exposure

The development of a growing fetus's entire central nervous system can be altered when a sufficient amount of alcohol interferes with neurotransmitter production, cell development, cell migration, and brain growth throughout gestation (Kaufman, 1997; Kotch & Sulik, 1992). Considerable damage can occur before the mother is even aware of her pregnancy. For example, the human brain develops via neurons generated within the ventricles (the innermost brain cavity) that migrate to the

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