Researchers found that for all trimesters, cocaine-using women used alcohol, marijuana and tobacco more frequently and in higher amounts than non-users. Cocaine-using women were found to be older, had more children and were less likely to have had prenatal care. They also were less likely to be married; had lower vocabulary, block design and picture completion scores; and higher psychological distress scores.
The study also found that cocaine-exposed infants had lower gestational age, birthweight, head circumference and length than non-exposed infants. There were more preterm, low birthweight and small for gestational age infants in the exposed group.
Researchers also found that the rate of mental retardation in cocaine-exposed children at age 2 (13.7 percent v. 7.1 percent in the non-exposed group) is 4.89 times higher than expected in the general population. And the percentage of children with mild delays (37.6 percent in the exposed group v. 20.9 percent in the non-exposed group) requiring intervention was almost double the rate of the high risk, non-cocaine group. Researchers speculate it is likely that these children will continue to have learning problems and an increased need for special educational services at school age.
Another important note from the study is that cognitive delays could not be attributed to exposure to other drugs or a large number of other variables, including inadequate prenatal care, caregiver or birth mother intelligence, psychological distress, postnatal drug exposure or a low quality home environment.
Singer said the team is concerned that the study data will be misinterpreted and used to punish women or to remove children from their families.
Prosecution of women will not address the problems of alcohol and drug abuse, Singer said. In fact,
Contact: George Stamatis
Case Western Reserve University