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UM School of Medicine finds prenatal cocaine exposure not severely damaging to growth, learning
Date:3/1/2010

Children exposed to cocaine in the womb face serious consequences from the drug, but fortunately not in certain critical physical and cognitive areas as previously believed, according to a new comprehensive review of research on the subject from scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. When a pregnant woman uses cocaine, it can interrupt the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby, putting such children at risk for premature birth, low birth weight and many other problems. The new review of multiple major studies conducted on cocaine-exposed, school-aged children found this negative impact significantly affected children in subtle areas such as sustained attention and self-regulated behavior. The research, however, showed surprisingly little impairment directly from cocaine in key areas such as growth, IQ, academic achievement and language functioning.

Many of the children did have low IQ and poor academic and language achievement. The research suggested, though, that these apparent impairments were often caused by the troublesome home environment that goes along with cocaine use, rather than directly from the cocaine itself.

The developmental areas that the cocaine exposure seemed to directly impact sustained attention and self-regulated behavior could become significantly problematic as children grow into adults. The review is published this month in the journal Pediatrics. It is the first review of cocaine-exposed school-age children six and older; a previous review looked at younger children.

When rates of cocaine use began to grow in America in the 1980s, there was concern that children who had been exposed to the drug or its derivative, crack cocaine, in utero were doomed for a lifetime of poor health, sub-par performance in school, behavior problems and eventually for substance abuse themselves. The new review indicates otherwise, and could change the way medicine and social science approach outr
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Contact: Karen Buckelew
kbuckelew@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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