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

each to and study of cocaine-exposed children, according to senior author Maureen M. Black, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Cocaine can disrupt fetal growth and development, but this review tells us that just because a child has been exposed to cocaine, it is not a foregone conclusion that they're going to be in trouble," says Dr. Black. "No one is saying cocaine use is good. We need prevention programs so women don't use cocaine in the first place. Children experience serious negative effects from drug exposure in the womb. It looks, though, as if cocaine doesn't work alone. Women who use cocaine are often from poor and dysfunctional families, where children do not receive the care and enrichment they need. In addition, women who use cocaine while pregnant often smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol as well, exposing their unborn children to legal substances with extremely negative consequences."

Dr. Black and her colleagues reviewed 32 major studies of school-age children, ages six through their teenage years, conducted between 1980 and 2008. All of the studies compared children who had been exposed to cocaine to those who had not. Dr. Black and postdoctoral fellows John P. Ackerman, Ph.D., and Tracy Riggins, Ph.D., aggregated the data and organized them into charts comparing the healthy children to those who had been exposed to cocaine.

The areas where children showed significant negative impact from cocaine sustained attention and in self-regulating behavior could lead to serious problems for children in adolescence or adulthood. "They might have difficulty with impulse control and they might be risk-takers," says Dr. Black. "They might be more likely to be involved with drugs themselves." Innovative techniques, including neuroimaging, have suggested that cocaine exposure impacts specific brain structures and functions. The cocaine-exposed children seem to have differences in both white
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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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