Cocaine Exposure in the Womb: The Brain Structure Is Intact, Development Is Off Track

Prenatal cocaine exposure affects both behavior and brain. Animal studies have shown that exposure to cocaine during in utero development causes numerous disruptions in normal brain development and negatively affects behavior from birth and into adulthood.

For ethical reasons, similar studies in humans have been more limited but some research has shown that children exposed prenatally to cocaine have impairments in attention, control, stress, emotion regulation, and memory. Research also suggests that such children may be more predisposed to initiate substance use.

Since adolescence is the typical period in life when substance use begins, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, led by Dr. Rajita Sinha, conducted a study to evaluate the gray matter differences and likelihood of substance use in adolescents who were cocaine-exposed prenatally versus those who were not.

To do this, they recruited 42 adolescents between the ages of 14 and 17, exposed in utero, who are part of a long-term cohort that have been followed since birth. They also studied 21 non-cocaine-exposed adolescents for comparison. All of the participants underwent structural neuroimaging scans and answered questions about their use of all kinds of illegal drugs, in addition to submitting urine samples for toxicology analyses.

Full story of cocaine during pregnancy at Science Daily

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