Millions of babies exposed to narcotics before birth

April 9th, 2008 - 11:43 am ICT by admin  

Washington, April 9 (IANS) Exposure to narcotics like cocaine, marijuana or alcohol affects millions of prenatal births every year, with the number at over a million in the US alone, according to one estimate. More worryingly, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of 35 children, averaging 12 years, showed that the effect of these prenatal exposures persist into early adolescence.

Michael Rivkin and Deborah Frank of Children’s Hospital, Boston, who conducted the study, said healthcare providers should offer pregnant women comprehensive care to help them reduce use of all psychoactive substances.

They cautioned that public health campaigns should not ignore the risks of some substances while focussing on others, as it may well be that the greater the number of total prenatal exposures, the higher the chances of adverse and lasting consequences for the developing brain.

“We found that reductions in grey matter and total brain volumes were associated with prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol or cigarettes,” said Rivkin, co-author of the study.

These findings have been published in the April issue of Paediatrics.

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