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Prenatal drug exposure effects on subsequent vulnerability to drug abuse

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 September 2006

Research has shown that both prenatal alcohol and tobacco exposure are associated with increased risk of significant adverse medical, developmental, and behavioral outcomes including substance abuse. Research on the outcomes of prenatal exposure to illicit drugs (PNDE) has also found increased physical and behavioral problems for gestationally drug-exposed children. However, a clear picture has not emerged on whether the consequences of PNDE are independent from those associated with having a substance abusing parent and whether PNDE increases vulnerability to drug abuse. Because of its typical co-occurrence with factors inherent in having a drug-abusing parent, PNDE is at least a marker of significant increased risk for a range of negative outcomes including greater vulnerability to substance abuse. Although a review of the relevant research literatures indicates that the direct consequences of PNDE appear to be generally both subtle and nonglobal, PNDE does appear to have negative developmental and behavioral outcomes, and there is evidence that it is a modest direct contributor to increased substance abuse vulnerability.The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services. The authors thank Vincent Smeriglio for the information and suggestions he provided. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent his views.

Corresponding author
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Meyer D. Glantz, Division of Epidemiology, Services, and Prevention Research, National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, 6001 Executive Boulevard, Suite 5185, MSC 9589, Bethesda, MD 20892-9589; E-mail:
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Development and Psychopathology
  • ISSN: 0954-5794
  • EISSN: 1469-2198
  • URL: /core/journals/development-and-psychopathology
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