Effects of Cocaine Crack, Rock, Blow
“Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant and can cause fetal heart failure and stroke, mal-formed organs and other developmental abnormalities”
Effect during Pregnancy: Cocaine causes severe changes in blood pressure, and available oxygen to the fetus, causing stroke, heart attack and premature labor.
Effects on the Fetus: Cocaine also reduces blood flow to the fetus causing malformation or lack of limbs and organs such as the brain and kidneys.
Effect on the Infant: Slow development, learning and behavioral problems are typical of children with mothers who used Cocaine during pregnancy.
Characteristics of Cocaine Exposed Infants:
- Lower birthweight, shorter
- Smaller head circumference
- A piercing cry, which is apparently indicative of neurological dysfunction
- Lower Apgar score
- Irritability and hypersensitivity.
- The newborn shoots from sleep to screaming and is inconsolable.
- Poor feeding
- High respiratory and heart rates
- Startling responses
- Poor sleep patterns
- Significantly lower scores on two of the dimensions measured by the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scales (BNBAS): 1) scales related to interactive abilities, and 2) scales related to organizational responses to environmental stimuli. Infants who perform poorly on the BNBAS are considered high risk, especially if performance is poor in more than one of the behavioral dimensions.
- An increased risk of malformations of the genito-urinary tract. Dr. Chasnoff recommends that these infants should have routine ultra-sound evaluations of their kidneys in order to rule out such defects.
- There is evidence that the use of cocaine shortly before birth can be associated with cerebral infarction (stroke) which damages the brain of the newborn. A CT scan of the brain may be indicated when both the infant and mother test highly positive for cocaine at the time of birth and when there are additional indications to suggest a stroke might have occurred.
- A greater incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In Dr. Chasnoff’s sample, 15% of the infants died of SIDS, more than triple that of heroin or methadone exposed infants.
- Sleep pattern abnormalities associated with apnea and deep sleep, which may be associated with the greater incidence of SIDS
- Visual abnormalities which may be associated with retinopathy or damage to the iris. This is thought to be related either to actual damage caused by the cocaine and/or the premature birth associated with such use.
- Inability to respond to caregiver. These cocaine exposed infants are largely unable to respond to the human voice and face and are unable to interact with others.
Source: Chasnoff, I.J., Chisum, G.M., Kaplan, W.E. “Maternal Cocaine Use and Genitourinary Tract Malformations.” Teratology 1988. 37:201-204.
Long Term Effects of Cocaine Exposure
Scientists know the effects of cocaine on the adult brain and cardiovascular systems. Now there is a growing body of research documenting the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on infants, which is raising public health concerns about the long-term cognitive and developmental outcomes for these children.
- Cocaine-exposed infants had lower gestational age, birthweight, head circumference and length than non-exposed infants.
- Cocaine-exposed infants were more likley to be deliverd preterm, have a low birthweight and be smaller for a given gestational age.
- The rate of mental retardation in cocaine-exposed is 5 times higher than expected in the general population.
- The percentage of children with mild leaning delays requiring intervention is almost double.
- Researchers speculate it is likely that cocaine exposed children will have learning problems and an increased need for special educational services at school age.
Study published by Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, MetroHealth Medical Center, and University Hospitals of Cleveland