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J Pediatr. 2008 Jul;153(1):105-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2008.01.001. Epub 2008 Mar 6.

Prenatal cocaine exposure: drug and environmental effects at 9 years.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, USA.



To assess school-age cognitive and achievement outcomes in children with prenatal cocaine exposure, controlling for confounding drug and environmental factors.


At age 9 years, 371 children (192 cocaine exposure [CE]; 179 non-cocaine exposure [NCE]) were assessed for IQ and school achievement in a longitudinal, prospective study from birth. An extensive number of confounding variables were controlled, including quality of caregiving environment, polydrug exposure, blood lead level, iron-deficiency anemia (IDA), and foster/adoptive care.


Prenatal cocaine exposure predicted poorer perceptual reasoning IQ, with a linear relationship of the concentration of the cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine to the degree of impairment. Effects were mediated through birth head circumference, indicating a relationship with fetal brain growth. Negative effects of alcohol, lead, and marijuana exposure and positive effects of the home environment were additive. The CE children in foster/adoptive care had better home environments and lower lead levels. School achievement was not affected.


Persistent teratologic effects of CE on specific cognitive functions and additive effects of alcohol, lead, and marijuana exposure; IDA; and the home environment were identified. Documenting environmental factors in behavioral teratology studies is important, because in this sample, CE was associated with better home environment and lower environmental risk in a substantial number of children.

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