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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1989;562:195-207.

Developmental consequences of prenatal exposure to methadone.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, Illinois 60637.

Abstract

This paper has presented evidence of growth and behavioral effects related to prenatal methadone exposure. The data suggest that methadone may have a small direct teratological effect reflected in reduced head circumference, poorer motor coordination, increased body tension, and delayed acquisition of motor milestones in methadone-exposed toddlers. In the sample as a whole, there are no direct effects of methadone exposure on mental development. However, methadone-exposed infants reared in extremely poor environmental circumstances show very delayed mental development. They function more poorly than nonexposed infants reared in such environments and more poorly than methadone-exposed infants reared in more adequate (although still economically poor) environments. This finding is important because it suggests that in the cognitive domain, methadone may not cause a behavioral deficit, but instead create a vulnerability in these children that then makes them more susceptible to impoverished environments. The results from this study indicate that a large subgroup of methadone-exposed children are clearly at risk for poor early intellectual development and that the source of the risk is to a large degree related to environmental factors. These findings suggest that preventive interventions--focused both on enriching the early experiences of such children (e.g., high-quality infant day care) and improving the quality of caregiving provided in the homes--might be particularly effective.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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