Hot Publication - Effects of Prenatal Cocaine Use

Adolescent Initiation of Drug Use: Effects of Prenatal Cocaine Exposure,
Richardson, GA, Larkby, C, Goldschmidt, L, Day, NL

Very few studies have focused on the effects that drug exposure during pregnancy may have on subsequent drug use in the offspring.  In a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Dr. Richardson and colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry investigated the effects of prenatal cocaine use, as well as other predictors of adolescent substance use, on early age of initiation of substance use during adolescence.

The data for this study were from an ongoing longitudinal study, directed by Dr. Richardson, in which women and their offspring were assessed from gestation through young adulthood.  Fifty percent of the offspring were Caucasian and 50% were African American.  Adolescents (N = 214) were interviewed at 15 years to determine their age at initiation of alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco use.  

Results showed that, by 15 years of age, 40% of offspring prenatally exposed to cocaine had initiated marijuana use and 46% had initiated alcohol use, compared to 16% and 31% of non-exposed offspring, respectively.  There were no effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on tobacco initiation.  Prenatal cocaine exposure predicted adolescent substance use over and above factors such as family substance use, parental supervision, childhood maltreatment, and exposure to violence, demonstrating a direct effect of prenatal cocaine exposure on adolescent substance use.  

Early initiation of substance use is a known risk factor for later behavioral and psychiatric problems.  Therefore, these findings have significant implications for the development of later substance use, social, and psychiatric problems.

Gale A. Richardson, PhD, Cynthia Larkby, PhD, Nancy L. Day, PhD (Department of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh)

Lidush Goldschmidt, PhD (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)

The results of this investigation were published in the January 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Click here for a link to the abstract.