At one time, researchers investigating babies of crack addicts feared that such babies had suffered irretrievable damage to their brain and that they would grow into extremely aggressive and maladjusted citizens. Earlier facts, however, were mixed with opinions and speculations. Further research has given us a more accurate picture of what to expect for babies born to mothers who used cocaine during pregnancy. The Living 201 class has gathered these facts for you.
In this article, children exposed to cocaine during pregnancy will be referred to as the "exposed children" and those who weren't, as "controls." The controls, however, included babies that were exposed to cigarette smoke, alcohol, and other drugs.
The bottom line of these studies is that the exposed children, overall, had more behavioral problems than the controls.
The exposed babies, in the first 90 days of life, showed more irritability than controls. A year later, they demonstrated less ability to focus on a single task. At four-and a half years of age, both an inability to ignore distraction and to stay focused persisted. They also demonstrated more impulsive behaviors.
When these children reached school age, the exposed children continued to be more impulsive in their decision making than the controls. They also had more trouble focussing their attention on a single task and were more easily distracted. They were also more socially aggressive. Exposure to cocaine did not lower the overall I.Q. in the exposed children but they did not use their brain power outside the school as much as did the controls.
Animal studies also show similar attention deficits in animals exposed to cocaine. Exposed adult rabbits had a more difficult time ignoring distractions and staying focused.
It is important to clarify that attention deficit can be caused by a number of biological, environmental, and chemical factors. Exposure to cocaine is just one of the chemical factors related to attention deficit.
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Dr. Vijai Sharma
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