Author Affiliation: National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rockville, Maryland.
Drug use during pregnancy, which in the United States is estimated at 1 million individuals each year,1 puts the newborn at increased risk for multiple adverse health outcomes. While the deleterious effects of alcohol, and to a lesser extent nicotine, to the fetus are well recognized, those of illicit drugs are much less understood. Drugs can harm the fetus both via effects to the placenta interfering with nutrient delivery and through direct effects to the fetus. Moreover, the high lipophilicity of drugs ensures that significant concentrations reach the fetus' brain and other organs.2 Thus, the consequences of fetal drug exposure on brain development and function, and ultimately on behavior, constitute an important area of research.
Volkow ND. Impact of Fetal Drug Exposures on the Adolescent Brain. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(4):390-391. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.556