Substance exposure in utero and developmental consequences in adolescence: A systematic review

Tina Birk Irner

62 Citationer (Scopus)


Background: The impacts of maternal substance use have been observed in both research and clinical experience. Several studies have shown that preschool children are at heightened risk of developing various cognitive, behavioral, and socioemotional difficulties. Most knowledge has been generated concerning alcohol consumption during pregnancy and the postnatal effects thereof. Less is known about substance use other than alcohol (for instance, opiates, marijuana, and cocaine) during pregnancy and the long-term developmental consequences. Objective: The aims of this review are to identify relevant published data on adolescents who have been exposed in utero to alcohol and/or other substances and to examine developmental consequences across functions and mental health at this point in life. Methods: PubMed, Embase, and PsychInfo were searched for publications during the period of 1980-2011 and titles and abstracts selected according to prespecified broad criteria. Results: Twenty-five studies fulfilled all of the specific requirements and were included in this review. Most research covered prenatal alcohol exposure. Other substances, however, included cocaine, marijuana, opiates, and poly-substances. Results showed that prenatal exposure to alcohol has long-term cognitive, behavioral, social, and emotional developmental consequences depending on amount and timing of exposure in utero. Less evidence exists for long-term consequences of exposure in utero to other substances than alcohol. However, recent brain-imaging studies have provided important evidence of serious effects of other substance exposure on the developing brain and recent follow-up studies have found an association with deficits in language, attention, areas of cognitive performance and delinquent behavior in adolescence.
TidsskriftChild Neuropsychology
Udgave nummer6
Sider (fra-til)521-549
Antal sider29
StatusUdgivet - 2012


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