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USDTL Research

New tools emerge to test newborns for drug exposure

By Joseph Jones, MS, NRCC-TC

Clinical and Forensic Toxicology News. 2012, June, 2-3.

In utero drug and alcohol exposure is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including intrauterine growth retardation, premature labor, placental abruption, convulsions, and even death (1). Over the past decade, neonatal abstinence syndrome has become more common as more babies are born to mothers who abuse prescription medications, such as painkilling narcotics (2). The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicated that 5.1% of pregnant women self-report illicit drug use and almost 1% report heavy drinking (defined as five or more binges in the previous month), rates that have not changed significantly since 2002 (3). Neonatal care professionals need reliable tools to identify newborns who have been exposed to drugs and alcohol in utero.

1. Kuczkowski KM. The effects of drug abuse on pregnancy. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol 2007;19:578–85.
2. Burgos A, Burke B. Neonatal abstinence syndrome. NeoReviews 2009;10:e222–e229.
3. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: national findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Rockville, Maryland: SAMHSA, 2009.


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