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USDTL Assisted Research

Changing Prevalence of Prenatal Substance Abuse in Utah

Karen F BuchiStephanie ZoneKraig LangheinrichMichael W Varner

First Published: 10 July 2003     DOI: 10.1016/s0029-7844(03)00367-3


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Objective: To estimate the current prevalence of prenatal exposure to methamphetamines and other drugs of abuse among infants born in Utah and compare the results with those of a maternal substance abuse prevalence study performed in 1991 in the same geographic area.

Methods: Thirteen well-baby nurseries in the calendar year 2000 and six neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in 2001-2002 collected anonymous meconium samples and associated, but nonidentifiable, demographic data on consecutively born infants. Samples were screened by enzyme immunoassay and confirmed by gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy for methamphetamines, cannabinoids, and benzoylecgonine.

Results: Meconium samples were collected from 1202 well-baby nursery infants and 317 NICU infants. There were no significant differences in the rates of positivity for methamphetamines (0.6% versus 0.4%) or marijuana (2.9% versus 1.8%) between the 1991 and 2000/2001 studies. Cocaine prevalence declined from 1.1% in 1991 to 0.3% in 2000/2001 (P =.04). The prevalence of positivity for any of these three drugs declined over the 10-year period from 4.4% to 2.4% (P =.02). The prevalence for positivity for any of these three drugs was higher in the NICUs (4.7%) than in the well-baby nurseries (1.9%, P =.008).

Conclusion: The rate of drug-positive infants declined during the decade of the 1990s in a geographic area that is experiencing a sharp rise in the use of methamphetamine among women of childbearing age. Further studies that focus on women of childbearing age who use methamphetamine may help determine factors that impact their drug use during pregnancy and after the infant is born.

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