DRUG USE DURING PREGNANCY CAUSING BIRTH DEFECTS REMAINS SERIOUS
PROBLEM, SAYS LEADING DRUG PREVENTION AGENCY
Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May
(New York, May 5, 1998) — With one in five women smoking cigarettes or drinking
alcohol during pregnancy, use of harmful substances by pregnant women remains a serious
concern, says Martha Gagn�, director of the American Council for Drug Education (ACDE),
marking Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May 10-16.
Recent national surveys show that 20-percent of women smoked cigarettes, 18.8-percent
drank alcohol and 5.5-percent used an illicit drug at least once during pregnancy.
“These statistics are disturbing in light of evidence that drugs interfere with a
woman’s ability to support the pregnancy and can directly impair prenatal
development,” Ms. Gagn� says.
Tobacco & Alcohol
According to ACDE advisor Dr. Terry Horton, M.D.: “Smoking during pregnancy may
raise the risk of miscarriage or premature labor. But the primary danger is hindered fetal
growth. Nicotine depresses the appetite at a time when a woman should be gaining weight,
and smoking reduces the ability of the lungs to absorb oxygen.”
Heavy drinking during the early stages of pregnancy greatly increases the risk of a
cluster of birth defects known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), according to Dr. Horton.
These include a small skull, abnormal facial features and heart defects. “FAS is also
the leading known cause of mental retardation,” he emphasizes.
Use of marijuana during pregnancy is also associated with premature birth and
low-birthweight babies. “Abuse of stronger illicit drugs like Cocaine and Heroin
during pregnancy can lead to babies born drug dependent and suffering serious withdrawal
symptoms,” Dr. Horton says.
The Council has published educational material titled Drugs & Pregnancy which
examines these critical issues. To obtain a copy, send $1 to cover postage and handling,
to: ACDE, 164 W. 74th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10023; or call, 1-800-488-DRUG.
To arrange an interview with Dr. Horton or Ms. Gagn� on these important and timely
subjects, please contact David Osborn, at 212-595-5810, ext. 7854.
Founded in 1977, the American Council for Drug Education (ACDE) produces and
distributes a wide range of scientifically based drug education and prevention materials
for schools, the workplace and the general public. ACDE reaches more than 200 million
people annually through print, broadcast media and film. The Council operates a 24-hour,
toll-free, confidential drug help and referral service, 1-800-DRUG-HELP. To learn more,
visit ACDE on line at, https://www.acde.org.
Since 1995, ACDE has been an affiliate of Phoenix House, the nation’s leading
non-profit substance abuse treatment and prevention organization. Phoenix House treats
more than 3,000 adolescents and adults in outpatient and residential programs in New York,
New Jersey, Texas and California. Founded in 1967, Phoenix House has treated more than
70,000 people — saving lives and strengthening families and communities.
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