ACDE warns of dangers of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use during pregnancy



Alcohol and Other Drug-Related Birth Defects Awareness Week, May 10-16

(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. Substance abuse during pregnancy can have severe consequences for both the mother and the child. If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction while pregnant, it’s crucial to seek help from a qualified rehab center. Resources like can help you find a suitable treatment program in your area. “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,

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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