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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Time of Duration of Drug Baby Symptoms

05/20/2010

Question:

We are caring for a 4 month old baby boy. Most of what I`ve read covers infants and their symptoms. Can a 4 month old display symptoms from drug use by mom, or is it only in infants. Thanks.

Answer:

You are correct. Most of the literature talks about the very first weeks of life in terms of the effects of a mother's drug use on a baby.

There is a chance that a 4-month-old baby could display symptoms related to his mother's drug use, but these symptoms would most likely be subtle (irritability, difficult to comfort, etc.) and difficult to tell apart from other issues. It would certainly depend on what drug the mother was using (alcohol vs. opiates vs. cocaine vs. nicotine) and during what time period the fetus was exposed (first vs. second vs. third trimester of pregnancy).

As you may be aware, alcohol exposure to a developing fetus can cause lifelong effects including stunted growth and mental retardation, which would become easier to notice as the child got older.

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Response by:

Christina M Delos Reyes, MD Christina M Delos Reyes, MD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University