Volume 12, Number 1
National Survey of Drug Use During Pregnancy Available
Copies of NIDA's National Pregnancy and Health Survey-a national assessment
of the extent of drug use by women during pregnancy-are available free from
the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).
The survey findings show that an estimated 5.5 percent of the 4 million
women who gave birth in the United States in 1992 used illegal drugs while
they were pregnant. The survey results provide vital information for physicians
and other health practitioners, public health policymakers, lawmakers, and
drug abuse prevention and treatment practitioners.
The survey, which was published in 1996, notes that the data may actually
underestimate true rates of drug use but adds that the findings clearly
indicate that "a substantial number of newborns were exposed to harmful
substances in utero." (The survey results are summarized in "NIDA
Survey Provides First National Data on Drug Use During Pregnancy,"
NIDA NOTES, January/February 1995, p. 6.)
The 460-page publication contains estimates on the number of women who
used drugs during pregnancy, their demographic characteristics, and their
patterns of drug use. For example, the survey report provides drug use estimates
by race and ethnicity, age, marital status, employment condition, and method
of hospital payment.
The survey gathered information from self-report questionnaires filled
out by a national sample of 2,613 women who delivered live babies in 52
urban and rural hospitals during 1992. The data indicate that an estimated
221,000 women who gave birth that year had used illicit drugs while they
were pregnant. The two illicit drugs most frequently used during pregnancy
were marijuana, by 2.9 percent of all women who gave birth, and cocaine,
by 1.1 percent.
The survey found that 20.4 per-cent of women delivering live babies smoked
cigarettes and 18.8 percent drank alcohol during pregnancy. Significantly,
the survey also revealed a strong link between the use of cigarettes and
alcohol and the use of illicit drugs. This finding emphasizes the need for
doctors and other practitioners to closely monitor the use of both licit
drugs-cigarettes and alcohol-and illicit drugs during pregnancy, say public
The survey report provides detailed information on the results of urine
testing and on the design and execution of the survey. It also makes recommendations
for improving the design of similar surveys.
The publication, National Pregnancy and Health Survey-Drug Use Among
Women Delivering Livebirths: 1992, is available from NCADI, P.O. Box 2345,
Rockville, MD 20847-2345, (800) 729-6686, TDD: (800) 487-4889. Ask for NCADI
publication No. BKD192.
From NIDA NOTES, January/February, 1997
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