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NIDA. (1997, February 1). National Survey of Drug Use During Pregnancy Available. Retrieved from

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February 01, 1997

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)

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 percent 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 health authorities.

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.