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  1. Askin, Debbie Fraser MN, RNC
  2. Diehl-Jones, Bill RN, PhD


In North America, an increasing number of babies are prenatally exposed to cocaine, yet the implications of cocaine use during pregnancy are not fully understood. The effects of cocaine are exerted primarily by its influence on aminergic receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems. Developmental, physiological, and behavioral problems in infants and children are likely outcomes of maternal cocaine abuse, but these findings are confounded by concomitant use of other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine and by factors such as time, dosage, and route of cocaine intake. Different screening options exist for cocaine and its metabolites, including sampling of neonatal urine, hair and meconium need to be considered, as do the sensitivity and the ethical implications of such testing. Clinical management of cocaine-exposed infants requires attention to several issues, including: central nervous system irritation, cardiac anomalies, apnea, and feeding difficulties, as well as infant safety and follow-up postdischarge. Early detection and intervention remain the primary objectives of caring for cocaine-exposed infants.