Maternal opioid and polysubstance use during pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of child neurocognitive and visual problems and neuroanatomical differences. We hypothesized that, in contrast to findings from a previous study of children born to mothers not detoxified, children born to detoxified mothers would not show gross neuroanatomical and neurocognitive differences.
Mothers with opioid and polysusbstance abuse problems and their infants (n = 11 + 12) were recruited from residential treatment institutions. Comparison mothers and infants (n = 12 + 12) were recruited from child health centers. The studies were approved by the Regional Committee of Medical Research Ethics. Children had magnetic resonance imaging scanning, neurocognitive, and visual acuity testing at 4.5 years. Neuroanatomical, cognitive, and visual acuity characteristics were compared across groups by analysis of variance and general linear models.
There were no significant differences across groups in neuroanatomical volumes, or cortical thickness, area, or volume. There were no differences in general neurocognitive functioning, but significantly lower left eye visual acuity, and a trend toward lower binocular visual acuity, in the drug-exposed relative to the comparison group.
The present study does not demonstrate gross differences relative to a comparison group in neuroanatomical and general neurocognitive characteristics of children born to mothers with opioid and polysubstance abuse who were detoxified during pregnancy. However, visual acuity was significantly lower in the drug-exposed group, requiring attention. There is a pressing need for additional and larger studies of long-term and specific child outcomes in this at-risk group.