Study Focuses on Maternal Cocaine Use

By Kathleen Weaver

Release Date: June 20, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Feeding time may not be a pleasant time for infants whose mothers use cocaine, according to a study by researchers at the University at Buffalo's Research Institute on Addictions.

The study, reported in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, found cocaine-using mothers to be more insensitive during feeding interactions with their infants than non-cocaine-using mothers.

Insensitivity was demonstrated by negative moods, critical remarks, rough handling of the baby, and similar behaviors.

When factors other than cocaine use during pregnancy were considered, cocaine use after delivery, and the presence of depression and anxiety predicted these maternal behaviors.

The study was conducted as part of an ongoing research program by Rina Das Eiden, Ph.D., RIA senior research scientist and research associate professor of pediatrics in UB's School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Her colleague on the study is Pamela Schuetze, Ph.D., RIA associate research scientist and associate professor in Buffalo State College's Department of Psychology.

It evaluated 130 mothers and infants -- 68 cocaine-exposed and 62 not exposed -- during a single feeding session in a laboratory setting at RIA when infants were 4-8 weeks old. Interviews and psychological assessments were also conducted.

Results also showed that mothers who experienced childhood abuse themselves reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, anger and hostility. Contrary to researchers' expectations, mothers with a history of childhood abuse were not more likely to engage in illicit drug use during pregnancy, although they did report more cigarette smoking during and after pregnancy than mothers who were not abused. Also contrary to expectations, no association was found between infant birth weight and maternal insensitivity during feeding.

Additionally, use of alcohol, marijuana and cigarettes; maternal anger and hostility; maternal childhood abuse, and number of other children were all studied for their impact on maternal behavior during feeding.

"It was important to examine the impact of maternal cocaine use in the context of multiple drug use because the majority of mothers using cocaine also use cigarettes, alcohol, and marijuana," according to Eiden, lead investigator on the study. "As in other studies, maternal cocaine use was accompanied by heavier cigarette use and higher frequency of binge drinking during pregnancy and post-partum."

Eiden said the results highlight the relationship between mothers' prenatal and postnatal substance use, psychological functioning, and behavior. "The results suggest that treatment providers address not only substance abuse, but mothers' anxiety and depression, to have the most impact on the quality of maternal parenting. Negative emotions are likely to influence continued substance use after the birth, as well as the care-giving environment."

The study is supported by a $2.3 million award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The Research Institute on Addictions has been a leader in the study of addictions since 1970 and a research center of the University at Buffalo since 1999.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York.