Alcohol Use Increases Baby's ADHD Risk

Mom's Vices May Up Baby's Attention Disorder Risk

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Pregnant women who drink alcohol and smoke may more than double their child's risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new report.

"Because none of our subjects had fetal alcohol syndrome, these findings indicate that ADHD may be an additional deleterious outcome associated with prenatal exposure to alcohol," Dr. Eric Mick of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues report in the April issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

ADHD is characterized by impulsive behavior, difficulty paying attention and academic and behavioral problems. Up to 5% of school-age children are estimated to have ADHD, with boys diagnosed up to four times more often than girls.

In the study, Mick's team evaluated the medical records of 280 children diagnosed with ADHD whose mothers were interviewed about lifestyle habits including smoking and drinking alcohol during their pregnancy. These children were compared with another group of 242 children without ADHD.

The investigators found that, compared with non-ADHD kids, children diagnosed with ADHD were 2.1 times more likely to have been exposed to cigarettes and 2.5 times more likely to have been exposed to alcohol in utero.

Previous studies have found similar associations. The researchers point out that environmental exposures to alcohol and tobacco smoke may combine with pre-existing genetic factors to increase a child's ADHD risk, and suggest more research on the matter is needed.

"If further studies of this association uncover mechanisms that lead to ADHD in children, it may be possible to develop more efficient clinical interventions," Mick and colleagues conclude.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2002;41:378-85.

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