3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) or “Ecstasy” is one of the most widely used illicit recreational drugs among young adults. This report indicates that infants exposed to Ecstasy ad other recreational drugs may have delays in their motor development.

This study is the first to prospectively identify MDMA-using women during pregnancy and to assess outcomes in their infants. Infants were assessed at 1 and 4 months of age using standardized assessments of neonatal behavior, and cognitive and motor development, including the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS), the Bayley Mental and Motor Development Scales, and the Alberta Infant Motor Scales (AIMS).

In contrast to most studies of illicit drugs which consist primarily of unmarried women of lower socioeconomic status, this sample was primarily middle class with some university education and in stable partner relationships. The majority of women recruited had taken a number of illicit drugs prior to or during pregnancy.

Infants exposed to MDMA (n=28) had poorer motor coordination and lower milestone attainment at 4 months compared to unexposed children (n=68), with a dose-response relationship to amount of MDMA taken by the mother. The authors recommend continued follow-up to determine whether these early motor delays persist or resolve.

Ruta Nonacs, MD PhD

Singer LT, Moore DG, Fulton S, et al. Neurobehavioral outcomes of infants exposed to MDMA (Ecstasy) and other recreational drugs during pregnancy. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2012;34(3):303-310.