About Us

A Short History of the MSACD Project:

First, a focus on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

The Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development Project (MSACD) began life as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Screening project in 1981. At that time, the Georgia Legislature had the foresight to establish a program for screening pregnant women for alcohol use in order to identify the extent of the problem in Georgia as well as methods for prevention in this group. In the early 1980's, there was still considerable debate about the extent of this problem and, indeed, about the existence of FAS and other conditions resulting from prenatal exposure to substances of abuse. The FAS Screening project was among the first to work with this problem and was able to establish that alcohol effects could be seen in the newborn infant. We also found that an informational intervention with pregnant women could reduce alcohol and other drug use and improve birth outcomes. Thirty percent of the drinking women we interviewed stopped use and delivered babies who were of normal birth weight and had better developmental outcome. As part of this project, we developed the Dysmorphia Checklist, as screening tool for use in FAS clinics that reliably and validly identifies alcohol effects in children and adolescents. At the present time, we continue to work with alcohol-affected children and adults to describe the long-term effects of exposure. You can find more information about our findings on this Website at our Research section or our current studies at our Adult Assessment Project section.

The Cocaine Epidemic

In the late 1980's, the cocaine epidemic arrived and we were in the forefront of research in this area as well. When we started to work with cocaine, we changed our name to the Maternal Substance Abuse and Child Development Project. Because of our early start, we were the first group in the United States to challenge the "crack baby" myth. Since that time, we have continued to work with families and children affected by prenatal cocaine exposure to identify the real effects of this drug on social and cognitive development. Currently, we are studying the adolescent children of women who used cocaine and crack during their pregnancy with particular focus on brain structure and function. You can read more about our imaging (MRI) studies on this Website at our Teen Imaging Study section.