Sudden unexpected death in infants of narcotic-dependent mothers

Early Hum Dev. 1978 Sep;2(3):219-25. doi: 10.1016/0378-3782(78)90026-9.


During the study years 1972--1974, 8 of 383 infants born to mothers with known narcotic dependency during pregnancy died unexpectedly within the first 4 mth of life; autopsies were compatible with the diagnosis of SIDS. This incidence of SIDS was 5.5 times that in our hospital populations (P < 0.001) and 8.7 times that of our borough within New York City (P < 0.001). Similar factors, such as sex ratio, age at time of death, and diurnal and seasonal variations suggest that narcotic-associated sudden death may be a relevant study model for sudden unexpected death in the general population. Intrauterine exposure to narcotics and its subsequent effect on central control of respiration in the young infant may be the underlying mechanism of drug related SIDS.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Heroin Dependence / complications
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange*
  • Methadone / adverse effects
  • New York City
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications*
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / complications
  • Sudden Infant Death / epidemiology
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*


  • Methadone