Substances of Abuse and the Fetal Nervous System




Benoit, Maddison

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The human nervous system is a specialized organ system composed of two distinct components: the central and peripheral nervous systems. The central nervous system contains the brain and the spinal cord, which perform various functions, including receiving, processing, and responding to sensory information. The fetal nervous system development begins at nine weeks gestation and continues after the fetus is born. A teratogen is a substance that causes congenital disorders within a developing fetus. A critical period is the length of time an organ system is most at risk for teratogenic consequences; the central nervous system has the most extended fetal critical period, ranging from nine weeks gestation until the fetus's birth. Common abuse substances that act as teratogens include stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, prescription medications, and illegal drugs, as well as depressants including alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. These substances have varying teratogenic effects depending on the type and amount used and the fetus's exposure duration.



fetal central nervous system, substances of abuse, teratogens, critical periods


Benoit, M. (2023). Substances of abuse and the fetal nervous system. Honors College, Texas State University.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI