Prenatal withdrawal from opiates interferes with hatching of otherwise viable chick fetuses

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Science  22 May 1981:
Vol. 212, Issue 4497, pp. 945-947
DOI: 10.1126/science.7195069


Fetal chicks were made opiate-dependent by injections of N-desmethyl-1-alpha-acetylmethadol into the chorioallantois on day 3 of embryogenesis. The injections had no effect on subsequent hatchability; however, spontaneous fetal motility was significantly depressed. Injection of naloxone caused a significant increase in the motility of the opiate-exposed fetuses but had no effect on control fetuses. That naloxone's effect was an expression of opiate withdrawal and not due to antagonism of depressed motility is also supported by the observation that naloxone significantly reduced the hatchability of opiate-exposed chicks and not of control chicks. Thus the withdrawal of a developing organism from a narcotic may be more deleterious to its survival than continued exposure.