Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pregnancy and addiction

I've recently noticed a significant amount of U.S. media coverage dedicated to the sad plight of pregnant women who are addicted to drugs, particularly prescription opiates such as Oxycontin. Apparently, this is a growing national problem, especially in rural areas. There's a in-depth feature on this in the NY Times today (Read it here).

This problem has always existed, going back to the days of cocaine-exposed babies in the 1980s, but the rapidly increasing abuse of prescription drugs is bringing this to a new level, according to the article.

There are so many layers to this issue: how care for mom and baby is hard to find, how detoxing is tough on mom and excruciating for baby, which treatments are least harmful, and particularly, the lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of prescription and non-prescription drugs on a developing fetus.

Added to all this is the fact that many addicted pregnant women don't admit to it (pregnant women are rarely tested for drugs) or even obtain prenatal care.

I watched an hour-long special on this issue the other night on A&E. As utterly disturbing as it is, it's crucial to shed light on this so more women feel they can come forward and seek treatment in order to give their children the best possible start. And hopefully, researchers will soon find appropriate treatments that will allow mom to get clean--and therefore baby--with minimal effects.

It certainly makes me curious as to what is known about pregnancy and addiction in Canada, and whether we're seeing similarly rising levels of drug abuse in women who are expecting. And if so, I wonder what's being done to get the message out to women that, although they've made some very grave mistakes, they need to come forward and get help for themselves and their babies as soon as possible.

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