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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Help! Charlie Sheen is tainting my kids' vocabulary

As much as I really hate to give this man more press, his name and his horrible antics have not gone unnoticed by my children, particularly my very plugged in 12-year-old son .

Last night, while shopping in the baby section at Wal-Mart, my son, upon spotting a cute, innocently sport-themed baby bib (It had a helmet and I believe a bat or a ball and it read "WINNING is my goal") immediately blurted out, "Look! It's a Charlie Sheen bib!"

His voice rang out so loudly, a few nearby shoppers turned to look in our direction (were they expecting to see a picture of a ghastly, gaunt man sandwiched between two 'goddesses'?) and my face immediately turned red. "Shhhhh"! I hissed, mortified that his bold statement seems to reveal us as part of the hysterically curious following Sheen has recently gathered.

And this is not the first time my son has brought this up. Just a few days ago, the word "drunk" came up on a TV program, and before the sentence was finished, my son had chirped, "like Charlie Sheen!"

OK, so the word "drunk" might be a given, but words such as "winning" used to have a positive energy. Now, my son associates that word with the bizarre ramblings of Sheen, and it's a little disturbing.

But all this brings up a larger issue, a topic definitely worth exploring: just how to explain Charlie Sheen to your kids. Hopefully, with young(er) children, it's not even an issue. But with the onslaught of media coverage, tales of sordid escapades and drug use are filtering through, all the way to our children, especially our teenage children.

As disturbing as it is that Sheen's bad behaviour is not only being tolerated by the public at large (Warner Bros., not so much), but actually celebrated (i.e. the hot-selling standup tour!), much more disturbing is that kids are witnessing this spectacle--and could be conditioned to think that addiction, promiscuity and nonsensical tirades are a form of entertainment or somehow funny. When it's anything but.

It's an awkward subject, but the media saturation is almost inescapable. When I have to talk about it, I explain that this behaviour is not normal and desperately requires treatment. And that it's absolutely not "winning."

Do you have suggestions on how to explain Charlie Sheen and the media furor to impressionable kids? I'd love to hear them.