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Should Pregnant Women Face Mandatory Drug Tests?

Should Pregnant Women Face Mandatory Drug Tests?

Author: Shernide Delva

As a result of the high rates of heroin and painkiller abuse, some doctors are calling for mandatory drug tests for all pregnant women. The effects of drug and alcohol use on pregnancy is fully known to be harmful, however some argue that drug testing of pregnant women will actually cause more harm than good. Should pregnancy drug tests be mandatory?

When a pregnant woman uses drugs or alcohol throughout pregnancy, she puts her child at risk of developing neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) which produces a variety of withdrawal-like symptoms.

Common symptoms of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) include:

  • Nausea
  • Uncontrolled twitching
  • Seizures
  • Excessive and particularly high-pitched crying
  • Problems feeding
  • An inability to sleep
  • Fever

Babies exposed to opiate painkiller drugs in the womb can suffer withdrawals that are so painful, that they must be treated with morphine or other sedatives. The long term effects of babies born with NAS are still not fully known, however babies who are born with NAS are more likely to suffer from medical complications such as low birth weight, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Due to the potentially severe consequences of drug use during pregnancy, many doctors have come out stating that they will require all expecting mothers to complete a drug tests. However, some argue that this will prevent those struggling from wanting to get adequate healthcare due to fear of being criminalized.

Because of this fear, doctors and health officials want to ensure that pregnant woman know they will not be punished for their drug use if the results come out negative. They want lawmakers to shield pregnant addicted mothers from punishment.

So far, legislature have taken the first step of quietly passed measures to prohibit doctors from giving results of a pregnant woman’s drug tests to police without a court order.  Without laws like this becoming mainstream, many pregnant women struggling with drug addiction will be too afraid to come forward.  However, the symptoms of NAS are too severe to ignore:

“Their care is very labor intensive because they’re nearly inconsolable,” said Dr. Mark Gentry, an obstetrician at Hendricks Regional Health in Brownsburg. “It’s heart-jerking and becoming much more prevalent.”

Gentry’s hospital is one in four in the state of Indiana that will start a pilot project testing pregnant women for drugs with the intention of promoting treatment, not criminalization. For now, women are allowed to opt out of the screenings since they are not legally required to do so.

Gentry states that many women will feel uncomfortable agreeing to the tests for fear of punishment. Under current law, doctors must call child welfare authorities if they feel a child is being abused. That could include cases where a child is exposed to drug in the womb, though no law specifically states this, and the state doesn’t track the number of drug-dependent newborns.

Sadly, hospitals have seen a spike in drug-dependent babies. The rate of babies born with drug dependency nearly quadrupled from 2004 to 2013. Now, every 27 of every 1,000 babies admitted to intensive-care are admitted due to drug related issues. Many states like Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina have tightened legislation to reduce the number of babies born with drug dependency. However, Gentry warn that laws like this actually scare woman away from the care they truly need.

Laws that focus on criminalizing pregnancy women struggling with drug addiction may be harmful to those who are suffering the most. Instead, laws that reaffirm women that they will not be criminalized are more likely to result in more women coming forward with their challenges.

Overall, the main goal is to prevent innocent babies from being born with NAS symptoms. Are mandatory drug tests for pregnant women the solution? If you are a pregnant women struggling with addiction, please come forward. It is not just your life, it is the life of your newborn at risk. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

In the News: Drug Dependent Babies in Tennessee Challenge Doctors

In the News: Drug Dependent Babies in Tennessee Challenge Doctors

There is an epidemic of drug-addicted babies being born in Tennessee and across the country. The challenge comes when these babies are born and start to go through a terribly painful withdrawal process called NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome).

Neonatal intensive care units in Tennessee are filling up faster than the health care system can figure out how to treat these babies being born to drug-addicted mothers. In the past decade, the number of babies with NAS has increased tenfold. Last year alone, there were 921 drug-dependent babies born in across the state.

Being at the forefront of this issue, Tennessee is struggling with how to go about addressing the problem. And it’s obvious that it’s not a cut-and-dry situation. State laws differ widely and are even conflicting to one another.

What it boils down to is this: treatment versus punishment/criminalization.

Shortly, there will be two laws in effect at the same time that contradict one another. One law encourages treatment while at the same time protects parental rights of those seeking treatment; however, the other threatens jail time for addicted mothers.

At the crossroads are the doctors who are attempting to treat these mothers and their babies. Laws like these leave doctors clueless as to what to tell their patients.

The Challenges

With addiction comes negative stigma and rampant misunderstanding about the disease. People who struggle with substance abuse and addiction are often ashamed and fearful to seek help. And then you have women addicts who know they are pregnant. The guilt, shame, and fear is compounded by their situation, and they face the very real possibility of having their babies taken away by the state.

Then there’s the unclear approach to treatment of babies with NAS. With the exact cause of withdrawal syndrome still unknown, treatment approaches are pretty much guesswork, at best; there’s a small handful of doctors that are actually equipped to truly help babies in this type of medical crisis.

Then, you have these same doctors who are unsure as to what to tell their patients, due to the mixed signals being sent by lawmakers.

Tennessee’s Opposing Laws

Last year, Tennessee legislators passed a law called the Safe Harbor Act, which was designed to encourage mothers with addiction to seek treatment. It also ensures parental rights, saying that, if addicted mothers seek help, then the Department of Children’s Services cannot take their children into state custody based solely on their having an addiction.

Dr. Jessica Young, who treats pregnant women with substance abuse problems daily at her Vanderbilt clinic – and is the only Middle Tennessee obstetrician whose practice targets this patient population, says of the Safe Harbor law, “[It’s] something I could talk about with patients to help assuage their fears that they were doing the right thing by getting treatment, that if they continued to do what they were supposed to do, they wouldn’t have to worry about losing custody.”

Yet, the legislature passed another law, one that targets mothers with drug addiction as perpetrators of crimes against infants. As of July 1, police will be able to arrest a woman whose baby tests positive for drugs if she can’t prove she’s taking steps to get clean.

Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver, who sponsored the new law that criminalizes addicted mothers said, “It would just seem to me that any society that puts value on life would agree that these defenseless children deserve some protection and these babies need a voice.”

Weaver seems to think that the law is a good idea and that it would weed out those mothers who are “acting” and help other addicted mothers who truly want help. It’s obvious that Weaver doesn’t understand the psychological aspects of addiction.

Pregnant women with drug addiction face very-real barriers to getting help: those of shame and fear.

While doctors and medical insurance programs struggle with wanting to help and being bound by criminalizing legislation, many addicted women and their equally-addicted babies are left to suffer the consequences, both literally and figuratively.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, or is looking for treatment in Tennessee, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We can help!

History of Drug Abuse: The 80’s

History of Drug Abuse 1980s

The 80s might as well have been called the “cocaine 80s”.

Cocaine was the most popular recreational drug in the 80s. It was frequently used by youth because it was cheap, plentiful, and highly addictive and it was also glamorized by Hollywood. Hollywood celebrities, professional athletes and rock stars gravitated toward cocaine in the 1980s. The popularity soon trickled down to young professionals and Average Joes who spent small fortunes to snort lines of white powder. The drug made headlines for contributing to the deaths of such notables as comedian John Belushi and college basketball star Len Bias. Belushi died in 1982, five years before most of today’s college students were born.

Cocaine played a part in the lives of every social class especially after it evolved into rock cocaine or “crack,” which became a lower class version of powder cocaine.

You would think that since everything was cheaper in the 80s, cocaine would be too since there was so much of it, but in the 80s, 1 gram of cocaine cost around $100 to $125. The cost obviously has declined since then. Today you could get a half ounce of cocaine for 400 dollars. Cocaine and crack were so rampant in the 80s that in a 1986 poll, crack and cocaine won out over alcohol for most abused drug, which is pretty impressive. But as the numbers of cocaine users rose, so did the people jailed for it.  And with that, there were several anti-drug policies such as “Just Say No” and DARE that lessened cocaine use in following decades.

History of drug abuse: 80s in general

The late 1980s witnessed a drug “panic,” “crisis,” or “scare”. Public concern about drug use, although it had been building throughout the 1980s, fairly exploded late in 1985 and early in 1986. And the drug that was the special target of public concern was cocaine, more specifically, crack, a cocaine derivative. Drug use generally came to be seen as some say, the social problem of the decade. Drug use, abuse, and misuse emerged into the limelight as never before. It is possible that in no other decade has the issue of drugs occupied such a huge and troubling space in the public consciousness. And it is possible that no specific drug has dominated center stage in this concern as crack cocaine did between 1986 and, roughly, late 1989 to early 1990.

Crack use in the 1980s: In the early 1980s, the majority of cocaine being shipped to the United States, landing in Miami, was coming through the Bahamas and Dominican Republic. Soon there was a huge glut of cocaine powder in these islands, which caused the price to drop by as much as 80 percent. Faced with dropping prices for their illegal product, drug dealers made a decision to convert the powder to “crack,” a solid smoke able form of cocaine that could be sold in smaller quantities, to more people. It was cheap, simple to produce, ready to use, and highly profitable for dealers to develop. As early as 1981, reports of crack were appearing in Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami, Houston, and in the Caribbean.

Crack first began to be used on a large scale in Los Angeles in 1984. The distribution and use of the drug exploded that same year. By the end of 1986, it was available in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

In 1985, cocaine-related hospital emergencies rose by 12 percent, from 23,500 to 26,300. In 1986, it then increased 210 percent, from 26,300 to 55,200. Between 1984 and 1987, cocaine incidents increased to 94,000.

The crack epidemic is related to a sharp increase in crime on an unprecedented scale, especially violent crime. Research by two prominent economists from the University of Chicago, Steven Levitt (co-author of Freakonomics and winner of the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal) and Kevin Murphy (winner of the 1997 John Bates Clark Medal) suggest that crack was the most prominent factor contributing to the rise and fall of social problems in the African American and Latino communities between 1980 and 2000. Between 1984 and 1994, the homicide rate for black males aged 14 to 17 more than doubled, and the homicide rate for black males aged 18 to 24 increased nearly as much. During this period, the black community also experienced an increase in fetal death rates, low birth-weight babies, weapons arrests, and the number of children in foster care leading to the term “crack babies”.

There could be a lot more to say about the 80s when it comes to drugs, but if you really do your homework, cocaine is what defined this decade. While drug abuse was still going on with every substance; cocaine is what defined the 80s.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Cocaine or Crack Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135.

Sources:

www.gallup.com/poll/6352/decades-drug-use-80s-90s.aspx

 

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/lsd/panic.htm

 

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2590226/

 

In the News: New Treatment for Pregnant Drug Addicts

 

A small but growing number of clinics for mothers-to-be are cropping up around the country in response to a prescription drug epidemic.

Prescription drug abuse and addiction is a rising problem in the United States. Deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses are now greater than those caused by heroin and cocaine combined. And, in the case of pregnant women, newborns are paying the price. Much like the “crack-baby” epidemic of the 1980’s, the last decade has seen an alarming increase in the number of prescription drug addicted babies.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports some shocking statistics about prescription drug abuse in the U.S. The study estimates that the number of drug addicted babies born in the U.S. has tripled in the last 10 years. One baby is born addicted every hour. Officials are calling prescription drug abuse the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.

Most of the babies are born addicted to prescription painkillers such as Opana, Roxicodone, and Vicodin. Prescription drug addiction in newborns is very dangerous, even life-threatening. Drug addicted babies usually must stay in the hospital to be weaned off the drugs. Often, drug addicted babies are given narcotics, such as methadone, to manage withdrawal symptoms, and the risk of overdose is high. Prescription drug addicted babies may cry excessively and have stiff limbs, tremors, diarrhea and other problems that make their first days of life excruciating. In addition, prescription drug addicted babies are prone to problems like stunted growth, birth defects, and seizures.

The growing number of prescription drug addicted babies also has a heavy economic cost. Most drug addicted babies are covered by Medicaid. In 2009, care for these babies cost over 720 million dollars.

One of the problems with this growing trend is that women who are addicted to prescription drugs often don’t know they are pregnant right away. After the fetus has become dependent on prescription drugs, trying to quit while pregnant can cause a miscarriage. For this reason, many women wait until after they have delivered to get off prescription drugs.

Sometimes women who take prescription drugs for chronic pain conditions do not understand the risk of taking these medications while pregnant. They assume that because they have been prescribed by a doctor, they will be safe. Many women who take daily prescription painkillers aren’t offered any alternative treatment for their pain while pregnant.

A lot of the women who have prescription drug addicted babies became addicted to opiates before pregnancy and are simply unable to stop. Often, they don’t have the resources to seek addiction treatment. Most experts agree that we need a better way to screen for addicted mothers and funding to get them the help they need.  Alternatively, because many of the mothers are young, inexperienced women in their teens and early twenties, they may be reluctant to seek treatment for their addiction out of fear the authorities will take their babies away.

Now some clinics across the country are responding to the need for drug treatment for pregnant women. The clinics, which are typically free for patients, are often tied to university medical centers and funded through a combination of Medicaid, health insurance and grants.

If your loved one is in need of prescription drug addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

Source:

http://blogs.wsj.com/photojournal/2013/07/08/clinics-treat-pregnant-women-addicted-to-painkillers/

 

 

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs

 

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs

Obviously, exposure to drugs prenatally is bad for a baby’s brain. A baby’s brain is growing and developing while you are pregnant, so when drugs are introduced, it can disrupt this growth. The amount of disruption depends on how much you use, how often, and at what point during the pregnancy the baby is exposed to drugs.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Marijuana

Marijuana crosses the placenta, so when you smoke pot, your baby is affected too. It contains toxins that can keep your baby from getting enough oxygen. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact effect of marijuana on your baby’s brain because many mothers who smoke pot during pregnancy also abuse other substances.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Cocaine

Cocaine also crosses the placenta and the elimination of cocaine is slower in a fetus than in an adult. Cocaine can cause defects in the brain, developmental problems, and learning difficulties in your baby. Babies can become addicted to cocaine in utero and suffer withdrawal symptoms when they are born including tremors, sleeplessness, muscle spasm, and feeding difficulties.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Heroin and narcotic painkillers

Use of heroin or other narcotic painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin, or Morphine during pregnancy can cause bleeding within the brain (intracranial hemorrhage) and infant death. These drugs are highly addictive, and use during pregnancy can also cause your baby to become addicted. When they are born, they can suffer from withdrawal symptoms like irritability, convulsions, diarrhea, fever, sleep abnormalities, and joint stiffness.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: PCP

PCP can cause numerous problems with your baby’s brain. It has been linked to brain damage, and can cause dependence if used frequently. Withdrawal symptoms include lethargy and tremors.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Methamphetamine

Taking methamphetamine during pregnancy can result in problems similar to those seen with cocaine use during pregnancy. The use of methamphetamine can cause the baby to get less oxygen, which can inhibit brain development. Methamphetamine is also highly addictive, and your baby may become dependent and suffer from withdrawal.

Your Baby’s Brain on Drugs: Anatomy

Even though behavioral studies clearly show that exposure to drugs, alcohol and tobacco when a baby is in utero is bad for a baby’s brain, specific effects on the anatomy of a baby’s brain have been hard to identify. This is because mothers don’t often limit themselves to one substance. In addition, other demographic factors, like poverty, can influence a baby’s brain on drugs.

However, a recent NIH study has shown that prenatal exposure to cocaine, alcohol, marijuana or tobacco can affect brain structure well into adolescence. More than one million babies born every year in the United States has been exposed to at least one of these substances.

The MRI’s in the study, done on adolescent children who had been exposed to substances prenatally, showed that there were indeed changes in the anatomy of the brain. The exposed children had reduced cortical brain matter and total brain volumes. The effects were shown to be additive: the more the substances the baby was exposed to, the greater the reduction in brain volume.

If your loved one is in need of addiction treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.

Sources:

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/illegaldrugs.html

http://www.childrenshospital.org/newsroom/Site1339/mainpageS1339P414.html

 

 

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