Opinion: Should Drug Testing for Pregnant Women be Mandatory?
There has been some talk about making drug testing mandatory for pregnant women. Greg Zoeller, Indiana’s attorney general, introduced the idea but said he merely wanted to draw attention to the growing problem of babies being born with symptoms of prescription drug withdrawal. Drug testing pregnant women is one solution to identify the problem early on.
Zoeller is also co-chairman of the state’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force and he has been speaking about solutions to prevent babies from suffering from a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome. Babies born to mothers who are abusing prescription or illicit drugs can have the syndrome, which often results in seizures, breathing problems, dehydration, tremors and difficulty feeding.
I think that mandatory drug testing for pregnant women can be a really good thing, as long as it is managed and enforced by the right groups – like the medical community – and not law enforcement. Testing pregnant women is already something that is required, like in the case of testing for HIV, hepatitis, and other conditions that can affect an unborn child. Blood testing for these conditions is non-invasive and is done in the interest of both mother and child as well as in the health interest of the public.
Also, by testing for the presence of drugs – illicit and otherwise, we can get the proper help and support in the way of treatment for these women and their unborn children as well as have medical interventions prepared for after birth and early childhood.
As it stands now, there aren’t enough drug addiction treatment programs available specifically for pregnant women and many flat out do not accept pregnant women in their programs. This is a problem because addiction is non-discriminating: it affects people across cultural, ethnic, religious, gender, and socio-economic lines. That said pregnant women, too, can be affected by addiction. By requiring drug testing as well as offering treatment programs for those testing positive, we can intervene and ensure the health of the mother as well as the child. This will also positively impact the community and society at large if we are to be proactive about this. Think of the costs incurred for treating children with long-lasting issues that result from their mothers’ drug use.
Substance abuse, physical dependence, and addiction are all recognized by the medical profession as real medical conditions. As such, we need to prepare and treat citizens – all citizens, in a responsible way. Drug testing for pregnant women should be part of neo-natal check-ups and should also be done at community and free clinics. Ignoring the problem of drug abuse will only perpetuate the vicious cycle of babies being born drug-dependent and growing up with related health issues – both physical and psychological. By getting moms the help they need, they will be better-prepared at parenting. And, they will be responsible, contributing members of society.
Mandatory drug testing of pregnant women can be a beneficial program that serves the mother, child, community, and society at large.
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