In many states across the country, the response to a low-level drug offense (simple possession for instance) is drug court. More and more people are being offered treatment over jail. Lawmakers are slowly discovering that addiction is not a problem that we can sweep under the rug, i.e., arrest away. For the first time, politicians are acknowledging that the “war on drugs” has done far more harm than good.
As the nation continues to wrestle with the opioid use disorder crisis, one that steals roughly 130 lives each day, compassion is quickly becoming a primary response. Stigmatizing and demonizing addicts harms us all. Who among us does not know someone who has struggled with addiction?
We are, all of us, touched by the deadly epidemic of addiction and the solution is treatment and long-term recovery. States and municipalities across the U.S. now realize that when those struggling find empowerment they are more likely to seek assistance. With help, individuals can avoid becoming an overdose death statistic. While many opioid addicts are finding that society is exercising a more compassionate understanding of addiction, at least one demographic has been left behind. Pregnant women and new mothers.
AAN Addresses Pregnant Women with a Substance Use Disorder
As the prescription opioid epidemic gained momentum, many hospitals began seeing an uptick in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The condition affects newborns who were exposed to opioids in utero. Once born, babies experience the symptoms that an addict withdrawing from opioids faces. Extended hospital stays and close monitoring is required to mitigate the risk of the infant experiencing further complications.
In a fair number of states, using drugs during pregnancy is grounds for child abuse charges. In Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, mothers found to be exposing their unborn or newborn children to drugs face the threat of arrest. Just as with the war on drugs, punitive actions have the unintended effect of causing people to hide their problems. In the case of pregnant women, this can mean disastrous consequences for the child.
The American Academy of Nursing (Academy) released a policy brief calling for an end to criminal prosecution and punitive civil actions for pregnant and new mothers. The organization, 2,700-members strong, calls for a public health response rather than disciplinary actions. They contend that laws in the above states cause women to live in fear, which prevents them from accessing essential health services. The AAN writes:
“At the forefront of the national stage for the past several years, the opioid epidemic has expanded the public’s awareness of substance use disorders (SUDs) and treatments during this public health emergency. For pregnant women with SUDs however, punitive actions in place of a public health response have resulted in criminal charges, arrests, and incarceration for these women. This has reinforced a culture of fear and barriers to essential health services. Early entry into maternity care plays a vital role in long-term health and social outcomes. Recovery-oriented public health responses are urgently needed to shift the culture of punishment to one of enduring therapeutic intent for women as well as their infants, children, and families affected by SUDs.”
Included in the policy brief are several suggestions to assist doctors and state and federal agencies, such as increasing:
- Federal funding for SAMHSA State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis grants (Opioid STR) and Opioid STR Supplement grants that include SUD services for pregnant and parenting women and that develop community-based partnerships to ensure safe access to health services including prevention, treatment, and recovery supports for women, their children, and families.
- State funding to ensure accessible community-based treatment, recovery supports, and health and social services for women, their children, and families affected by substance use regardless of immigration status or ability to pay for services.
Substance Use Disorder Treatment
At Celebrate Hope, we can help you or your loved one overcome and recover from substance use disorder. Please contact our team today to learn more about our faith-based addiction treatment program. With cutting-edge treatment and Christian counseling, you can start celebrating hope today.