Treatment Options for Pregnant Drug Users

Written by Chloe Nicosia

Learn about treatment options for pregnant drug users…

If you’re pregnant and using, it’s important that you seek to quit immediately. It’s more than the risk, in states like South Carolina, Tennessee and Alabama, of criminal charges and loss of custody; it’s also that continuing to use can harm your baby. There are good treatment options for pregnant drug users available today; in these states and others, pregnant mothers have access to free rehab, as well. If you can afford to pay for rehab, you should look for a good center. If you can’t, you should ask any doctor for information on a free Medicaid-funded program.

A quick look at addiction and pregnancy statistics is all it takes to learn that you need to take the health of your baby seriously: about 15% of pregnant women use drugs or alcohol, which is the end result of a fivefold increase seen over the past decade. Substance abuse is an activity that more than doubles risk of stillbirth, premature birth, SIDS and fetal brain damage. There are two babies born every hour in the US addicted to drugs or alcohol, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

Quitting abruptly isn’t a good idea

If you’re pregnant and addicted, quitting cold turkey can be a very bad idea, because the withdrawal symptoms involved can cause injury to the fetus, or lead to miscarriage. Careful withdrawal under medical supervision is called for. Speaking to any doctor or obstetrician is a good idea to seek information on how to go about quitting.

Specialized treatment options for pregnant drug users

As with regular rehab, quitting a substance abuse addiction when pregnant starts with detoxification, the process of gradually weaning the brain off substance abuse. Depending on the substance in question, the cravings may be helped with replacement medications such as methadone, buprenorphine or naltrexone. While these are not medications specifically approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy, attending addiction experts may make expert off-label prescriptions wherever possible. In general, these medications are offered at very low dosage levels, because they pose a threat at regular prescription dosages.

Specific experience with pregnancy is essential

Most rehabs are simply unequipped to deal with the complications involved in alcohol/stimulant/opiate addiction and pregnancy. Treating pregnant women for addiction requires more than just specific medical expertise; it can require special psychological services expertise, as well. Pregnant women who are addicted are often victims of abuse, and require specialized psychological treatment. Even staff members who work in support capacities need special training in the approaches to adopt treating patients without personal judgment. Specially equipped rehab centers alone are capable of the right kind of treatment.

Dealing with legal complications

Sometimes, the law is seen to not have sufficiently evolved to deal with the needs of women pregnant while addicted. Pregnant women attending rehab are often put on replacement medications such as methadone or Subutex to help keep the cravings at bay; yet, these drugs, by themselves, can cause symptoms of addiction in the fetus. When the baby is born, doctors may diagnose neonatal abstinence syndrome. It is not hard to treat; methadone treatment for a couple of weeks is all it takes. There is usually no long-term damage. Nevertheless, Child Protective Services usually gets on the case, as Subutex and methadone are considered addictive substances, and use while pregnant brings up suspicions of poor parenting. They tend to carefully watch to see if the child should be taken away from the mother. It can be a very stressful time for all involved.

It is a Catch 22 — should you seek rehab and be watched by CPS, or should you quit cold turkey and risk miscarriage? Talking to the doctors at a qualified rehab is often the best solution