At the Odyssey House Family Centers of Excellence, we treat a range of women with substance use disorders, including those who are pregnant, have recently given birth, or are taking care of young children. In his letter in today’s New York Times, Dr. Peter Provet, President of Odyssey House, comments on a recent front page article that highlights the lack of educational and treatment resources for young women who become pregnant while addicted to prescription opiates.
It is troubling to read how little progress has been made in understanding the impact in utero exposure to addictive drugs can have on babies born to pregnant substance abusers. In the 1990s concern was expressed over a potential lost generation of “crack babies.” Treatment organizations responded as best they could with programs for women and children that provided links to medical and child development services and with programs that tackle the mother’s poverty, poor education and lack of job skills.
But despite data supporting increased financing of prevention services and treatment programs that target pregnant substance abusers, limited resources and stigma discourage women from seeking treatment for fear of having the baby removed from their care.
Renewed effort must be made to reach drug-troubled women before they get pregnant, and in the event they are expecting a child, community clinics and hospitals need to be educated about addiction treatment and where to refer both mother and baby for long-term care.
President, Odyssey House
New York, April 11, 2011