Neonatal abstinence syndrome, NAS, is occurring more frequently in the U.S. and the condition does not just effect the baby.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is a medical condition where babies have symptoms of withdrawal after being exposed to opiate drugs while still in the mother’s womb. Drugs such as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, or any other opioid substance whether derived naturally from poppy plant pods, or synthesized in a laboratory causes the syndrome.
These and other substances pass through the placenta that connects the baby to its mother in the womb. The baby becomes addicted along with the mother according to Medicine Plus. Intrauterine exposure to certain drugs may cause congenital anomalies and/or fetal growth restriction, increase the risk of preterm birth, produce signs of withdrawal, or toxicity in the neonate, or impair normal neurodevelopment reports Pediatrics.
Of course, opiates are not the only drugs that can, and do cause neonatal distress as well as severe problems. Alcohol has been linked to permanent phenotypical and/or neurodevelopmental-behavioral abnormalities. Methamphetamine is another drug that can cause serious problems. Methamphetamine is a potent sympathomimetic substance producing euphoria, and increased alertness as well as self-confidence in those that use it. Due to the fact that it increases dopamine substantially in the central nervous system, women who are pregnant have an increased risk of premature birth, fetal distress, intrauterine growth restriction, and placental abruption.
The problem states are facing with these women is treating the drug-addicted newborns, and “…whether to charge, prosecute, and incarcerate pregnant women who test positive for illegal drug use,” according to Partnership for Drug Free Kids.
There are already states with laws on the books for prosecuting these women for assault on the baby. “Tennessee became the first state to statutorily criminalize drug use during pregnancy by permitting prosecutors to file assault charges against pregnant women who use certain controlled substances. Alabama and South Carolina are currently the only two states where courts have held that laws meant to protect children from exposure to drugs apply to unborn fetuses. County prosecutors in Calhoun County, Alabama recently announced they will soon begin charging pregnant women who test positive for drugs,” according to drugfree.org.
This country continues to battle a prescription drug abuse epidemic, as well as problems with other drugs. Prosecuting these women is not the answer. These are public health issues, and should be dealt with accordingly. Incarceration will only exacerbate the already widespread crisis this country faces with these problems.
Getting these women into treatment, and educating them about what is causing them to use drugs in the first place should be the order of business no matter how many times it takes to help these women. It certainly is a lot cheaper than incarcerating them, and most assuredly ruining their lives further with convictions on the record.
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If you or a loved one needs help with any type of drug abuse/addiction problem, contact these sites depending on where you live. SEMCA (Wayne County residents), CARE (Macomb County residents), PACE (Oakland County residents), Drug Free Detroit (City of Detroit residents). For those residing outside the State of Michigan, contact SAMHSA for assistance. For assistance with medical marijuana issues contact The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, Michigan Medical Marijuana Certification Center, or greentreesdetroit.com, phone number: (313) 967-9999, or (248) 677-2888.
Substance abuse and mental health treatment locator here: SAMSHA
“One person dies every 19 minutes from a drug overdose in the United States and that trend is being driven by prescription (Rx) painkillers.” (drugfree.org)