Pregnant women in need of treatment, not criminalization

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The addiction crisis has significant impact on pregnant people, with overdose now being a leading cause of death during or shortly after pregnancy. Unfortunately, quality addiction treatment in the United States is hard to come by, particularly for those from ethnic or racial groups and in rural areas. Access to substance use disorder treatment for pregnant and postpartum people needs to be ensured, and barriers to this treatment need to be eliminated. 

  • Drug overdose deaths among pregnant and postpartum people increased by 81% between 2017 and 2020. 
  • Deaths related to mental health conditions, including substance use disorders (SUDs), account for 23% of deaths during pregnancy or in the year following it. 
  • Pregnant people face even greater challenges accessing addiction treatment, including being less likely to receive medication for opioid use disorder. 
  • Punitive policies related to substance use in pregnancy, which can include criminalization, deter many pregnant people from seeking help for drug or alcohol problems. 

 It is crucial to recognize that addiction is a chronic but treatable condition that requires effective treatment rather than punishment. Society must shift away from punitive policies related to substance use in pregnancy to encourage those who are struggling to seek help without fear of legal consequences. By doing so, we can create a healthcare system that supports pregnant and postpartum people in overcoming substance use disorders and mental health conditions, ultimately leading to better health outcomes for mothers and their children.

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