Substance abuse causes harm to the user as well as to their loved ones and friends. It is an illness that has a knock-on effect on the wider community and even the economy. It can lead to poor health, financial troubles, relationship problems, unemployment, crime, and homelessness.
Those who abuse drugs and alcohol may believe they are harming only themselves, but this is rarely the case. Family members and friends feel the full force of a loved one’s addiction, often suffering emotional and psychological problems as a result. However, it is unborn babies who often suffer the most damage when their pregnant mothers abuse chemical substances.
Abuse of alcohol and drugs while pregnant can lead to many problems for the unborn baby, with many born addicted to the substance their mother was taking. Once the baby is born, he or she will have to go through painful and unpleasant withdrawal, and this can make the child quite unwell. It can even lead to lasting problems for the child if the mother was abusing alcohol.
In response to a recent Freedom of Information Request, it has been revealed that over fifty babies have been born addicted to illegal drugs in Cumbria over a five-year period. Although the number of addicted babies being born in the area has been steadily falling, there continues to be a number of newborn babies struggling with withdrawal symptoms because of their mother’s substance abuse. Drugs that pass through the placenta to the baby include heroin and methadone.
Babies born addicted to drugs are said to have neonatal abstinence syndrome, and once they are no longer receiving the supply of drugs from their mother, they will quickly start to develop withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms often include high-pitched crying, restlessness, tremors, seizures, irritability, and sleep problems.
In Cumbria’s two main hospitals, fifty-three babies were born addicted to drugs in the past five financial years.
Director of DrugWise, the drug charity, Harry Shapiro, said that drug-addicted women who discover they are pregnant should seek help as soon as possible in order to protect their unborn babies from being born with an addiction. He said of newborns addicted to drugs, “They’ll be generally uncomfortable. Sometimes the mothers are advised not to breastfeed them because that can transfer the drug to the baby. Usually, these symptoms and the whole situation is well dealt with medically. It’s distressing, obviously, for the baby, but there is no evidence to suggest that there would be any long-term damage to the baby, which is in contrast to the situation with alcohol.”
He went on to say, “Often women with a drugs problem will report late to the maternity unit because they’re worried about the attitude of staff, and about whether social services will have to be involved. But it’s always the case that the situation can be handled better if they present themselves early.”
Mr Shapiro said that many drug-addicted women who discover they are pregnant would be motivated to get clean for the sake of their unborn child and believes that health professionals should do everything they can to help these women overcome their addiction. It is important that drug-addicted pregnant women do not feel they cannot reach out for help for fear of being judged.
If you are pregnant and are worried that your substance abuse could affect your unborn baby, call Blue Skies Recovery today. We can help you to overcome your addiction to ensure the safety of both you and your child. We have experience in helping individuals with all types of addiction and will tailor a programme to suit your individual needs. Contact us today for further information.