Moms Addicted to Opiates Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The epidemic of addiction to prescription drugs in America is alarming and painful. The problem is not limited to any age group or demographic but is affecting both rich and poor, young and old, men and women. One group gets little attention, but is affected so deeply by prescription drug abuse, that sometimes a whole lifetime is altered. The number of expectant mothers who are addicted to prescription painkillers has multiplied five times since 2000. As a recent blog noted, those mothers and their unborn children sometimes face dire consequences that can make young moms feel as though they are caught in a catch 22 dilemma.

Many doctors treating patients addicted to opioids (prescription painkillers) do not recommend an immediate break from the drugs. Even for those not addicted to them, many of these drugs recommend a slow weaning off period. For this reason, some physicians suggest that their patients switch from opioids to methadone as they carefully lessen their body’s dependence on chemicals. Methadone is a standard treatment for opioid addiction, but not one that enjoys universal understanding or approval from those outside the realm of addiction treatment.

The courts and criminal justice system many times view methadone as the exchange of one drug addiction for another. Because of this, when a pregnant mom follows her doctor’s guidance and enters a methadone program, she runs that risk that the courts will decide she is unfit and will take her newborn away. Hence the dilemma: if she stops taking opioids suddenly she runs the risk of premature labor or even miscarriage. If she takes methadone, she takes the chance that the justice system will make her give up her baby.

Opioid addicted moms then are caught between medical advice and a court system highly suspicious of methadone treatment. It’s true that we don’t know what may be the long-range effects of in utero exposure to methadone. But we do know that separating mothers and babies is traumatic for both of them and the repercussions extend through life.

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The Pain of Addiction

Vicodin addiction often starts innocently enough. Most people start taking Vicodin or other pain medications after surgery or an injury. But then they can’t stop. They need more to get the same pain relief. They start doctor shopping to get more pills. And the cycle continues until it takes over their lives.