By Moonyeen King
President of the Board for Tepehua
Addiction in Infants
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) is related to opioid withdrawal among infants whose mothers use opioids during pregnancy.
“The rising rate of baby addicts to opioids has spread panic about opioid’s most vulnerable victim...the fetus. Newborns are ‘victims’ and mothers are ‘villains’. Rhetoric that is dangerous from a public health prospective” So stated the Influence News in March, 2016. “Treating the mother as though she is a threat to the child does not protect the baby but jeopardizes a potentially loving relationship”. It also puts shame on the mother for her addiction. There are still states in the USA where using drugs during pregnancy is a crime and means jail time whilst pregnant.
Opioids have properties similar to opium, from which they are derived. The most common use is for pain. Codeine is an opioid. Opioids come under many common names and are addictive with regular use. They are also used as a suppressor in treatment for detoxification, anxiety and depression. Pain killers are one of the major ingredients found in death from overdose. They are powerful depressants, easy to get and easier to get addicted.
Interestingly, more addiction to opioids occurs in rural areas. This is because rural people tend to be more stoic, seldom seek medical help and tend to treat themselves. When in pain, they do not go to find the cause, they pop a pill. There is pain in some pregnancies, and swallowing codeine and other painkillers does not have the stigma of using morphine heroin, crack cocaine or marijuana. It is an accepted pain killer.
Methadone is a synthetic opioid, and used for the same purposes. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, women on methadone during pregnancy can breast feed their infant quite safely and it is recommended for the health of the infant. “The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the tiny bit of methadone in breast milk”, Dr Steven Patrick, researcher at Vanderbilt University
This is why, building the CRREAD Rehabilitation Center in Santa Cruz, for women with a dependency on drugs and pain killers, and allowing pregnant and nursing women into the detoxification program, is essential. It will build healthier families, and a safe environment for both mother and child.
The reason for lack of health rehab centers for women is because of the baggage we carry.
The few rehab centers there are for women will not accept pregnant or nursing mothers for obvious reasons - it is a dangerous situation where anything can go wrong. Taking care of an addicted infant takes knowledge.
Men can walk out of the door with the noble act of “getting clean” on his mind for his family. A woman cannot do that; she has babies or family to think about. She uses her dependency even more so she can function. Being pregnant often gives the woman initiative she needs to be clean, but she needs help, a support system outside the family.
The CRREAD Rehabilitation Centers have been around for a long time for men, and to see them reach out to care for women addicts is a breakthrough for women’s maternal health. Working with the maternal health program of the Tepehua Community Center, Chapala, is a match made in heaven. Each center will support the other in knowledge. CRREAD will supply the brawn and Tepehua the medical brain. And vice versa; their knowledge of addiction is greater than ours.
We hope to break ground soon. With free labor we can start on ground work, but we will need financial help with bricks and mortar. As donations come in we will buy more bricks, and if we have to buy and build one brick at a time, we will do it.
Addiction has touched all our lives, and when this Author was “coming up”, pregnant women could smoke, drink etc, and medical facilities had no idea how it affected the babies. In rural areas where poverty prevails, they are still not educated on the dangers to the fetus. Dependency is not a shameful thing, not doing something about it is. When the facilities are not out there because of your gender, it is society’s shame, not the victim’s.
We can make the light at the end of the tunnel brighter.