Blog | Drug Rehab

Should Moms on Methadone Have Their Parental Rights Taken Away?

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA), there were five times as many pregnant women using opiate drugs in 2009 than there were in the year 2000.[1]

This rapid escalation is likely due to the boom in prescription painkiller abuse over the last decade. This explosion of abuse, especially involving pregnant women and the health of their unborn child, is now being analyzed by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.[2] Officials are now treating this issue as a growing crisis and working to set guidelines on how to handle the situation on a national scale.

While Washington decides what to do, women across the country are having their babies taken from them and placed in foster care for using methadone—despite the fact that they are only taking the drug because it is what their doctor has prescribed for them while pregnant. Supporters of this practice believe they are acting in the best interest of the child while critics feel in many cases the child would be better with their biological mother because extended early mother/child separation could potentially cause more problems for baby down the line.

Professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, Deborah Frank, says: “If the mother is well enough, keeping the mother and baby together can help that process. It may also be very important to their relationship in the long run.”

Science Has Backed Methadone for Pregnant Moms for Nearly Forty Years

Pregnant woman taking pillsSince the 1970s, methadone has been considered the best method of treatment for opiate addicted pregnant women.[3] It suppresses the women’s drug cravings without the intense highs and lows of going cold turkey. The federal government’s own Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) advises that methadone is the safest course of action for the babies of addicted pregnant mothers.[iv]

Confusion Over Methadone Use During Pregnancy Causes Havoc in the Justice System

Nevertheless, there is often confusion and disagreement on how to view methadone among doctors, judges and child welfare caseworkers. Many in these professions just see methadone as switching one addiction for another and automatically remove the child from the home or place restrictions on the parents. Critics of these decisions say there are far more studies showing the negative health outcomes for babies of mothers who smoke cigarettes than those on methadone, but no one is taking babies away from smokers.

Experts in this area believe the decision to separate a baby and its mother should be made on a case-by-case basis. There are some mothers on methadone who are unfit to take care of a child, but others who are truly the best caretaker for their baby. They feel methadone alone is not the reason to break up a family.

If you are pregnant and addicted to opiate painkillers or heroin, don’t wait to get treatment. Your baby’s life and your life depend on it. Contact us at Michael’s House today via our 24 hour, toll-free to learn how we can help. We want to help you begin your life apart from opioid addiction. Please call now.