Given yesterday’s post it seems only right to put up a quick post to note this story. Bottom line is that the number of drug addicted newborns tripled between 2000 and 2009. (Actually, it says that the infants aren’t actually addicted, but rather dependent and I’m going to try to use that language from here on out.)
Now on some level this supports the underlying hypothesis for the Alabama prosecutors–we have a problem. But there are a couple of ways in which today’s story is strikingly different.
First off, this study seems to demonstrate that a lot of the problem isn’t the result of illegal drug use. This story is about reliance on prescription (and prescribed) painkillers. Doctors are prescribing these drugs for women and then the women are becoming addicted to them.
I don’ t mean to say this isn’t a problem but it is, as I think the story suggests, a complicated problem that isn’t just about bad mothers. Taking the medications you are prescribed is generally understood to be good. What this points to, it seems to me, is perhaps a systemic overuse of pain medications–something that has been in the news a lot. It’s serious problem but it’s not rooted in bad behavior by women nor will it be cured by prosecuting the pregnant women who give birth to drug-addicted infants.
This means that what is discussed here isn’t exactly the same as the problem in Alabama–but surely the problem in Alabama is a part of the same picture? At least some of the women there begin their sagas with prescribed medications.
Second, I think the whole perspective of this study is that it is a public health problem. Solving the problem is just as important to the authors of this study as it is to the Alabama prosecutors–but their approach is totally different. And to my mind, if they can come up with some suggestions, they are far more likely to work without driving people underground.
This is one of those instances where I think you probably have to choose one approach or the other. They are not complementary and doing them both doesn’t seem to me to be likely to work. (Perhaps I should think about that a bit more–but it’s an initial reaction.) I know which one I’d choose.