The Guardian, April 12, 2016, by Hernandez D Stroud
Every 19 minutes, a baby is born in America to a mother who struggles with opiate addiction, a percentage that has soared in the past decade alongside a broader addiction spike. The increase has forced some state lawmakers to decide whether the mother’s drug use, which can leave the baby with post-birth withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), is a criminal justice issue or a disease.
As with heroin and opioid addiction outside of pregnancy, the consensus among doctors and advocates is that this is a health matter, and not one for the courts. (NAS is a highly treatable condition without long-term effects, though it’s still an unfortunate one: newborns with NAS convulse, projectile vomit and emit a telltale shriek.) President Obama agrees – he recently announced an increase in funds dedicated to treatment, and an increase in the number of patients a doctor can treat with some maintenance medications.
State lawmakers, on the other hand, are still learning. They tend to default to treating it as a crime, only to find that doesn’t work. Continue reading