Pregnancy is a delicate process: a pregnant mother holds not only an unborn child within them, but also the dreams, ambitions, achievements and characteristics of that child. The WebMD article “Drug Use and Pregnancy” breaks down the detrimental effects that drug and alcohol use during pregnancy can have on an unborn child. Use of cocaine during pregnancy for example can cause the baby to have a small head, indicating a lower IQ, and using methamphetamine can cause premature birth with low weight or early-pregnancy miscarriage, among other issues. Interestingly, marijuana use causes the same issues, but also causes the baby to experience withdrawal symptoms after birth.
The article also touches on cigarette smoking during pregnancy, ”According to the Centers for Disease Control, mothers who smoke early in their pregnancy are more likely to deliver babies that have several different heart defects, including septal defects – essentially a hole in the wall between the heart’s left and right chambers. Sadly, most infants with congenital heart defects die in the first year of life.” These reasons should be enough justification for substance regulation during pregnancy; just because the mother chooses to use, doesn’t mean the child should be forced to.
The information that drug use is bad for developing babies isn’t particularly ground-breaking, but it should be acted upon. If you can’t use words and articles to convince a using person to stop to save their own health, do you think they’ll do it for the baby? The issue arises when it comes to regulation, because it turns into a ‘rights of the mother vs rights of the baby’ discussion at that point. A debate is surely necessary- but politics moves slowly, and there must be a way to take action against prenatal substance exposure and abuse now.
There is a way to tackle this issue progressively in a manner that may ideological disagree with some: supervised injection sites. Supervised injection sites, also called safe injection facilities, provide addicts with medically supervised locations where they may consume previously-obtained illicit substances without risk of legal action by the state. Aside from providing a safe space with medical supervision, supervised injection sites offer addicts important services like case management and mental health treatment.
Though it sounds absurd- the idea of effectively granting permission to abuse illicit substances, especially to expecting mothers- the idea is not to encourage substance abuse. I’d be hard pressed to believe anybody would casually take up shooting opioids or narcotics because you gave them the O-K. Rather, the praxis is to encourage individuals who would otherwise abuse regardless with a safe place to do so, which accomplishes a multitude of social milestones.
One example of how implementing safe injection facilities in our communities would benefit society as well as addicts is the fact that less drug abuse and consumption would occur in our inner communities, and instead, be concentrated in a controlled environment with supervision to the benefit of both the consumer as well as non-addict demographics. Simply put- supervised injection sites = less drugs being used on the streets.
Although discussing the financials of public health policy feels frustrating, it’s important to recognize the economic impact of big policy decisions. When this concept is proposed, typically the initial conservative neoliberal, or “socially liberal but fiscally conservative,” response is “Tax dollars going towards helping addicts? That’s insane!” However, consider the following economic benefits of adopting these measures:
- Sterile supplies and medical support greatly impact addict mortality rates. Over 40 peer-reviewed scientific studies have found a 35% decrease in overdose death rates in the surrounding community.
- Declines in public needle-sharing and public injection, resulting in a reduction of HIV and Hepatitis infection.
- Case management, mental health counseling, and rehabilitation including medically-supervised withdrawal offer addicts an important sense of hope for recovery- the most important factor.
- Recovered addicts, in return, participate in the local economy, stimulating local growth, and paying taxes along the way. Three separate studies, as of 2017, have found supervised injection sites to be cost-effective.
If concentration of crime is a concern, in 2003, Insite, North America’s first supervised injection site was sanctioned. “[according to peer-reviewed studies…] Insite’s establishment did not contribute to increases in community drug use, drug-related crime, or initiation of injection drug use.” (Kennedy)
To return full circle, the idea of proposing supervised injection sites is, as far as public policy is concerned, a public health issue, as well as a civil rights one. The conservative neoliberal agenda detracts from “right to life” when they don’t approve cost-effective, safe, and potentially life-saving public policy under the guise of “but my taxes!” Hundreds of prenatal and neonate babies can be saved from death, disfigurement, and disability with the adoption of supervised injection sites.
If pregnant women cannot have access to safe and regulated abortions, then hypothetically, the baby shouldn’t be denied any slightest possibility of a healthy development, birth, and life in general.
Gaither, K. (Ed.). (2014, September 18). Drug Use and Pregnancy. Retrieved January 7, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/baby/drug-use-and-pregnancy?page=1
Kennedy, Mary Clare, and Thomas Kerr. “Overdose Prevention in the United States: A Call for Supervised Injection Sites.” American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, Jan. 2017, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308167/.
“Supervised Consumption Services.” Drug Policy Alliance, http://www.drugpolicy.org/issues/supervised-consumption-services.
“Supervised Injection Sites Are Coming to the United States. Here’s What You Should Know.” Blog, 2 May 2019, nursing.usc.edu/blog/supervised-injection-sites/.