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maternal addiction
May 2, 2022

Maternal Addiction

Despite what we know about the risks of drinking, smoking and drug use during pregnancy, maternal drug use still happens when women continue abusing these substances or developing new substance dependencies while they are pregnant. Estimates from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate that about 5% of pregnant women use one or more addictive substances.

According to CDC data, about 7% of American women have self-reported using opioid drugs while pregnant, and the number of women with opioid-related diagnoses documented at delivery increased by 131% from 2010 to 2017. However, maternal addiction is not only an issue during and immediately after pregnancy.

Mothers Addicted to Drugs

Even women who are diligent about avoiding drinking and drug use while they are pregnant may still go on to develop substance use disorders later in life. Women can be more susceptible to maternal addiction because of the unique stressors associated with housekeeping and raising children.

While a recent trend known as “mommy drinking culture” has normalized the idea that drinking is an appropriate escape valve for women who are experiencing undue amounts of stress, the idea of mothers relying on drugs to get through the day isn’t new. The 1966 Rolling Stones song “Mother’s Little Helper” describes a housewife who depends on a “little yellow pill” – a prescription tranquilizer – to cope with the demands of motherhood.

How Can Maternal Addiction Affect Children?

Children who grow up seeing their parents drink and use drugs are at an elevated risk of experiencing mental and physical health issues in adulthood. That’s because the resulting trauma and neglect constitute an adverse childhood experience – one of the strongest predictors of problems like depression, heart disease and obesity.

Children are extremely observant and learn how to behave from watching the adults around them. Therefore, a mother who routinely reaches for drugs or alcohol to cope with problems is setting an example that substance use is a normal, acceptable way to deal with stress, anger, sadness and other painful emotions. As children grow older, they often perpetuate the cycle of addiction because they learned from their mothers. Comprehensive addiction treatment is essential for breaking the cycle of shame and raising healthy, substance-free children.

Treatment Options for Mothers

According to the deep-rooted stigma surrounding substance abuse disorders, people who develop addictions are inherently flawed. Society tends to judge maternal addiction even more harshly, which may prevent you from getting the help you need to make a full recovery. But remember, nobody else but you has gone through the specific experiences that have shaped your life. 

Many mothers hesitate to admit they have a drinking or drug problem because they’re worried about how it will affect their children, but shielding kids from the truth is unhealthy and will only cause further damage to your relationship down the road. Using age-appropriate terms, explain to your children that you are very sick, and that you are going somewhere so friendly people can help you get better. Tell them what the treatment facility is like, and show them photos online. Reassure them that as soon as you are feeling better, you will return home to be with them.

Finding Freedom at Beach House

Addiction is a brain disease that requires compassionate, evidence-based treatments. Along the way, you also need to recognize you aren’t the only person your addiction has affected. Your entire family will need to heal, especially younger children. Seeking help for a maternal addiction gives your entire family the chance to move forward together. 

At Beach House, our family program is part of the continuum of care we offer at our accredited Florida drug and alcohol treatment campus. To learn more about how we can help you recover, reach out to us anytime

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