For the current study, Terplan and his colleagues reviewed data from the Treatment Episode Data Set, which details admissions to federally funded treatment centers.
In 1994, the number of pregnant women admitted to federally funded treatment centers was 18,034, but by 2006, the number increased to 22,382 expectant mothers seeking treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. During that time period, alcohol and cocaine use declined as the primary substance of abuse, while methamphetamine and marijuana use increased.
At the beginning of the study, 1,457 pregnant women said that amphetamines or methamphetamine was their primary drug of abuse. In 2006, that number jumped to 5,312 pregnant women, the study authors note.
The study also found the percentage of methamphetamine use among expectant mothers seeking treatment (24 percent) was higher than for men (7 percent) or for nonpregnant women (12 percent). Additionally, the researchers reported that most methamphetamine admissions in pregnant women occurred in the West, among white women and in unemployed women. In 2006, women also reported having more psychiatric disorders and being more marginalized in society.
"Most women decrease or stop using during pregnancy," said Terplan. "But, they're aware of the stigma associated with abuse behavior and they may be reluctant to seek care. They may also have concerns about losing their children. We really need to provide clinical environments in which women are comfortable disclosing their use and we need to have referral resources. Pregnancy is an opportunity to intervene not only in maternal health, but in the family's health."
David Deitch, senior vice president and chief clinical officer of the Phoenix House drug treatment centers, said that although methamphetamine use may be somewhat higher in certain areas right now, the challenges that pregnant women who abuse drugs face are the same no matter what the drug.
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