Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Spare pregnant drug abusers scorn: study

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TORONTO -- Seeing a pregnant women smoking a cigarette, imbibing a glass of wine or using drugs is sure to raise a societal eyebrow.

But a new report says women with substance abuse problems should be treated with compassion by health providers and society at large, especially during pregnancy, because addiction is a brain disorder and not a personal failing.

"It's harmful for us to look upon pregnant women with addiction issues and assume it's as simple as saying: 'For the sake of the baby, stop using,' " said Colleen Dell, research chair in substance abuse at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dell was among a trio of experts discussing a report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) released Monday in Ottawa, which calls on health professionals to provide non-judgmental information to women about the dangers to themselves and their newborns from substance abuse during pregnancy.

The report shows smoking, drinking and drug use while pregnant are significant problems in Canada and worldwide. The 2008 Canadian Perinatal Health report found 13 per cent of pregnant women admitted to previous-month cigarette smoking; 11 per cent said they had consumed alcohol; and five per cent reported using drugs.

Monday's report also cited cases of newborn withdrawal arising from a mother's drug use during pregnancy. In Ontario, the number of cases of neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, jumped to 654 in 2010 from 171 in 2003 -- an almost four-fold increase.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2013 A8

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