Creating a Causal Connection: From Prenatal Drug Use to Imminent Harm


It has been over ten years since the National Association of Perinatal Addiction Research and Education (NAPARE)1 concluded that as many as eleven percent of children born in this country (about 375,000 annually) are negatively affected by their mothers’ substance abuse. Eleven years have passed since the National Drug Control Strategy reported an estimated 100,000 infants were exposed to cocaine each year. Although subsequent studies have cast doubt upon the accuracy of these early statistics, media depictions of mothers abusing drugs and bleak predictions of “crack babies” have contributed to the common belief that prenatal drug use creates medical and psychological problems for children and burdens society. No matter what the actual numbers may be, one can hardly deny that the problem of drug use and abuse among pregnant women is a phenomenon that has caught the attention of the public, legislators, and child protection officials.

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