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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Methadone maintenance and pregnancy

It might be a common perception that methadone maintenance is a good way to stabilize people who have long term addiction problems with drugs like heroin. Research still tends to support that notion. But there is one small study in the U.K. that should cause us to take a hard look at mothers on methadone maintenance programs who are pregnant.

This study of 56 mothers raises some very specific concerns that their fetuses have been exposed to multiple drugs beyond the methadone. This study, to be published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Neonatal and Fetal edition shows that:

Most of the babies (51; 91%) had been exposed to other illicit drugs while in the womb, mostly opiates (73%) and benzodiazepines (70%). And 59% had been exposed to cannabinoids, 14% to amphetamines, and 7% to cocaine. The most common drug combo was opiates, benzodiazepines, and cannabinoids.
Almost half the babies (47%; 21) also had high FAEE levels, although only 5% of their mums admitted to drinking more than 7 units of alcohol a week during their pregnancy, a finding that has "significant implications" for the longer term health of an already vulnerable group of babies, say the authors.

This is not a study to draw widespread policy options from, but it does open up a need for careful consideration of a population that may present real risks to fetuses.  Given how significant these issues can be to the child protection population, one hopes that larger scale research will now follow.

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