Benefit to babies
As a physician specializing in problems of perinatal drug use, I applaud Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposal to expand drug treatment courts in our state. It was also gratifying to read the Feb. 21 letter of support from District Judge Jennifer Knox, acknowledging the benefit such courts can play in the lives of patients struggling with drug dependency.
It is critical to remember, however, that babies are not born “addicted to drugs.” “Addiction” is a pejorative term and clearly does not apply to newborn babies. Terms such as “tiny addict,” “junkie baby” and “crack baby” so prevalent in the lay press may be the cause of needless lifelong stigmatization.
Having cared for almost 1,000 infants born to drug-dependent mothers, I know that such babies may go through withdrawal. That withdrawal, however, can usually be managed with medication and can often be ameliorated by breastfeeding and comfort measures provided by the mother, with no negative effects on child development.
The critical issue remains the provision of humane, nonjudgmental care for the drug-dependent woman before, during and after her pregnancy. Drug courts, if used in this positive and constructive spirit, should prove to be of great value to patients and to society.
Stephen R. Kandall, M.D.