APA and AAAP: Pregnant Women with Substance Use Disorders Need Treatment, Not Incarceration

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Recent news accounts state that the Big Horn County (Mont.) Attorney has announced a "crackdown" policy on pregnant women who use drugs or alcohol. Under the reported policy, the attorney intends to issue restraining orders against pregnant women who are found to be using alcohol or drugs with the threat of jail time if they don't comply. This stated action runs counter to the policy of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which today issued the following statement from APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, M.D., M.P.A.:

"Pregnant women who are abusing drugs or alcohol need treatment, not incarceration or punishment," Levin said. "The APA strongly believes that treating the expectant mother is best for the health of the mother and her expectant child. Putting a woman in jail who has a substance use disorder will deny her treatment and is inhumane. We call upon the attorney of Big Horn County to rethink this policy. We are willing to help educate him and others on the importance of treatment over incarceration."

Shelly Greenfield, M.D., M.P.H., President of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) added:

"Research has demonstrated that maternal and child outcomes are optimized through substance use disorder treatment during and after a pregnancy."

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

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