Being a mother means that another life is dependent on you. Another human being relies on you for sustenance, shelter and protection. If a mother doesn’t take care of her own health and wellbeing it drastically hinders her ability to take care of her children.
Unfortunately, substance abuse isn’t something that automatically stops when a women becomes pregnant. And the dangers span much further than pregnancy. Addiction to alcohol, prescription drugs and illegal drugs can harm mothers and their children in many ways both now and well into the future. Helping women be the best possible mothers they can be means recognizing the problem and providing assistance.
Statistics That Support Urgent Action is Needed
Some people may not realize what a serious problem parental alcohol and drug abuse is in this country. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) has found that approximately 8.3 million children under 18 have lived with at least one parent that abuses drugs or alcohol. While many children won’t be purposely neglected or abused, mothers who use drugs and alcohol may not understand that their actions have indirect consequences.
One of the most common effects of parental alcohol and drug abuse is a chaotic living environment and impaired functioning in the parental role. This is because substance abuse causes mental and physical impairments that make it more difficult to respond to a child’s needs. When a mother abuses alcohol or drugs her children also have a higher likelihood of ending up in the welfare system. However, research has shown that when parents get treatment for their addiction that likelihood drops dramatically.
Another troubling statistics is that more than 10% of the babies that are born each year in the U.S. are exposed to alcohol and drugs in utero. Substance abuse is a serious threat to the health of both the baby and the mother. Getting help right away is extremely important for lowering the risk of complications during the pregnancy, and keeping both mother and child as healthy as possible.
There is Help For Mothers With Addiction
Substance abuse will undoubtedly impact the health of mothers, but it also impedes prenatal, infant, childhood and adolescent development. The only way mothers can provide adequate care for their children is to care for their own health as well.
State, federal and private organizations are investing heavily in services that are designed to help parents overcome addiction so they can continue to care for their children. Over the last few decades many innovative approaches have been developed to address the unique needs of mothers.
One such solution has been gender-specific treatment plans. A womens recovery center is a treatment facility that can provide help specifically for mothers and women. There are also family-centered services that include the children in the program. Another technique that has proven effective is individualized treatment plans that are specific to the patient’s unique needs.
Treatment programs can identify what’s known as co-occurring problems that have led to alcohol or drug abuse. By identifying these underlying issues doctors are able to help mothers cope with the root of the problem to find a solution that will work during the treatment and after a mother leaves the program.
Recovery mentors and coaches are now considered to be a vital part of the process as well. Because sobriety is an ongoing challenge that has to be met every day, continuing care plans are put in place before a person completes their treatment program. For women in particular relapse is a concern partly because of the neuroendocrine stress response in women’s brains. Motherhood is often stressful in and of itself, so for a plan to be effective it has to include continued support.
Child welfare services are also being improved to better support mothers who are undergoing substance abuse treatment. Family engagement strategies are used to create plans that address all of a mother’s needs, not just the substance abuse. Welfare workers are also providing support and using motivational interviewing to build more productive relationships with mothers.
Today women are using and abusing substances at a higher rate than in past decades. But there is help, and addiction can be beaten. For mothers, it’s not just about doing for themselves – it’s about being the best mother possible for their children.