New Report Highlights Substance Abuse Dangers for Pregnant Teens

According to a new report released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), of the 57,000 teenage females in substance abuse treatment programs each year, as much as 2000 (4  percent) are pregnant.    The report, titled "Characteristics of Pregnant Teen Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions" is based on on SAMHSA statistics from 2007 to 2010 and focuses on females aged 12 to 19.   In exploring the problems faced by pregnant teens in substance abuse programs, the report indicates that pregnant teens are three times more likely than non-pregnant teens to require public assistance, and also less likely to be enrolled as students when not in the workforce.    Despite the risk to their unborn children, about half (51 percent) reported some use of drugs or alcohol in the month prior to their entering treatment with nearly a fifth (19.1%) reporting daily drug or alcohol use. For both pregnant and non-pregnant teens, marijuana was the most commonly used drug though pregnant teens were also more likely to abuse methamphetames.

In discussing the report findings, SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde stressed the  treatment needs faced by pregnant teens.  “These specialized needs are even more acute for our pregnant teens. Community programs that can address the needs of pregnant teens by providing them both access to substance abuse support services and specialized pregnant and post partum services can help ensure that these future mothers and their children live healthier, happier and more productive lives." she stated.

SAMHSA has a Service Grant Program for Residential Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women providing family-centred treatment in residential programs to help low-income pregnant women with substance abuse problems with all their treatment needs as helping non-residential family meembers.  They may also need referral for medical services including pre- and post-natal care and parenting courses, as well as information to correct misconceptions about birth control, substance abuse risks, and venereal disease.  Referrals also receive psychological assessment and counseling to address mental health care needs in addition to substance abuse treatment.  

The criminal justice system remains the most common source of referral for pregnant teens (41.4%) with community agencies and self-referral being the next most common.     Most pregnant teens are living in poverty with a high percentage living on Medicaid or no income at all.  Lacking access to affordable medical care represents one of the most critical barriers to safe delivery of their children and successful transition to adult life.  For pregnant teens lacking proper care, the long-term consequences for them and their children remains bleak.

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