The Opioid Epidemic and Pregnant women

Serving nearby areas by Palm Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida

The Opioid Epidemic and Pregnant women

Background and Help


Since the early 1990s opioid use in the United States and Canada has increased more than fivefold, starting with the release of OxyContin by Purdue pharmaceuticals in 1996.  In a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of medicine certain doctors reported that among hospitalized patients treated with opioids, less than 1% developed “addiction”. At about the same time the American Pain Society first suggested that pain should be treated as the “fifth vital sign”, and the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals set out standards using patient satisfaction scores which were partially based on whether or not the patient’s pain was treated “adequately”.  By 2010 doctors had prescribed enough opiates that every person United States could be medicated around the clock for a month.   Women were prescribed generally higher doses of opiates and for longer.  Frequently women  were often prescribed opiates for conditions in which chronic opioid use was not effective. The great majority of women who receive prescription opiates were of childbearing age,  which in part ,  has led to our current epidemic of infants needing treatment for birth injuries related to opiate use and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

There is help available

While abrupt discontinue discontinuation of opioid use during pregnancy can result in premature labor, fetal distress and miscarriage, if done appropriately, it will lead to healthier babies and healthier Moms.   Medical withdraw from opiates should be conducted under the supervision of physicians experienced in perinatal issues.

Barriers to treatment

Women with opioid use disorder and/or substance use disorder face critical barriers to optimal care, such as legal consequences in several states with laws that actually punish pregnant women with opioid use disorder. While the goal of these laws may be to protect the fetus or infant from opioid exposure these legal consequences often drive women away from available care, seeking care or continuing to engage in care- leading to worse outcomes for both fetus and mother. The shame associated with opioid use disorder during pregnancy and motherhood and the misinformation among healthcare professionals and systems is another significant barrier for these women to seek care.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

What is SAMHSA’s National Helpline?

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

Do I need health insurance to receive this service?

The referral service is free of charge. If you have no insurance or are underinsured, you can be referred to your state office, which is responsible for state-funded treatment programs. In addition, we can often refer you to facilities that charge on a sliding fee scale or accept Medicare or Medicaid. If you have health insurance, you are encouraged to contact your insurer for a list of participating health care providers and facilities.

Will my information be kept confidential?

The service is confidential.  You will not be asked for any personal information.  You maybe asked for your zip code or other pertinent geographic information in order to track calls being routed to other offices or to accurately identify the local resources appropriate to your needs.

Does SAMSHA provide counseling?

No, however trained information specialists answer calls, transfer callers to state services or other appropriate intake centers in their states, and connect them with local assistance and support.

Suggested Resources

  • What Is Substance Abuse Treatment? A Booklet for Families
    Created for family members of people with alcohol abuse or drug abuse problems. Answers questions about substance abuse, its symptoms, different types of treatment, and recovery. Addresses concerns of children of parents with substance use/abuse problems.
  • Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families
    Describes how alcohol and drug addiction affect the whole family. Explains how substance abuse treatment works, how family interventions can be a first step to recovery, and how to help children in families affected by alcohol abuse and drug abuse.
  • It's Not Your Fault (NACoA)
    Assures teens with parents who abuse alcohol or drugs that, "It's not your fault!" and that they are not alone. Encourages teens to seek emotional support from other adults, school counselors, and youth support groups such as Alateen, and provides a resource list.
  • It Feels So Bad: It Doesn't Have To
    Provides information about alcohol and drug addiction to children whose parents or friends' parents might have substance abuse problems. Advises kids to take care of themselves by communicating about the problem and joining support groups such as Alateen.
  • After an Attempt: A Guide for Taking Care of Your Family Member After Treatment in the Emergency Department
    Aids family members in coping with the aftermath of a relative's suicide attempt. Describes the emergency department treatment process, lists questions to ask about follow-up treatment, and describes how to reduce risk and ensure safety at home.
  • Family Therapy Can Help: For People in Recovery From Mental Illness or Addiction
    Explores the role of family therapy in recovery from mental illness or substance abuse. Explains how family therapy sessions are run and who conducts them, describes a typical session, and provides information on its effectiveness in recovery.

By Susan B. Ramsey


Ms. Ramsey’s professional experience began as a Registered Nurse at Yale New Haven Hospital. While pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree, she was a counselor with the New Haven Rape Crisis Program.   Ms. Ramsey graduated from CUNY Law School, and is admitted in several different bars and continues to actively advocated for victims of health care negligence and defective medical devices.  She continues to speak and present publications for a number of organizations, including nursing and legal institutions. She received the Arnold Markle award by the Judicial District in New Haven, Connecticut, for her work with survivors of sexual assault.  She is a member of the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force, a Compliance Committee Member of the Florida Association of Recovery Residences and advocates for victims and survivors of substance use disorders.  Ms. Ramsey actively litigates cases involving catastrophic injuries and wrongful death on behalf of victims.