By Meghan Vivo
Pregnant women who are addicted to drugs are not as “different” as people may think. They typically want the best for their children and may be consumed by the same “mommy guilt” that afflicts non-addicts. In addition to facing the physical, emotional and spiritual consequences of addiction, they are often plagued by grief over the damage they’re doing to their unborn child.
How One Pregnant Addict Changed Her Life
Felicia, a woman in her second trimester of pregnancy, knows the anguish of being pregnant and addicted to drugs firsthand.
On the Feb. 2, 2011 episode of the Dr. Phil Show, Felicia explained how she had been abusing Suboxone for five years. Once caught in the vicious cycle of addiction, she found herself abusing drugs despite the risks to her baby. Because she could no longer get prescriptions for Suboxone from a doctor, she began using her younger brother (newly sober and just out of rehab himself) to buy Suboxone off the street.
During a surprise intervention on the Dr. Phil Show, Felicia explained, “It’s been really stressful. I’ve really been struggling and trying to get help with this addiction. It’s been really, really hard. And I don’t know how to get off of it. I don’t know what to do.”
Entering The Rose Addiction Treatment Center in California
At the end of the intervention, Dr. Phil introduced Paige Willard, the Clinical Outreach Coordinator at The Rose, an addiction treatment center for women in Newport Beach, California. Willard offered to take Felicia to treatment that day on a full scholarship.
After learning about the serious risks to her baby, Felicia agreed to enter addiction treatment at The Rose. In thisCalifornia drug rehab, she would be monitored by doctors to protect herself and her baby from the dangers of opiate detox, and learn skills to stay sober for life.
The Rose was an ideal match for Felicia’s needs because it is a small, personalized drug rehab center that exclusively treats women. In addition to a full range of traditional and cutting-edge therapies to treat addiction, The Rose addresses any underlying mental health disorders, such as trauma, grief, anxiety and depression.
The Rose of Newport Beach is part of Sober Living by the Sea, a renowned network of treatment centers for addiction, eating disorders and dual diagnosis. As part of this network, patients at The Rose have access to all of the tools they’ll need to achieve lifelong sobriety, including:
- Referrals to a vast network of addiction treatment professionals and medical care providers
- Daily living in a vibrant recovery community right on the beach
- A holistic approach that includes yoga, tai chi, Pilates and body sculpting
- Gender-specific 12-Step meetings
- A comprehensive extended care program
- Transitional work and sober college programs
Suboxone Treatment During Pregnancy
Felicia’s story made it clear that pregnant addicts need drug treatment in order to preserve the health of their unborn children and themselves. In the case of opiate addiction, pregnant women cannot stop taking drugs without medical supervision, as sudden detox can be life-threatening for both mother and baby.
As Dr. Phil explained to Felicia, “We’re in a catch-22 here. You’re addicted, and you can’t stop now until this baby is born, and then the baby is going to have to have treatment. The baby is going to have to go through detox, because the baby is going to be born addicted.”
In drug rehab, pregnant women who are addicted to opiates typically take a low dose of methadone or Suboxone under the close supervision of a physician. Suboxone and methadone are medications commonly used to manage drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Pregnant addicts generally remain on these medications until their baby is finished nursing, and then mother and baby are slowly weaned off of the medications. Research shows that this is the safest, most effective way for opiate addicts to detox during pregnancy.
Like many pregnant addicts, Felicia expressed concerned about the health of her baby – and for good reason. Babies born to addicted mothers are at significantly higher risk for:
- Severe withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, diarrhea and the “shakes”
- Feeding problems
- Premature delivery
- Low birth weight
- Medical disorders such as HIV, bacterial infections, hepatitis and tuberculosis
There are safe ways to detox during pregnancy, but only with expert help. While earlier is better, entering addiction treatment any time throughout pregnancy can be a life-saving decision.
The Importance of Family Involvement
Part of the tragedy of Felicia’s story involved her family. Having made many mistakes in the past and struggling to be there for two children in drug rehab, Dr. Phil issued a warning to Felicia’s family: Step up their game and properly support their children, or risk even greater losses than they’ve already suffered.
At The Rose, families are vital participants in their loved one’s treatment. Just as addiction affects the addict as well as their family members, recovery requires support from everyone involved. The staff at The Rose provides a monthly family program, treatment recommendations (including Al-Anon meetings and individual therapy) and aftercare planning, which put the entire family on the path toward healing.
Recovery Can Happen to You
Felicia is receiving addiction treatment in California and is looking forward to the birth of her baby. Just as addiction can happen to anyone, so can recovery. Women who are addicted to drugs may have different stories and different motivations to get sober, but all share one truth: The disease of addiction is destroying their lives, and treatment is the way out.