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National Institute on Drug Abuse

Women and Drug Abuse



A mother who uses
drugs risks her life
and her baby's.

A mother who uses drugs endangers her life and her baby's

When a pregnant woman uses drugs, she and her unborn child face serious health problems. During pregnancy, the drugs used by the mother can enter the baby's bloodstream. The most serious effects on the baby can be HIV infection, AIDS, prematurity, low birth weight, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, small head size, stunted growth, poor motor skills, and behavior problems.

A mother's continuing drug use puts her children at risk for neglect, physical abuse, and malnutrition.

However, NIDA research shows that providing care and treatment to the pregnant drug abuser can reduce many of the negative effects on her baby.


Health Risks Associated with Drug Abuse

Mother Baby
  • Poor Nutrition
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Rapid Heart Beat
  • Low Weight Gain
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Preterm Labor
  • Sexually Transmitted Disease
  • Early Delivery
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Depression
  • Physical Abuse
  • Prematurity
  • Low Birth Weight
  • Infections
  • Small Head Size
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • Birth Defects
  • Stunted Growth
  • Poor Motor Skills
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Neurological Problems



Many women are afraid to seek treatment

Many women are afraid to seek treatment


Studies have found that more than 4 million women need treatment for drug abuse. Unfortunately, there are many important reasons why women do not seek help. Some women may not be able to find child care. Or they fear that the authorities may take away their children. Some women fear they will be punished if they admit their drug addiction. Many women fear violence from their husbands, boyfriends, or partners.

Friends and family can help relieve these fears for the woman who uses drugs. They can support her by helping her find good drug abuse treatment and by providing child care and transportation.

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