Pregnancy Justice ally Dr. Robert Newman responds to ‘pill-baby’ hysteria

An article in the Globe and Mail, fans the flames of "pill-baby" hysteria. Pregnancy Justice ally and renowned expert on treating opioid-dependence during pregnancy, Dr. Robert Newman, takes the article to task for its biased portrayal of opioid users and their babies.

“Addiction” – compulsive, uncontrolled use of a substance, generally under anti-social conditions – clearly is not a term that applies to newborns, but it most definitely is a label that will carry with it a life-long stigma (Treating Canada’s Tiniest Drug Addicts – Jan. 6). When someone develops a physical dependency on opioids (a phenomenon totally different from addiction), withdrawal can and should be treated effectively. This applies to newborns as well as adults.

There is a distinction between drug misuse and abuse, and medication-assisted treatment (e.g. with methadone) which for decades has been recognized as the gold standard for managing opioid dependency. Canada (and, for sure, the “other” North American nation) needs more professionals like Ron Abrahams, director of the B.C. Women's Hospital Fir Square unit in Vancouver, whom you quote: “Rather than demonizing the women and the babies, we’re normalizing the care.”

- Letter to the Editor. Robert Newman, director, Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center, New York.