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Non-Punitive Treatment of Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women with Substance Use Disorders

ANA Position Statement

The purpose of this position statement is to support the efforts of registered nurses to encourage women to seek prenatal care and treatment for substance use disorders. This is founded on the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) recognition that substance use disorders are treatable conditions. Substance use disorders are a pattern of substance use that can cause physical, mental, or social dysfunction (Schub, 2016). Substances can be illicit (e.g., cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine) or legal (e.g., alcohol, prescription or over-the-counter medications) but used inappropriately (Schub, 2016). ANA is committed to the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders in women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. The threat of criminal prosecution undermines the encouragement registered nurses offer to women who seek prenatal care and treatment for substance use disorders.

Statement of ANA Position
The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes substance use disorders as treatable conditions and commits to primary prevention and treatment for pregnant and breast-feeding women. This includes treatment for pregnant women who misuse substances as well as appropriate therapy for exposed infants. ANA opposes laws that may result in punitive legal actions and result in incarceration of pregnant women because of substance use disorder. Within the confines of state law, ANA directs registered nurses who work with pregnant and breast-feeding women to seek providers that offer appropriate rehabilitative therapy, rather than law enforcement or the judicial system, to obtain help for women and infants.



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