Pregnant addicts may be forced into inpatient treatment centres

Government aiming to decrease the number of children born with substance abuse-related health problems

An average of 11 babies are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome every year in Denmark every year (photo: iStock) An average of 11 babies are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome every year in Denmark every year (photo: iStock)
September 16th, 2015 2:22 pm| by Lucie Rychla
facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestmail

Fewer children should be born with a physical or mental damage caused by their mother’s drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, claim the interior minister, Karen Ellemann, and the health minister, Sophie Løhde.

A new proposal suggests it could be possible to detain pregnant addicts against their will in a treatment facility for the duration of their pregnancy, as is the common practice in Norway.

Tip of the iceberg
In Denmark, some 50-100 babies are born with withdrawal symptoms annually and an average of 11 children are diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, the most severe form of alcohol damage.

However, the exact numbers of children born with a damage caused by their mother’s substance addiction during pregnancy is difficult to assess as the injuries can be difficult to diagnose and often will not become apparent until later in the child’s life.

Many more children possibly struggle with health problems and injuries related to their mother’s substance abuse during pregnancy.

Protecting unborn children
That is why the two ministers decided to establish an inter-ministerial working group that has mapped out how the problem is currently being tackled and how the Danish state could improve assistance offered to pregnant addicts.

“When it comes to unborn children, my position is absolutely clear: We must do more to protect them – they are defenseless. Therefore, we must improve the chances of retaining pregnant women in treatment – not to punish them but to help them,” Løhde stated.

“No mother-to-be wants to harm her child, and it’s simply not fair to the children that they have to pay such a high price because we have been too lax to offer help to pregnant addicts.”

Today, a pregnant woman with a drug or alcohol addiction, whose baby is at risk, can only be detained in an inpatient treatment after her consent for maximum duration of to two months.