Dismantling the legacy of failed policy approaches to pregnant people’s use of alcohol and drugs
Roberts S, Thompson T-A, Taylor K. Dismantling the legacy of failed policy approaches to pregnant people’s use of alcohol and drugs. International Review of Psychiatry. July 2021. doi: 10.1080/09540261.2021.1905616
Most US states have one or more pregnancy-specific alcohol or drug policies. However, research evidence indicates that some of these policies lead to increases in adverse birth outcomes, including low-birthweight and preterm birth. We offer explanations for why these ineffective policies related to pregnant people’s use of alcohol and drugs in the US exist, including: abortion politics; racism and the ‘War on Drugs’; the design and application of scientific evidence; and lack of a pro-active vision. We propose alternative processes and concepts to guide strategies for developing new policy approaches that will support the health and well-being of pregnant people who use alcohol and drugs and their children. Processes include: involving people most affected by pregnancy-specific alcohol and drug policies in developing alternative policy and practice approaches as well as future research initiatives. Additionally, we propose that research funding support the development of policies and practices that bolster health and well-being rather than primarily documenting the harms of different substances. Concepts include accepting that policies adopted in response to pregnant people’s use of alcohol and drugs cause harms and working to do better, as well as connecting to efforts that re-envision the child welfare system in the United States.