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Pregnancy-specific alcohol and drug policies don’t support public health

ANSIRH researcher Sarah Roberts co-authored a commentary in the International Review of Psychiatry with colleagues Terri-Ann Thompson (IBIS Health) and Kimá Joy Taylor (Anka Consulting LLC and the Urban Institute), on the origin and impacts of pregnancy-specific alcohol and drug policies in the United States.

In the commentary, the authors argue that these policies, which most states have in place, have neither individual nor public health benefits. Instead, there is evidence they appear to cause harm.

So why do they exist? The researchers point to abortion politics, racism, the framing and execution of research, and a lack of proactive vision as contributing factors to these policies’ development and implementation.

Researchers propose that the people most affected by these kinds of laws should be involved in creating alternative approaches.

Some of their strategies for developing new policy approaches include:

Strengthening research translation and integration efforts
Ensuring stakeholder involvement
Applying an equity framework and addressing social and structural factors
Centering the person using alcohol or drugs and their families

It is not enough to simply reform the existing policies and systems, the researchers point out. Supporting the health of pregnant people who use alcohol or drugs and their families requires a re-envisioning of the entire paradigm.

“Such re-envisioning requires that policies provide equitable and just care and support to pregnant people who use [alcohol or drugs], particularly to people of color and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, who are most often harmed by current policies.”

The article, Dismantling the legacy of failed policy approaches to pregnant people’s use of alcohol and drugsis available in International Review of Psychiatry.

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