Drug overdose deaths among women and girls between the ages of 10 and 44 who were pregnant or pregnant within the past 12 months sharply increased from 2018 to 2021, with overdose deaths among those who were aged 35 to 44 during the study period more than tripling, according to data released on Wednesday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Findings were published in JAMA Psychiatry.
The study also found that more than 60% of pregnancy-associated overdose deaths occurred outside healthcare settings, but often in counties where healthcare resources were available.
“The stigma and punitive policies that burden pregnant women with substance use disorder (SUD) increase overdose risk by making it harder to access life-saving treatment and resources,” NIDA Director Nora Volkow, MD, the study’s senior author, said in a news release. “Reducing barriers and the stigma that surrounds addiction can open the door for pregnant individuals to seek and receive evidence-based treatment and social support to sustain their health as well as their child’s health.”