Babies never born addicted
In today’s Guardian (August 2) there is a story about a custody battle for a toddler and the headline declares that he was “born addicted.” Because the term addiction has such a negative connotation, is stigmatizing and is so widely misunderstood, I feel that the record should be set straight.
A woman’s recurrent ingestion of psychoactive drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, amphetamines, cannabis and opioids during pregnancy may have longterm negative consequences for the baby, but babies are not born addicted. Never! Ever!
If the mother was using psychoactive substances just prior to the baby’s birth, the baby may very well be born with a physical need for that drug. This is called physical dependence, not addiction. That baby may require weaning off the drugs mother was using during her pregnancy (assisted withdrawal). Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry, which is associated with a loss of the balance between the brain’s reward and stress systems.
It is characterized by an inability to abstain; impairment of behavioural control; craving; diminished appreciation of significant problems with personal behaviour and relationships; and dysfunctional emotional responses to stress. The term addiction is not even mentioned in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V), the Bible for identification of mental illnesses. It has been replaced by the term substance use disorder.
Des Colohan, Charlottetown