ALTHOUGH DAMAGE to a fetus can often be minimized if a pregnant woman withdraws early enough from drugs, treatment of drug abuse is rarely so simple, according to Karen Starr, RN, MSN, CSAC, of the Vanderbilt (University) Institute for Treatment of Addiction (VITA), Nashville, Tenn.
Many women will not alter their drug intake until pregnancy is actually diagnosed, according to Edgar Adams, PhD, of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Rockville, Md. "Two to 3 months may have elapsed by that time, and damage to the fetus may have actually occurred," he says.
Often, by the time a woman goes to a clinic, she is already well into her pregnancy and still taking drugs, Starr says. Sometimes it is too late to help the baby even if the mother is then withdrawn from the drugs, she says.
If the mother has used an opiate or narcotic for more