Heroin abuse can cause serious
complications during pregnancy, including miscarriage and premature
delivery. Children born to addicted mothers are at greater risk of
SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), as well. Pregnant women should
not be detoxified from opiates because of the increased risk of
spontaneous abortion or premature delivery; rather, treatment with
methadone is strongly advised. Although infants born to mothers
taking prescribed methadone may show signs of physical dependence,
they can be treated easily and safely in the nursery. Research has
demonstrated also that the effects of in utero exposure to methadone
are relatively benign.
Why are heroin users at special
and hepatitis B and C?
Heroin addicts are at risk for
contracting HIV, hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases. Drug
abusers may become infected with HIV, hepatitis C, and other
blood-borne pathogens through sharing and reuse of syringes and
injection paraphernalia that have been used by infected individuals.
They may also become infected with HIV and, although less often, to
hepatitis C through unprotected sexual contact with an infected
person. Injection drug use has been a factor in an estimated
one-third of all HIV and more than half of all hepatitis C cases in
NIDA-funded research has found that drug abusers can
change the behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV,
through drug abuse treatment, prevention, and community-based
outreach programs. They can eliminate drug use, drug-related risk
behaviors such as needle sharing, unsafe sexual practices, and, in
turn, the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS and other infectious
diseases. Drug abuse prevention and treatment are highly effective
in preventing the spread of HIV.