Non-medical abuse of drugs can occur at any stage of life. When such exposure occurs during pregnancy and in the postnatal phase, it raises understandable concern about the impact on the health of the mother and child, as well as possible longterm consequences for brain development in the new infant. As individuals our concerns are immediate and heartfelt, and yet as a society we have in many respects turned a blind eye to this tragic state of affairs. Women in the greatest need, arising in part from a dependency on illicit drugs, often have limited options for the long-term care they require.
We can hope that publications such as this Substance Abuse in Canada report, which summarizes new and sophisticated research and clinical developments concerning maternal, neonatal and early childhood consequences of drug use during pregnancy, indicate that the tide is turning. Thanks to the efforts of a new cohort of researchers who appreciate the complex biological and social factors that give rise to addiction, there are real prospects for a much better scientific understanding of addiction as a chronic disorder that requires new and integrated treatment strategies for it to be addressed effectively.